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In this activity, we add an imaginative twist to water play by inviting kids to transform a stone into an octopus friend and use objects from nature to create an ocean garden for octopus to play. Here's how:
Gather materials: Gather a stone, a marker or acrylic paint, a clear bowl or bin, a bottle of water and some objects from nature (i.e. bark, leaves, sticks, pine cones, rocks).
Learn about Octopuses: The Octopus is a fascinating creature! Watch this video from National Geographic Kids about how octopuses blend in to their environment by changing colors.
Make an Octopus: Show kids the stone you collected and say, “Do you think we could turn this stone into an octopus friend?” Take a permanent marker and draw or paint a simple octopus design (see photo carousel) on your stone. Invite kids to help with this step as much as they would like.
Create an octopus garden: Show kids the bin or bowl, water and nature treasures and wonder how they could use these materials to make an octopus garden for their octopus to play in. Let kids drive the play, offering support in gathering materials as needed. Kids may dive right in to creating a habitat for octopus, while some kids may enjoy exploring and playing with the water. Welcome all ways your child chooses to engage with the play materials.
Support Play: Octopuses can squeeze in and out of tight spaces. Wonder aloud if kids can create cozy spaces for octopus to hide away from predators. Talk about the types of plants and coral octopus might want in it’s ocean habitat. What nature treasures could your child use as a pretend coral or kelp. Notice if some of the nature treasures sink or float. How could these different objects be used to help octopus hide down low on the ocean floor or up high near the surface of the water? If you have more stones, suggest that they could become octopus friends. What other creatures might share this habitat with octopus? How does octopus like to play in its ocean garden?
Water is a super engaging material that both calms and stimulates kids’ senses. Giving kids the challenge of creating a habitat or play space for an octopus exercises their imagination and divergent thinking, a cornerstone of creativity. As kids think about the needs of their octopus friends and how they like to play, they are building cognitive empathy- the ability to take the perspective of others.