Get ready to go large with these bear-sized activities and investigations! Jane Bunting offers creative ideas to get the most from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt…
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a fantastic, memorable romp of a story that sweeps children up in the adventure from the very first line. Written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, this well-loved picture book provides the perfect opportunity to explore things on a bigger scale both indoors and out.
Children love large-scale dramatic play. It offers them an immediate route into another world and an opportunity to try out what it might be like to be somebody, or something, completely different. It provides a way for them to view the world through somebody else’s eyes and to explore how this other person or thing might feel.
1. Build the bear’s cave
Once the book has been introduced and re-read a few times, suggest to the children that they might like to change the role-play area to fit with this story world. Talk together with them to share ideas about how this might be done, for example, what do you think the bear’s den would be like?
Try not to respond too quickly to any one suggestion, although you may recognise that it may be the most easily realisable idea. List the suggestions together on a chart or make a mind map. The children can then use this for reference, adding on later ideas for themselves as well as ticking off the ideas that they have used. Keep a copy of the book handy so that you can all refer to the illustrations as you plan.
Try to anticipate some of the possible suggestions (there will, of course, always be inspired ideas that haven’t occurred to you!) and ensure a rich array of open-ended and flexible resources are available for children to choose from, such as large pieces of cardboard and netting for children to weave through or to attach other materials to. Offer both manufactured and natural materials. Although it is never easy to stand back, try not to direct the construction too much; instead, work alongside the children, guiding them with the help of a well-judged question or suggestion.
2. Equipping your cave
The children will have lots of practical suggestions for how their role-play area should be equipped and the sort of practical things that they will need for their play. Encourage them to think about the different sorts of reading and written material that a bear’s den might contain. The addition of real examples of written materials such as leaflets, posters, diaries or calendars will not only provide authenticity for the role-play area but also develop children’s understanding of this sort of reading and writing.
3. Join in the play
Plan in chunks of time to observe the children’s play in the role-play area, and allow yourself regular opportunities to get involved in the play itself. This will not only show the children how much you value their play, but will also enable you to model and encourage particular language structures and to demonstrate ways in which language can be used.
Once children have got to know We’re Going on a Bear Hunt well by hearing it read aloud and through acting it out, they will enjoy concrete opportunities to explore and investigate some of the story’s ideas for themselves…
The green, green grass
Challenge the children to hunt around to find grasses that are different from each other in some way, for example, in colour, thickness, length and smell. Provide wicker containers for them to collect and sort the grasses into. Encourage the children to look closely at their findings as they work and to talk about what they see and notice. What categories will they use to sort the grasses into different groups?
Once the grasses have been collected, try the following activities:
● Make textured pictures, laying the grasses out on cartridge paper. Take photos of the finished pictures.
● Challenge children to mix the exact colour green as their grasses using watercolour paint or pastels to create a picture. They could use fine black felt-tip pens to draw the outlines first.
● Press the grasses into thin plates of clay to make impressions or to add texture to the clay itself.
Plant some grass seed both inside and outside and watch the grass grow. Carefully document and record its progress with photographs and drawings.
Mud, glorious mud
Suggest to the children that they carry out a scientific investigation to find out what makes the best mud. What do they think the best mud is like? Where do they think they can find it?
Ask the children to find and collect examples of mud using sealed transparent containers (first making sure that they are appropriately dressed). Suggest they take photographs or draw pictures of the places that they collect the mud from, and write labels to tell others what it is like.
With the children’s help, collect together different sorts of soil from different places, using plastic washing-up bowls to collect each sample. Gradually begin to add water to each sample, using a container such as a yoghurt pot to measure out the amount of water used. Talk with the children about what they see happening as they mix the mud:
● Does the mud make a noise?
● How does it feel as you stir it?
● Are the different mud samples the same colour?
● What is the best mud like? Why? What do you need to make it?
● Does some soil make better mud than others?
Marvellous mud pies
Suggest the children test out how good each of the mud samples is for making mud pies. Before they begin, use shared writing to list the characteristics of a good mud pie. Ask the children to test each bowl of mud in turn to create their own pies, then use a range of materials to decorate and embellish the pies.
When the children have finished, tell them about the ways in which mud has sometimes been used in hot climates to make bricks for houses. Show them pictures such as that of the great mosque of Djenné in central Mali (you can download a free photo of the mosque on this page). Suggest that the children use the mud to make bricks to build a small wall in the outside space.
These ideas are taken from the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Talk and Play Story Pack by Jane Bunting. Published by Yellow Door, this resource includes a guide full of story-related activities, eight large plastic story cards, a game and a Resources CD with additional support materials.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt © Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury 1989. Licensed by Walker Books Ltd, London.