Bear Hunt

After a slight hiatus due to my relocation and new job, I am excited to talk about a fun spin on a game many of you have probably played at some point in your life. I tried this activity out as part of a theater class I taught a few weeks ago and it went amazingly well so I wanted to share my success with you. What exactly is this game? Do the words “we’re going on a bear hunt” ring a bell?

Sarah with a bear

Me and my bear!

No, not that kind of bear hunt. Though I will note that no bears were harmed in the taking of this photograph. It was a part of a summer camp hike learning about bears in their habitats and the bear in question is just sleeping. Great story, but I digress.

This game is a spin-off of the popular story game “We’re going on a bear hunt” where everyone sits in a circle and keeps time clapping their hands and repeating each line the leader says. I changed the game up a bit to allow for lots of improvisation and creative thinking. This game is super awesome because everyone can choose how much or how little they want to participate and they are able to change the story and control the outcome.

For this activity, you don’t need anything except some creative ideas. You can tailor the activity to different age groups, so keep that in mind as well. You can also decide to do only part of the activity versus the whole thing depending on the attention span of the participants.

This activity does base itself off of the age-old story “We’re going on a bear hunt. I’m not scared”. As a reminder, usually the participants have to overcome certain things to get to the bear cave, such as tall grass, a river, and a mountain. Once the participants get to the bear cave, usually they get scared (for any number of reasons) and have to back-track through all the things they passed. To see an example, you can watch this video:

Okay, so this game by itself is a great way to express emotions, as you can clearly see by the video. You can also totally use this activity as a jumping off point to start a discussion about confronting fears. For example, if you have someone who is afraid of doctors, you can go on a hunt for a doctor. You may be thinking though, if I use this formula for a doctor, I might just be encouraging the fear. Ah, but that’s where you’ll change the format a bit.

When I did this activity with the class, my focus was encouraging participants to take more control and feel comfortable speaking up in the group. To help relax them into the activity, I did the story twice. The first time I did most of the talking and had them pantomime the different things we were experiencing. I also changed the areas we went through into really silly places. We went through a soda factory, across a peanut butter river, and over a rock candy mountain. I modeled the creativity and spontaneity I wanted the students to experience by saying things like, “We’re going through the candy factor. Ah! I see some yummy Twix bars. I’m going to grab some and eat them.” Also I didn’t keep a beat, instead I used my hands to pantomime the places we went.

The second go round I told them that I wanted them to become involved in the adventure and they could add anything they wanted as we went along. At first I had to ask them questions like, “We’re in the candy factory, what do we see?” or “Okay, we’re about to go in the cave, what should we take out of our packs?” The students very quickly caught on and came up with some great ideas, like “Let’s build a bridge across the peanut butter river” or “I’ve got some ducktape!” Long story short, we decided to tie up the bear, bring him home, and give him to the zoo.

Okay, so let’s deconstruct this activity just a bit to see the therapeutic value. As I mentioned before, this is a great way to give kids control over the situation and outcome. That control allows them to feel empowered as well as heard. It also strengthens creative thinking which can then be applied to other situations in their lives, depending on their needs. Finally, it helps a group develop cohesion since everyone works together to create the story. Keep in mind though that the leader needs to be activity involved to make sure one or two participants don’t take over the story.

Whew, I could probably go on about this cool activity, but I think that’s enough for today. As always, if you have any thoughts to add, leave a comment! Also try the activity out and let me know how it went! Have fun!

Bear Hunt Activity Notes

Ages: 4 and up

Materials: Your creative minds!

Therapeutic Value:
Creativity
Expression
Control
Humor
Normalization

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