Water play is always a home-run for kids, especially when the weather warms up. In this activity, we combine sensory stimulating water play with empathy-boosting, imaginative turtle play. As kids create a place space for turtle friends, they build cognitive empathy- the ability to take the perspective of another person.
Gather materials: Gather two stones, a large bin, a bottle of water and a some objects from nature (i.e. bark, leaves, sticks, pine cones, rocks)
Read about turtles: One of our favorite turtle stories is Turtle Walk by Matt Phelan. Watch a read-aloud here.
Invite Play: Show kids the stones you collected and say, “Do you know what these are? These are our turtle friends! Do you think we could make a space for our turtles to play?” If you’d like, take a permanent marker and draw or paint a simple turtle design (see photo carousel) on each rock “turtle.”
Show kids the bin and water and wonder how they could use these materials and other objects in your outdoor space to make a place for turtles to play in different ways.
Support Play: Let kids drive the play, offering support in gathering materials as needed. Share with kids that freshwater turtles like to play in different ways. Sometimes they like to swim in the water and sometimes they prefer to warm up on a dry rock in the sun. Can kids create an area for wet and dry play? An area for turtles to play alone and with a friend? What could kids use to make a slide or a diving board for turtles to play on?
Water is a super engaging material that both calms and stimulates kids’ senses. Adding pretend turtles to water play gives kids the chance to exercise their imagination and divergent thinking, a cornerstone of creativity. As kids think about the needs of their turtle friends and how they like to play, they are building cognitive empathy- the ability to take the perspective of another person.