Bear necessities

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Explore feelings and promote sharing with cuddly activities from Helen Shelbourne inspired by a classic children's book Acharming story with a variety of themes that can be developed in children's play is TheLost Ears by Phillida Gili (Boxer Books, 10.99, 25th anniversary edition).

Explore feelings and promote sharing with cuddly activities from Helen Shelbourne inspired by a classic children's book

Acharming story with a variety of themes that can be developed in children's play is TheLost Ears by Phillida Gili (Boxer Books, 10.99, 25th anniversary edition).

It tells the story of Harry, a tiny teddy bear who lives safe and happy in Oliver's pyjama pocket and becomes absorbed in all the books that Oliver reads. Then one day, Oliver's pyjamas are laundered with Harry still in the pocket. He emerges from his wash, spin and airing without any ears.

Oliver thinks Harry looks ridiculous and puts him in the dark cupboard with other broken toys. But the sad little toy is retrieved by Oliver's friend, who sews new ears for Harry along with a coat, scarf and hat.

Oliver hardly recognises the 'new' Harry and feels ashamed for having been so unkind. He places Harry back in his pyjama pocket and makes sure that he brings Harry books every week from the library.


The Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage (page 11) emphasises the importance of providing children with a balance of adult-led and child-initiated learning opportunities. This project, therefore:

* identifies adult-led activities, to introduce or develop children's understanding of the topic through stimulating, meaningful experiences which offer challenge

* suggests ways to enhance areas of core provision, to consolidate children's learning about the theme. It is the practitioners' role to make daily observations of children's learning which inform individual child profiles and future planning. Children should be encouraged to use the resources to support their own learning. This means that the possible learning outcomes will be wide-ranging and varied.

* advocates that settings should be organised and resourced using a 'workshop' approach so that children can access resources autonomously and independently.

Adult-led activities

Harry bears

Provide resources for the children to make their own bears that they can read books to.

Key learning intentions

To use simple tools and techniques competently and appropriately

To manipulate materials to achieve a planned effect

To engage in activities requiring hand-eye co-ordination

To begin to describe the texture of things

Adult:child ratio 1:up to 4


* The Lost Ears by Phillida Gili (Boxer Books, 10.99) * fur * scissors * teddy bear templates * felt * PVA glue * needles * thread * soft-toy filling


* Share the story of The Lost Ears with the children until all are familiar with the story. Discuss the emotions of the characters throughout the story. How did Harry feel when he was living in Oliver's pocket/when he was put in the cupboard?/when he received his new ears? How did Oliver feel about Harry in the beginning of the story?/when he put him in the cupboard?/when he was returned to Oliver's pocket?

* If sewing is not a regular activity in your setting, provide some opportunities to sew before you make the teddy bears, to give the children some practice in developing simple sewing techniques. Start with lacing cards and then move on to small squares of Binca with thread, darning needles (these are thick and blunt with a large eye) and scissors. Make sure the needles are threaded and ready for the children to use.

* Decide whether you want the children to cut out their own bear shapes so that you can assess their cutting skills or whether the actual sewing is the focus. Either draw round a bear template using a thick black pen on the reverse side of the fur for each child, or cut out the pieces ready for them to begin sewing together straightaway.

* Cut felt eyes, noses and mouths for the children to glue on later.

* Make a bear yourself as an example for the children to follow. Use a simple running stitch round the edge of the two pieces of fur to hold them together.

Activity content

* Begin by showing the children the bear that you have made. Talk about how the bear feels when they touch him.

* Model a simple running stitch for the children.

* Remind the children to leave a hole (the easiest place is the top of the head between the ears) in which to put the stuffing.

* Feel the stuffing and talk about how soft it is.

* Sew up the top of the bear's head once the children have finished sewing and stuffing the bear.

* Invite the children to make a face from the felt pieces for their bear.

Stick the pieces on using a small amount of PVA glue and leave to dry.

Extending learning

Key vocabulary

Bear, teddy, soft, stuff, stuffing, fur, needle, thread, scissors, sew, fill, gap

Key questions

What have I made? How do you think I made it? What do you think I did first? Why do you think you need to leave a gap in the top of your bear's head? What does the fur/stuffing feel like? How many eyes does your bear need? What is your bear called?

Extension ideas

* When the bears are dry, set up a speaking and listening activity where each child comes to talk about their bear, how it was made and what it feels like. Ask them what they did first and so on. Record some of their language.

* Invite the children to choose a book to read with their bear. Ask them the reasons behind their choice (In the story, Oliver knew that Harry liked books about bears).

* Create a permanent sewing corner or area in your setting with squares of Binca, thread, needles and scissors.

* Read lots of both information and fiction books about bears (see box).

* Encourage the children to bring in their favourite book from home, along with their favourite teddy or soft toy. Make a display of the teddies reading the books and read the stories with the children. Ask them to tell you about the story first before you read.

* Create a non-fiction library in your book area. Use some of the categories listed in The Lost Ears. Tap into your children's interests by making a list with them of the kinds of things they would like to find out about so that you can include books incorporating their ideas. Find a small teddy to represent Harry and sit him in the library. Encourage the children to find books to look at with Harry. Talk about what a library is; many of the children may use one regularly already. Talk about how to behave in a library.

Pretty as a picture

Encourage the children to paint a self-portrait.

Key learning intentions

To relate and make attachments to members of their group

To begin to experiment with language describing possession

To show an interest in numbers and counting

To make paintings

Adult:child ratio 1:2


* A4 pieces of white paper * selection of skin and other coloured paints * paintbrushes * mirror * felt-tip pen


* Set out your paints, remembering eye, hair and lip colours need to be included.

* Make sure the children are going to be able to sit to do the activity and look in the mirror at the same time.

Activity content

* Invite the children to sit down in pairs ready for the activity. Make sure they know each other's names!

* Let them look in the mirror and talk about what they can see. Talk about the colour of their hair and eyes and skin.

* Ask them to take a piece of paper and explain that they are going to paint their portrait.

* Keep encouraging the children to look in the mirror as they paint their faces. Ask them how many eyes they have, how many noses and so on.

* Write the children's names on their portraits with a felt-tip pen - or invite them to write their own.

* The portraits will need to be laid flat to dry, preferably on a drying rack.

* When the portraits are dry, mount and create a portrait gallery in the setting.

Extending learning

Key vocabulary

Mirror, reflection, face, hair, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, lips, cheeks, chin, neck, skin, colour, one, two, long, short, curly, straight

Key questions

Who/what can you see when you look in the mirror? Is that your face? How many eyes do you have? What colour are your eyes/is your skin/hair? Is your hair long or short/curly or straight? What colour is your skin? Which colour paint are you going to use? Can you write your name on your portrait?

Child-initiated learning


Additional resources and adult support

* Provide a selection of clothes, pegs, washing line, airer, laundry basket, ironing board, iron; selection of teddies, dolls, coats, scarves, buggies; variety of socks; fiction and non-fiction books (eg on the weather); seating.

* Model using pegs to hang out washing. Adapt a rhyme to sing, 'This is the way we wash the clothes/hang out the clothes/ peg out the clothes/dry the clothes', etc.

* Talk about the weather. Model dressing appropriately for the outdoors.

* Ask what clothes the teddies and dolls will need so that they are warm outside.

* Support the children who ask you to dress their dolls and teddies for them; encourage them to keep trying first.

* Talk about the concept of pairs, and encourage the children to find two socks that are the same.

* Take time to look at information books to find answers to children's questions about the weather.

* Sit comfortably with small groups of children to share stories.

Play possibilities

* Imaginative and role play in the home area - washing, hanging out, ironing and sorting laundry

* Washing clothes outdoors and hanging them out to dry

* Dressing teddies and dolls for walks outside

* Sorting socks into pairs

* Finding information in the books

* Sharing stories

Possible learning outcomes

Selects and uses activities and resources independently

Listen with enjoyment and respond to stories

Sorts and matches items

Looks closely at similarities, differences and patterns

Engages in imaginative and role play

Develops hand-eye co-ordination

Malleable materials

Additional resources and adult support

* Provide biscuit dough, teddy bear cutters, rolling pins, baking sheets, oven, playdough, cutters, rolling pins and clay.

* Model appropriate vocabulary such as roll, cold, wet, soft, round, flat.

* Model skills such as rolling dough between the palms of your hand to make spherical shapes and rolling with a rolling pin.

* Support children's imaginative play; add baking trays and a toy oven to the playdough area.

* Support children's problem-solving skills as they consider how to attach limbs and parts to a body when making teddies from clay. Provide any mark-making tools they need, for example, to create facial features or claws on paws.

* Read teddy bear stories to the children, and if possible, have alongside a small bear representing Harry.

Play possibilities

* Exploring the texture and properties of malleable materials

* Making and rolling out biscuit dough to make biscuits and baking them

* Cutting out teddy shapes

* Exploring 3D shape through making clay teddies

Possible learning outcomes

Explores shape in two and three dimensions

Explores using appropriate senses

Observes and asks about change

Water and sand

Additional resources and adult support

* Provide hand whisks, bubble bath, water wheels, jugs, drainpipes, pipes, teacups, teapot, plates, teddies and plastic food.

* Model the use of whisks and water wheels.

* Encourage the children to use descriptive vocabulary.

* Ask questions such as 'What will happen if...?' and 'What shall I do to make this turn round?' to elicit knowledge and understanding and to support children's thinking and problem-solving skills.

* Engage in the children's imaginative play; ask if someone can make you a cup of tea, for example.

* Put four teddies in the sand tray and ask the children to find a cup, saucer and plate for each one. Model the use of appropriate mathematical vocabulary with the children.

Play possibilities

* Using whisks to circulate water and make bubbles

* Exploring the way water wheels circulate water

* Pouring water between containers

* Acting out a teddy bear's picnic in the sand tray

Possible learning outcomes

Perseveres with a task

Develops problem-solving skills

Asks questions about why things happen

Develops hand-eye co-ordination

Develops co-ordination

Engages in imaginative and role play

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