Here is the perspective of Hayley Sirjane, teacher of young children at the Addison County Parent Child Center:
We’re going on a bear hunt.
We’re going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We’re not scared.
My children love to go out on pretend bear hunts in the woods. When we are preparing for a pretend bear hunt, we will often read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. The children love to recite verses from this book as we are going over the familiar terrain. The rhythm of this story creates a great song to march to.
On our pretend bear hunt we like to collect items that might help us if we run into a bear. The children love to collect sticks. “We will wave our sticks at them and scare them,” one child in the group says.
In this adventure we also explore large climbing rocks. We love climbing up them to get a better view for bears! All the children approach this risk differently. Some climb to the top, some climb halfway up, and some stay at the bottom and explore. Sometimes we even look for bears under logs…nope, just a slug!
The end of our pretend bear hunt usually leads us to a homemade house that was created by another group of children. There are many of these built throughout the woods we visit often. We will slowly enter the “cave” being very weary of a sleeping bear that could possibly awaken! Phew! No bear here! This bear cave becomes a great spot for a snack.
There is a lot of risk taking that happens in the woods. My children love to experience these kinds of adventures. Taking risks builds confidence and teaches valuable life skills. Children also learn to self-regulate, for example, “how high is too high on this rock?” Allowing children appropriate independence also sends the message that we trust them. Pretend bear hunts are the best!