Actually, they are little capsules that you put in water. Once they soak in the water long enough, a dinosaur shaped sponge grows from the capsule.
The kids absolutely love these things. They have even been known to fight over them when an odd number of capsules are left. We have one little bean counter who especially makes sure that things are fair. And if the situation happens to be a little 'more fair' in her favor, she usually doesn't expose the error.
It's strange, sometimes, to see what will excite the kids. The kids really love to watch these capsule work, so of course, we limit them and use them as rewards for good behavior. Hey, anything a parent can use is free game.
So, when we say, "Capsule time!", both kids come running with wide eyes.
"I'll get the cups!", shouts Number One Son.
"I want to pour the water!", demands Sweet Pea.
After a short debate about water temperature, (one party claims warm water works faster. The other party isn't patient enough to wait for the sink water to warm up.)each kid is ready with their cup of water. They then choose which color of capsule they would like to use this time.
"Which color are you going to use?", Sweet Pea asks.
"I don't know, green I guess.", N1S states uninterestedly.
"Yeah, I want green too.", Sweet Pea shrewdly decides. Not only does she want to keep the number of capsules even, she also doesn't want to get caught with less capsules of a certain color. Even though she may have more yellow capsules, it would destroy her to be without a blue capsule if her brother saved a blue one for the end.
So the capsules get excitedly thrown into the water with much singing and ceremony. Then the kids stare at a floating capsule for ten minutes or more and discuss what shape they think the sponge will be. It is at least another ten minutes before one of the capsules starts to melt enough to change shape. These things are not very fast. The initial excitement has somewhat worn off at this point and the kids start to feel bored. They usually leave their capsules to finish on their own.
When they check back after a half hour or so, a fully formed, sponge dinosaur is swimming happily in their cup. When I say fully formed, I mean a two dimensional, gum stick sized silhouette of a roughly dinosaur shape. It seems pretty anticlimactic to me, but the kids are thrilled.
They match up their dinosaur shape with the chart on the back of the package, so they are learning a little about what a certain dinosaur looks like. Then the dinosaurs get taken to bath time, where they either get to swim with Mermaid Barbie, or they get to take part in a Star Wars water battle.
After they dry out, they hang around by the tub or sink for a few days before embarking on their next great adventure to the landfill.
It's nice for the kids to get such joy out of an inexpensive simple toy. Perhaps other kids would think it lame to play with any kind of dinosaur that is not on a Play Station. We probably will never own a Play Station for just that reason. Too many video games can sometimes take the imagination out of playing. Too many video games can also take the imagination out of my wallet.