Making life-size skeletons, inside or out, gives plenty of opportunity to use scientific language about the human body, use books and on-line resources to name bones, get active finding objects and materials to use, and get creative with ideas to represent different parts of the body. We made these outside using sticks and other natural materials, but they can be inside with items from around the house.

Starting off as a science and maths activity (human body, measuring) this later opens up  history (making deductions from evidence and using research) and language work (storytelling, speaking and listening) and Da Vinci inspired artwork and maths investigation.

Did you know…? Human adults have 206 bones in their body, but babies are born with more. Some bones fuse together as the babies grow. 

Choose one person to be a Bony Tony ‘template’. Using a tape measure, record the length of the major bones of your ‘template’. Measure and cut sticks to the correct lengths.  Use these to create your skeleton. You may need to place down some outdoor mats or sheets to allow sticks to be seen clearly.

Set challenges with ‘prizes’ to complete the skeleton. Challenge everyone to find nine 3-letter words that are a part of the body. (There is a list of nine at the end of this post.)

Give anagrams of the words if everyone gets stuck. The three-letter anagrams can be hidden on cards around the outdoor space to get everyone moving around. Each correct word wins some help, like the skeleton and xrays below, or wins time to research in books or on the computer

Did you know….? More than half the bones in your body are found in your hands and feet, with 27 in each hand and 26 in each foot.


Did you know…? Thirty-three bones in the human spinal column surround and protect the spinal cord. 

Making the spine can be done with pieces of macaroni or penne pasta threaded onto a string, or if you have access to an elder tree in need of  a trim, make elder beads. Use secateurs to cut some small branches into 2 cm lengths and a tent peg to push out the soft centre in elder to create beads. Teaching children to use simple tools safely opens up a range of activities and helps them to develop the ability to work safely and take responsibility.

bony tonyA shoe lace makes a good spinal cord; easy to thread through the thirty-three beads, tied at the top and bottom to keep the spine secure.

Did you know…? In the human spine there are seven vertebrae in the neck, twelve vertebrae attached to the ribs and five in the lower back. In addition, there are five fused vertebrae form the sacrum, and four the coccyx.

When the main skeleton is complete check how close it is to the total 206 bones in the human body.

Did you know…? The smallest bones in the human body are in the ear. There are three in each ear, and the smallest is the ‘stapes’.


Consistent body proportions are found in most people.

Did you know…? The length of a person’s foot is about equal to the length of his or her forearm. The distance between your fingertips (when your arms are outstretched) is approximately the same as your height.

Check if your Bony Tony follows these proportions too. Find out more about historical observations of body proportions by studying Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man (1487), created in response to the theories of ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.


“For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it.” Vitruvius



Become archeologists and introduce a history investigation by adding some items belonging to Bony Tony which will give clues to who he might be.  For example a coin, a piece of jewellery or a tool. Ask the children to use the found items to create and agree upon their Bony Tony’s identity and story; who is he?, when did he live?, where is he from?, what did he do? Take photographs and share your stories.


Three-letter body parts:
Hip, jaw, rib, eye, ear, leg, arm, lip, toe.
Decide if you want to add tum and bum to make eleven 3-letter words in total.




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