Go on a Bear Hike

  • Children icon Age: 0 to 5
  • Clock icon Time: Under 1 hour
  • Leaf icon Materials: stuffed animal or action figure; natural and household objects to make obstacles (e.g. rocks, logs, rope, containers, blanket, bean bags); downloadable cards
Pretend play offers kids the perfect way to develop cognitive flexibility—a key ingredient for creativity and problem solving. In this activity, we invite kids to lean into pretending, activate their bodies and use their imaginations as they go on a bear hike. How do you do it? Start by leveraging a story or mystery—where is our friend bear hiding? Then, lay out your own series of obstacles that you can tie into the story and invite kids to think creatively and adjust to challenges as they hike to find a bear. 

The Guide

Step 1: Watch the Tinkergarten Home Bear Hike video lesson.

Hop into your My Tinkergarten dashboard to watch the Bear Hike video lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers use their outdoor spaces and their imaginations to search for a pretend bear, then get inspired to go on their own bear hike.

Not yet signed up? Click here to to try a free Tinkergarten Home lesson.

Step 2: Set the stage with a story.

Get to know the story that inspired this activity by reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. Or, watch the author perform it

Adjust the story as you like: We like to adapt the story to be a "hike" rather than a "hunt" with a focus on being curious rather than trying to capture a bear. We also often pretend to search for a friendly bear who might have taken a snooze so he can join us for a snack. You can also hide a teddy bear or other stuffed animal or action figure in your outdoor space and invite kids to search for their stuffy friend.

Step 3: Brainstorm obstacles together.

What obstacles might you encounter as you hike to find bear? In Rosen and Oxenbury's story, each of the obstacles has accompanying sounds. You’ll want to use these or invent some of your own. We like to add a bit of poetry, for example: Rushing river (splash-splosh); Mucky mud (squelch-squelch); Big boulders (climb-climb) and Whipping wind (wooo-wooo).

Need ideas? Download our Bear Hike cards with sample pretend obstacles, sound and movement ideas!

Step 4: Scout out an outdoor spot and set up obstacles.

Pick a space large enough for a good walk and includes logs, rocks and other objects to climb over as well as changes in elevation and ground cover that can add to both the physical challenge and the experience. Identify a trail or path you’ll follow on your “hike.” Either plan your path or move logs, branches, and stones to create physical obstacles that also inspire pretending. Find or create opportunities to climb, walk a line, jump, roll, run, and spin. You can also use household objects like blankets, bean bags, recycled containers and rope to create or add to physical challenges.

Step 5: Go on your bear hike.

Start walking and, when you get to the first obstacle, discuss strategies (e.g. swim, boat, etc.) for how to cross. Make sounds and movements as you go to enhance the sensory experience. Once you’ve found the “bear,” reverse your steps until you are back to your starting place.

Extend Play!

  1. Create your own obstacles—Offer kids household and outdoor objects to build obstacles and imaginary challenges of their own!
  2. Offer printable bear puppets—Kids can use art materials to customize their puppet. Then, create a story or puppet show with your bear. 
  3. Make a cozy cave—Turn a blanket and a few simple household objects into a cozy ber cave to invite more pretend play. Find more ideas in our Cozy Hideaway DIY Activity

Why is this activity great for kids?

In imaginary scenarios, kids can explore unlimited solutions and practice responding to challenges in new, innovative ways. Pretend play offers kids the perfect way to develop cognitive flexibility—a key ingredient for creativity and problem solving. Kids also activate gross motor skills and their two hidden senses—vestibular and proprioceptive— as they move through real and pretend physical obstacles. Finally, pretending and storytelling offers kids chances to practice receptive and expressive language as well as verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

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