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Play Like Elephants
- Age: 0 to 8+
- Time: 1 hour+
- Materials: sock, objects from nature, box or container, art materials
- Skills: Imagination, Naturalist, Empathy
Elephants are the largest land mammals on earth and have long been admired and studied for their dexterous trunks, intelligence, complex emotions, playfulness and compassion. What could be a more majestic and empathic creature to emulate—and protect! World Elephant Day was established to mobilize people to support organizations that work to protect elephants and their habitats. As part of our August Activity Calendar and in honor of World Elephant Day on August 12th, we share some fun ways kids can play like an elephant for a day.
If you do not yet have your free copy of the August Activity Calendar, get it here.
Learn about elephants: Watch a video from National Geographic Kids about African elephants or read fun facts about Asian elephants. Read a book featuring elephants or facts about these amazing creatures. Or, watch this video read aloud of one of our favorite friendship-themed stories from our Empathy season curriculum that features a lovable elephant—Should I Share My Ice Cream by Mo Willems.
Move and communicate like an elephant: Elephants make a variety of sounds to communicate with each other, including trumpets, small chirping noises in their throats and deep rumbling noises that are so low that human ears cannot detect them. Elephants also communicate by stomping their feet, creating vibrations in the ground that can be felt by other elephants far away. Try having a “conversation” with your child using only stomps, grumbles and trumpets. Take turns stomping while the other person feels for vibrations in the ground.
Play in the water (or mud)! Elephants are often observed playing in the water and use their trunks to spray themselves and cool themselves off. Mud baths are also one of the elephant’s favorite ways to cool off in the heat. Turn on the hose or bring a container of water outside, make some cooling mud and splash away like an elephant!
Make an elephant trunk: Elephants use their trunks to lift food to their mouths, to drink and cool themselves off with water, and to connect with other elephants through touch. To make your own elephant trunk, place one or both hands and arms into a long sock. Practice waving your trunk as you stomp and trumpet like an elephant. Try to pick up objects with your trunk. Give family members an elephant hug with your trunk.
Play elephant games: Try out some of these fun ways to play like an elephant:
- Elephant guessing game: Wonder aloud how elephants can feel things when they don't have fingers. Place a few objects in an opaque container or cardboard box with a hole cut out of one side. Invite kids to use their sock trunk to feel inside and guess the hidden objects. Kids can fill the container with objects for you to guess, too.
- Pass the peanut: Choose an object from nature to be your pretend peanut. While wearing sock trunks, invite family members or friends to sit in a circle and pass the object from person to person until it comes back to the start. For an extra challenge, use a timer to see how long it takes for the “peanut” to go around the circle. Then, try to beat your best time.
- Paint like an Elephant: How would an elephant use their trunk to paint a picture? Offer kids some paper and invite kids to hold a paintbrush or marker in their sock trunk as they channel their inner elephant artist.
Learn about elephant conservation efforts: Learn about organizations like Save the Elephants that work to help humans see the world from the elephant’s point of view and take action to protect these majestic creatures. You can also check out this list from the American Human Society with 10 ways you can support animals near you.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Pretending to be an elephant is a super way to help kids take on the perspective of another creature, a key component of empathy and a critical step towards becoming an animal ally and a steward of our planet.
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