This post is part of a series to help parents with children at home during school closures. Find out more here.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. If you don’t have a copy at home, there is a video of the author reading it here and an animated version here.
When you read it to your children, they don’t need to sit still! Get up and join in with the actions in the story. Move around the house if you want to. If you have stairs, run up the stairs away from the bear and jump into your bed. And if everyone ends up having a little nap, that’s just a bonus.
If you can go outside, retell the story while acting it out, using the environment around you. Grass, mud and water should be manageable, but you might have to imagine the snowstorm! Have fun stumbling through the woods and getting stuck in the mud. If you can’t go outside and you’re up for some mess, you can use trays to recreate some of the obstacles encountered in the story. Put them in the kitchen, bathroom or out on the balcony if it’s safe. Anywhere with a wipe clean surface, basically! Use water for the river, raid houseplants for small amounts of mud and leaves for the mud and grass and ice for the snowstorm. Children can put their hands and bare feet in and explore the textures. Sensory play isn’t just great for babies! You can put plastic toy people in as well for children to use to act out the story.
The children have to overcome lots of obstacles in the story. Challenge your children to make an obstacle course at home with as much variety as they can: over, under, through, around, weaving in and out. Let them know which items of furniture and objects they are allowed to include/forbidden from touching before they start. Older children can plan ahead and make a labelled design of their course. Top tip: you can offer a prize for completion that is only redeemable when everything has been put back where it was!
first mess, now noise
The rhyming story is very rhythmic, and some people do sing it instead of saying it. Encourage your children to make up their own tune to the words and accompany themselves on any instruments you have at home. Pans and wooden spoons make great drums. Just don’t schedule any work calls at the same time as this activity!
There is positional language repeated in the story: over, under and through. It’s never too early to use the correct words for things; these are prepositions. You can play a preposition game. Put a blanket or duvet on the floor. The caller gives instructions like ‘on top of the duvet’, ‘under the duvet’ and ‘next to the duvet’ and the others have to quickly comply. The fastest can be the caller next.
Choose a teddy bear and hide it somewhere in the house. Then it’s someone else’s turn. Children of all ages will benefit from practicing taking turns, as I’m sure you’re aware! Older children can hide the bear and then write clues to its location or write a version of the story with obstacles that lead to the bear.
Being able to listen carefully and discriminate between sounds lays the foundation for reading and you can help develop younger children’s listening skills by playing the sleeping bear game. One person sits in the middle of the room and closes their eyes. There is something jangly next to them like a bunch of keys or a tambourine. Another player sneaks up and tries to take away the object. The bear points in the directions of the sound if they hear it. If they are right, the sneaky thief becomes the bear.
Your children can make a map of the journey from the book. If you haven’t got big paper, stick smaller pieces together, unfold a cereal box or use the back of wrapping paper. They can draw or use collage to really show the different terrain. Again, they can use toys to explore the map or can carry it around, reading it to guide them on their own journey. Older children can draw a grid and place different features of the journey at specific coordinates.
Using chairs and blankets, your children can make their own bear cave. They can use this as a reading den or as a jumping off point to start thinking about what a bear’s real habitat is like. They can research whether bears really live in caves and if different species like different environments. They can use research or their own knowledge to come up with suggestions of what animals might live in different pages of the book. For example, would you find a squirrel in the woods or the snowstorm? They can draw the different habitats and add the animals.
Encourage your children to come up with ideas for different obstacles to add to the story. Can they write it in the same style as Michael Rosen? If they write and illustrate a new page you can paperclip it into your copy and include it when you read. They could also write their own version of the story, hunting a different animal and encountering different problems. If they’re stuck for ideas they can base it on a journey they know well, like the walk to school or getting from their bed to the fridge. We’re Going on a Snack Hunt, anyone?
Suggest that you might want to go on a bear hunt as a family. What might you need? Your children can come up with a list. You can write down the ideas of younger children as they speak and they can draw the object next to each word. They can then gather the items they need and role play the journey. If they think they might need a snack for themselves or the bear you can prepare this together, perhaps incorporating it into lunch prep. Cooking is one of the best ways to explore maths at home, with measuring, counting, matching and sorting all involved.
At the end of the book, there is a wordless picture of the bear going back to its cave and it looks sad. Talk to younger children about how they think the bear is feeling and why. You can write down their ideas and read it back to them. Older children could write a diary entry as the bear about the day some children came into its cave.
Your budding screenwriter could write a script of the story, inventing their own dialogue for the children and stage directions instead of the original text. They could flesh out the personalities of the individual characters based on the illustrations. If they have siblings they can rope them in to perform it or they can make simple puppets with paper and straws.
bears, bears and bears, oh my!
Send your child on a hunt for other books in their collection that feature bears. What are some of the similarities and differences? Arrange a teddy bear’s picnic with toys representing these bears. What might they chat about? What games would they play? Some children might get into the role play aspect but some might want to make picnic food for their toys from play dough. You can find a play dough recipe here.
I hope you find these useful and I’d love to hear about it if you do any of them at home. If you have any questions or suggestions you can comment here, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram.