August 12: Octopus

Inside the many minds of the octopus.

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • The author is called Dave and at the start of the article he gets up close to an octopus called Dave. He describes Dave the Octopus as being “beautifully equipped for entrapment and murder.” What physical features can you see in these pictures of octopus that would help the species to trap and kill prey?
  • “Engage with an octopus and you meet a mind of towering acuity.” Acuity is sharpness or keenness. As a mollusc or soft-bodied animal, the octopus’ keen mind is essential for its survival. How do you think the octopus’ intelligence enables it to live differently to other marine molluscs (such as sea slugs, sea snails, pipi, mussels and scallops?)
  • At the end of the article Dave Hansford writes that :the more we come to understand about octopuses, “the shakier become our traditional notions of intelligence and consciousness.” Do you think octopuses could be capable of thought, in the way humans are? What makes you think they might or might not be?
  • Octopus are incredibly curious—in aquariums they are often given toys to stave off boredom. The article also mentions that they could be well suited to aquaculture. How does this raise an ethical challenge for humans looking to possibly farm them for food?
  • Would an octopus make a good pet? Would a human make a good octopus pet-owner? Why or why not?


Paint a picture that highlights the octopus’ predatory nature.

We used watercolour paints but you can use any paint (or crayon, or felts) to create this picture.

  1. Start with painting a crab in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Use the colour yellow, as the octopus’ eyes are also going to be yellow. The use of yellow eyes and a yellow crab helps the viewer to connect these two elements of the picture. It makes the octopus look as if it is staring hungrily at the crab.
  2. Paint two large yellow eyes in the upper right corner, where the octopus’ head would go.
  3. Paint the outline of the octopus’ head in red paint, arching over the eyes.
  4. Add in eight tentacles. Some might be draping under or over others. When the yellow eyes are dry, fill the octopus in with a strong red. This colour “tells a story” of the octopus’ fierce predatory nature, its muscular body and strong will. You can edge each tentacle on one side only with blue paint, to make them appear to stand out in 3D.
  5. Wash blue paint over the background over the top third or so of the paper. Wash yellow paint over the bottom third or so of the paper, suggesting a sandy ocean floor. Paint the middle third in both blue and yellow, allowing them to mingle, creating a green effect that suggests seaweed and movement. Use blue to outline the crab to help it stand out from the yellow ocean floor.

*This painting activity is inspired by a task in the book Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools: Classes 1-8, by Thomas Wildgruber, published by Floris Books UK

Send us a picture of your painting!