Most of the time a simple “go and play outside” is all the motivation our kids need to go and find their own entertainment outdoors. Sometimes though, especially if they’re caught up in a youtube video, it’s not quite enough to get them going and for younger kids, this can be a great time to pull out this timeless classic.
As adults it can be hard for us really appreciate the engagement, excitement and joy that make believe games bring out of our kids. You’ve seen it many times though and maybe even like to join in too. Make believe play is recognised by many pediatricians as a social and emotional developmental milestone, providing (among other things) an opportunity for children to develop empathy by considering what others are experiencing.
Whilst some children might enjoy engaging in this sort of play slightly older, a teddy bear’s picnic is likely to be suitable for kids aged 3-7.
What does this picnic actually involve?
You could instigate a number of different types of teddy bear’s picnic, involving different levels of preparation:
Give your children a basket or two where they’re to collect everything they’ll need to take their dolls, stuffed animals and any other much beloved toys on a special trip out to have a picnic (probably in the garden). As well as the toys themselves they’ll need to find a blanket to sit on and any toy or durable plastic cutlery and dishes.
They could pretend the food, but I like to give each child one or two of those little lunch box packs of sultanas. Once they’re set up outside, these sultanas then become everything from “sandwiches” to “tea”, with the toys inevitably “eating and drinking” everything much too fast and little voices clamouring for extra boxes so that they can have some too.
If your child’s not confident about what to do, demonstrate a couple of ideas eg. asking bear if he wants some tea, putting some sultanas in his cup and then pouring it into his mouth and swiping the sultanas for yourself. Try not to take over though, the key benefit they get out of such games is through exercising their creativity rather than following instructions.
Very similar to the first option, but prepare some light, actual picnic food and go for lunch in a nearby park, bringing the toys to take part too (of course!).
This one requires a bit more organisation and several friends. It could be used as a birthday party option or even a fundraiser. Invite a group of other mums and dads with similar aged children to meet in an appropriate park. You could have everyone bring their own food or for a more communal feel have each person bring a dish to contribute. Limit toys to one or two per child, maybe one per person so that mum can bring one too. As well as feeding their toys, children participate in a series of games that involve their toys too (ie. the winner is the toy rather than it’s owner). Games might include a treasure hunt, three legged race with child and toy, pass the parcel, etc.
Even if when everything’s in place for your teddy bear’s picnic the heavens suddenly open and it starts bucketing it down with rain, you can always move your plans indoors. Set up your picnic rug in a room you don’t normally eat in to maintain the novelty factor and let their imaginations take over.
Tell us your own teddy bear’s picnic tips and experiences in the comments below.