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A white wave shape.

Our new Caring Cove play space for kids — Now open!

Looking for something new and fun to do with young kids on a wet and dreary winter day? Come discover Caring Cove, an open play space where kids can deepen their connections to marine animals and their habitats by play-acting a variety of animal care activities.

The Seattle Aquarium's caring cove exhibit play space showing multiple play areas for children.
Caring Cove features six different areas that encourage and support imaginative play for young kids.

Looking for something new and fun to do with young kids on a wet and dreary winter day? Come discover Caring Cove, an open play space where kids can deepen their connections to marine animals and their habitats by play-acting a variety of animal care activities.

Caring Cove, which opened on January 15, features six different areas—many stocked with toy instruments based on the equipment used by our animal care staff—that encourage and support imaginative play for toddlers through children ages 8–10:

  • costume/animal area where kids can dress up as an Aquarium staff member and choose a plush octopus, sea star, sea otter, tufted puffin, sea turtle or rockfish to borrow and care for.
  • An exam station where kids can weigh their animal, examine it using our toy x-ray machine and do a routine checkup to ensure the animal is in tip-top shape.
  • feeding and enrichment station, where kids can prepare a pretend meal and design an activity for the animal to learn and play—known as enrichment in the world of animal care—or use a variety of tools to help keep their animal’s home clean.
  • holding habitat, where the animal can rest, play, eat or interact with other animals or kids.
  • felt wall, where kids can design an underwater ecosystem or animal home using our colorful felt pieces.
  • An artificial tide pool area for kids to practice looking closely, touching gently and exploring carefully—just as we encourage them to do in our touch pool habitat and on local beaches. Colorful, tactile, filled with faux sea creatures and just 14” high, this area is ideal for our youngest guests, who aren’t quite tall enough (or ready) to explore our touch pools. 
A young girl holding a stuffed sea otter toy and a measuring cup, approaching a play sink in Seattle Aquarium's Caring Cove play space.
Caring Cove is designed to help kids understand that animals, like humans, need nurturing and care. Here, a young visitor prepares a pretend meal for a hungry sea otter.

Caring Cove also features a reading area stocked with children’s books for parents and caregivers to read aloud or for kids to page through on their own; and benches for reading or resting while the kids play. 

Whether kids pretend to be an aquarist, an animal care specialist, a veterinarian, a diver, an interpreter or a role they create with their own imagination, they’re sure to have a wonderful time. Parents and caregivers too! “The whole area is for families,” says Interpretation Coordinator and Scientific Diver Nicole Killebrew, who served as the project manager for Caring Cove.

A play kitchen area at Seattle Aquarium's Caring Cove play space.
Kids can prepare a pretend meal and plan activities for their animals at Caring Cove's feeding and enrichment station.

The role of empathy in conservation action

The vision for Caring Cove began with a desire for an early childhood play space to support our empathy work, which is funded through a grant from an anonymous donor. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—and research has shown that empathy for animals, particularly in children, can help spur conservation action on the animals’ behalf. “The interconnectedness between empathy and conservation action is inextricable,” says Nicole. “And now we have an imaginative play space where young kids can connect to marine animals that they may not even know are living things—like a sea star—and understand that they have the same needs for food, a home, nurturing and care,” she adds. “We’ve never had anything like it.”

A young boy looks through a magnifying glass at an x-ray of a turtle in Seattle Aquarium's Caring Cove play space.
One of the most important empathy best practices for children is helping them realize their own agency," says Nicole Killebrew. "That they can determine what their animal needs and care for it."

Special and immense thanks go to local business Dillon Works, who designed and fabricated Caring Cove; the Advancing Conservation through Empathy for Wildlife Network, which provided critical project funding; the anonymous donor who funds our empathy grant; and the dozens upon dozens of Aquarium staff members who contributed their time and expertise to the project. “It was truly an Aquarium-wide effort,” smiles Nicole.

A young girl uses a play stethoscope to listen to a stuffed sea star.
Many of the toy instruments in Caring Cove are based on the equipment used by our animal care staff.

Come explore Caring Cove! Plan a visit and book your tickets today—we hope to see you at the Aquarium soon.

Opening August 29

Ocean Pavilion

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Website maintenance

Please note: Our ticketing and membership systems will be offline for approximately two hours starting at 10pm Pacific on Wednesday, July 10. During the maintenance window, online ticketing and membership will not be available.

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Support the Seattle Aquarium

Two sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium floating on the water in their habitat, holding onto each other demonstrating a rafting behavior.

With your help, the Seattle Aquarium builds connections with our community to inspire conservation and curiosity for marine life. When you make an end-of-year gift by December 31, you'll be joining us in protecting our shared marine environment—now and for generations to come. Thank you!

An adult sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium looking upwards with its front paws resting on its front.

Giving Tuesday

Make a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit Seattle Aquarium

Your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 thanks to a very generous anonymous donor!

Sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium laying on its back, raising its head and front paws.

Cyber weekend

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