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How to Keep Kids Entertained Using the ‘Five Friends Versus the Octopus’

Want to keep a kid entranced on public transit? Draw on your hands.

The Five Friends versus The Five Fingered Octopus is an improvisational narrative exercise using hands as the characters. It is especially useful during long subway trips, one of the few activities for kids that doesn’t require a ton of stationary space.

The basic premise of my story is that there five friends — Pinko, Ringo, Maddie, Dex and Tom — and they battle a bad guy, The Five Fingered Octopus. The Octopus relentlessly attacks the Five Friends while the Five Friends fight back. Each of the Five Friends has his or her strengths. Pinko is the dreamer. Ringo makes the piece (he has a Liverpudlian accent). Maddie has a quick temper but brave. Dex is directive but also imperious. Tom, the weirdo, offers oppositional viewpoints. However, combined they can fully grasp a situation or, in this case, an opponent. In one version of the tale, Tom realizes the Octopus is acting out because he feels insecure. Octopuses are meant to have eight legs but he has only five. Eventually, the Five Friends help the Five Fingered Octopus realize he isn’t a deficient Octopus but a Perfect Squid.

Prep Time: 1 minute

Hours of Entertainment: Endless

Energy Expended by Child: Imaginatively, a lot. Physically, negligible.

What You’ll Need:

  • Uniball Vision. The even and generous flow of ink, combined with the prudent width of the tip, is ideal for both adult and child hands.
  • Hands

How To Play:

It is imperative to develop individual personae for each of the five friends. Please use the guide set forth above as an inspiration. It is by no means Gospel. Incorporate common hand gestures into the narrative flow. For instance, when Dex and Tom meet, everything is A-OK. When Maddie stands alone, well, try for yourself. It’s not great.

What works best for us is when I allow my son to drive the narrative action. I ask questions like, “What is Dex going to do now?” or “Where is The Five Fingered Octopus?”  Have a pen ready. If he or she wants to introduce a new character, work it out.

Wrap Up:

What I love about the activity is that it gives my kid – who is four years old – the opportunity to be imaginative. The basic outline of the story was developed by him; Together, we engage in literally endless imaginative play as I help bring his vision to life.

We started off using my hands, one as the friends and the other as the octopus, but have since added other characters including: Big Elephant, another bad guy; Baby Big, which is my son’s hand and Big Elephant’s son. In addition, each of the Five Friends have children, drawn on my son’s hand, who frequently help their parents fight evil.