‘Bear Cave’ is a simple make-believe game where toddlers pretend to be hungry bears who wake up from hibernating. As they’ve been sleeping for months, they’re obviously starving and must venture out of the cave in search of food. My wife invented it one day in an effort to teach our 2-year-old daughter about bears and hibernating and to possibly trick her into taking an impromptu nap on the closet floor. It’s become a regular in our rotation of activities for kids.
It didn’t necessarily work as planned but our daughter ⏤ who’s a huge fan of animals and Daniel Tiger’s make-believe time ⏤ loved it and wanted to play constantly. Since then, it’s become our go-to time killer before daycare on mornings when we’re dressed and fed ahead of schedule. It’s all imaginative and requires little more than a closet in which to pretend to sleep and a room around which to crawl, and thus it’s perfect for wasting short amounts of time on the fly.
Prep Time: None
Entertainment Time: 5-10 minutes
Energy Expended by Child: Minimal
What You Need:
- A closet.
- An ability to make believe/suspend disbelief.
How to Play:
The game begins with everybody lying down in the closet and pretending to be hibernating bears. If you’re lucky and have a kid who enjoys fake sleeping, you might actually get to close your eyes for a minute and rest. One person, usually the kid (as we’re not going to ‘wake up’ on purpose, don’t be crazy), will suddenly yell: “Wake up!” and we all stir/roar like groggy grizzlies who’ve been asleep for the winter.
From there, anybody can say “I’m hungry,” and the sleuth of bears crawls out of the cave closet on all fours in search of porridge. Actually, the first stop is a beehive full of honey on the bed. After pretending to devour the entire hive, it’s off to find berries. Those bushes, naturally, are in a corner on the opposite side of the room. “Roar!” you exclaim, as you slog across the carpeted floor. And, yes, it’s recommended (but not required) that you play on a carpet ⏤ your knees will thank you later. After all the bears have picked the huckleberries clean, it’s off to the river for some fishing.
In our house, the hallway is hardwood and thus the doorway where it meets the carpet feels like a river’s edge. Sitting there, we’re able to catch pretend salmon as they swim upstream past the bedroom. Once our bellies are stuffed, we return to the cave and plop down to take a nap. Again, if you’re lucky, you may get too close your eyes for a few seconds. More likely, the game will start anew.
I love Bear Cave because it both teaches our daughter about animals ⏤ something that is important to us ⏤ and because it involves pretending. (Also, sometimes she lets us lie there longer than expected.) It’s always fun to watch her imagination take over as we use imaginary paws to shovel imaginary berries into our imaginary bear gullets. Admittedly, it can get a bit repetitive, especially if your child doesn’t want to take a break, not to mention tiring from all the crawling around the room. But if you want to switch things up, you can also call it ‘Bird’s Nest’ and pretend that everybody just hatched. From there it’s off to find worms, berries, and insects, not to mention your mother!