It was “a beautiful day” for a backyard bear hunt at Baby Toddler Book Club this month! Inspired by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s rhythmic picture book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, we took 8 very curious toddlers (and 1 cooperative 2-month old*) on a re-creation of this book about a family that goes in search of a bear only to discover that bears are best left alone!
The family in this book stops at 5 different terrains before they find a bear cave. At each stop, they realize that they “can’t go over…or under it,” they “have to go through it.” Each terrain makes its own onomatopoeia as they pass, for example, “Swishy swashy” or “Squelch squerch” or “Hoooo woooo.” Between each terrain they repeat a very rhythmic verse, which we read by alternately slapping our legs and clapping our hands to keep the rhythm. We also made hand motions for certain parts. For example, every time we read, “Oh no!” the kids put their hands up to their cheeks and made a surprised expression.
We read the book outside under a tree at the start of our bear hunt path that we had set up before we sat down to read. After reading the book, we headed out on a (very short) “hike” with our toddlers in search of a bear.
Our bear hunt was our own variation of an idea that was inspired by a couple of similar activities that I found online, so I want to give credit where it‘s due: My Little Happies did a bear hunt featured at this link: http://mylittlehappies.blogspot.com/2012/03/were-going-on-bear-hunt.html. A while back, I also saw some small-scale bear hunt sensory stations at Make Do & Friend, but I can’t get their blog to work anymore. I’ll link here to their Facebook page as a general “nod” instead: https://www.facebook.com/MakeDoAndFriend.
First, on our trail we stopped at the “long, wavy grass”. Originally, we intended to fill a tub with grass clippings, but thanks to drought-like conditions the past month, no one had mowed their lawns, so we substituted shredded paper. This created a similar texture and sound, but was a tedious mess to pick out of the grass afterwards. I recommend grass clippings if possible!
Second, we got to a “deep, cold river,” which was a baby pool filled with water. The kids knew exactly what to do at this station.
Third, we approached some “thick, oozy mud,” which was sand mixed with just enough water to turn it into a muddy texture.
Fourth, we had to go through the “big, dark forest,” which essentially was a couple of big bushes/small trees along our path.
Fifth, we ran into a “swirling, whirling snowstorm.” How did we create a snowstorm in July, you may ask? We re-used the snow dough (Corn starch and oil) that was left from our December meeting. Yes, I had saved it, which as it turns out, was worthwhile!
Finally, we got to a “narrow, gloomy cave,” otherwise known as a small appliance box. Inside the box cave, much like in the book, our little bear hunters found a bear (well bears, technically)! BUT, unlike in the book, our bears weren’t scary, they were appetizing snacks that the kids could barely (bear-ly?!) keep their paws off (yes, cliché pun intended)!
We made toast bear faces as seen on MamaPappaBubba’s site: http://mamapapabubba.com/2012/06/17/toddler-food-what-miss-g-eats-15/. Each “bear face” was made of a piece of whole-wheat toast spread with natural peanut butter (another butter could be substituted for those with food allergies). Two banana slices were used for the ears, two raisins for the eyes and another banana slice with a raisin on top for the nose. These were devoured quickly. My son kept telling everyone that night that he got to eat a “peanut butter sandwich that looked like a bear!” The snack (go figure) was the most memorable part of the morning for him apparently!
Our bear hunt book club meeting marked the one year anniversary of our little group’s existence and was a great way to “celebrate” a fantastic year of reading, playing, eating, and giving! I feel so fortunate to know such a great group of parents and kids who come together each month for this purpose. Each parent in this group cares about her kids’ learning, reading, and healthy eating. They are also helpful, positive, collaborative, and appreciative. Have I mentioned, we have also all become great friends? It’s sort of become implied that our meetings don’t “end” when our activity ends, almost everyone (if they can) sticks around for awhile to let the kids play and to have some always appreciated “mommy-talk”. Although we start at 9 a.m., our last guests sometimes don’t trickle out until after lunch when naptime beckons sleepy toddlers! In addition to the photo slideshow of our meeting, below is a photo collage of some of the kids at our first meeting last July compared to this meeting. We still can’t get most of them to look at the camera at the same time!
So, with that, I’ll end with thanks to our Baby Toddler Book Club parents and kids and to all of our followers (blog, Facebook, and Pinterest). Here’s to another great year!
Join us next month for Hey! Wake Up! By Sandra Boynton!
*This month’s book club was geared toward our toddlers, but the baby in our group did experience a few of the textures with her mommy’s help. This activity could be adapted for a younger crowd by helping the young babies feel all of the textures at each “terrain”. For older babies/younger toddlers, just be sure to substitute all edible (or rather, safe to consume) materials (for example, substitute shredded coconut for the grass, cornmeal with a small amount of water for the mud instead of sand, and skip the peanut butter on the toast for those who are eating, but haven’t yet had nut products).