Memo to the children's book authors of the world: Please, please put your talents to work creating evolution-themed books for small kids!
This list contains a few books on dinosaurs that worked well for us, but really, you can just go to the relevant section in your local library and pick out a few good volumes. You won't, by the way, find the Magic Treehouse books on this or any of my reading lists, although many kids and parents love them and they do introduce a wide range of historical topics that are relevant here. This is a matter of personal taste: I don't like the writing style, and I can't stand the whole girl-led-by-her-heart-boy-led-by-his-brain shtick.
The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History
This book is a great resource to have around, mainly for its marvelously detailed illustrations, which can spark all kinds of discussions about whatever topic is at hand. Some of the text is too dry or technical for small children, but that doesn't matter -- pick and choose. Over the course of several sittings, the first 80 or so pages of this book can provide a basic overview of evolution on earth from the beginnings of life to the advent of Homo sapiens.Aliki, Digging Up Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Are Different, and My Visit to the Dinosaurs
Children's book author and illustrator Aliki has published several good introductory books on dinosaurs, all within the excellent "Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science" series.Natalie Lunis, A T. Rex Named Sue: Sue Hendrickson's Huge Discovery
A fossil with a name and story attached to it holds extra appeal for small children. Book publishers know this: There's a whole mini-industry of books about the famous dinosaur named Sue. This is simply the one we found at our library and liked. Scholastic's biography of Sue Hendrickson, My Life As An Explorer, has an appealing angle for homeschoolers and unschoolers, as it portrays a fascinating and successful career made possible by Hendrickson's decision to drop out of high school. (Scholastic, not surprisingly, made sure to shoehorn in a pious passage about the importance of staying in school, to try to prevent kids from being inspired by Hendrickson's example.)Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and Lucia Washburn, Dinosaur Babies
The title says it all.Lisa Westberg Peters and Lauren Stringer, Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story
This was the closest I could find to an age-appropriate book about evolution. (Steven Jenkin's Life on Earth seemed too advanced, and I haven't yet tracked down a copy of Ellen Jackson's The Tree of Life -- let me know, readers, if you've found it worth buying.) It's written in a hushed, awed voice that I found too ponderous, but it does cover the basics in a kid-friendly way.Film
Prehistoric Planet: The Complete Dino Dynasty
Extra-sensitive kids might find this BBC series too scary; my kids (who were freaked out by an old tape we found at a garage sale of The Land Before Time) loved it. Go figure.Play
This one's a no-brainer; if you don't already have an array of little plastic dinosaurs in your house, they are easily and inexpensively acquired. Many different companies sell little dinosaur excavation kits, which my kids loved. Some children's and science museums have full-size faux dinosaur digs for kids -- ask around in your area.
Have other books or activities to recommend? Tips based on your own experience? Please share...