Okay, first of all, this post is no way sponsored by or affiliated with the product reviewed herein (though if the company is interested in that kind of review, they’re welcome to send an email). Second of all…these little bears are one of the most versatile and interesting tools in your preschooler-homeschooling arsenal. No, really.
Do you remember being in kindergarten and first grade, and looking at the huge tubs of bears sitting on the wall? Do you remember just wanting to get them down and play with them? You probably wanted to line them up, and sort them into different colors, and play with them. Then your teacher finally did let you get them down, but it was probably for just a few minutes, and more than likely, you didn’t get to do something fun with them—you got to count them. No silly voices allowed as you dove the little bears into their cups or whatever—just numbers. And if you got done early, because you knew your numbers, you probably had to put them up and move on to something else, because your teacher didn’t want the little bears to get lost, because the silly things were expensive, and teachers don’t have enough money to replace bears every time they take them out of the bucket.
So when you’re picking these up for your child, keep in mind that sometimes, you should just let them play with them. Make funny voices. Dance them around. Pour them out and swish them around and just look at them. Exploration and play are part of the learning experience for a child, and using the materials for only the suggested activity just isn’t any fun. You can always supervise closely to make sure that no little bears go missing.
Now, consider the versatility of the little bears. As long as they’re still keeping your child’s interest, there’s no reason why they just have to be for learning to count (and learning to count with bears isn’t just learning rote memorization of numbers, but also helps improve one to one recognition in your child’s mind, which might take a little bit longer to “click”). You can also use them to teach patterns. Sit down with a stack of notecards and a handful of markers (or circle stickers, or whatever else you want to use to identify colors) and have your child replicate a pattern. Put a pattern together for them with the bears, then have them guess what comes next.
Use them to teach sorting. Sort the bears into different colors: red in one cup, yellow in the next, and so on. Mix them up and do it all over again. Some children may do this instinctively; others will need to be prompted.
Then play with them. Engage in pretend play. Tell silly little stories. Let your child initiate play. Maybe the bears would like to visit your dollhouse, or retell a favorite story. Remember, they’re toys—and as long as your child is learning, there’s no reason to consign them to a high shelf, where your child can only look on with longing and imagine slipping just one out to play with for a little bit longer.