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We’re going on a bear hunt sensory walk and tuff tray

We’re going on a bear hunt sensory walk and tuff tray

Its play time again in our home. We love getting messy so this time we have combined the best of both worlds by doing a sensory walk alongside our tuff tray/small world.

Our theme this week was inspired by ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’, one of our favorite stories by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

We were fortunate to be provided with the fantastic ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ wooden character set and the story talk cards thanks to Small Eco Steps of Chester to compliment our scene. You do not need to use specialist equipment but if you are interested in incorporating these toys to enhance your play scene, a mini product review can be found at the end of this article.

Where possible we have tried to include items that you are likely to have or are easily sourced. Most of the items can be substituted and most of this was made using sustainable wooden toys and food. The food can be composted making it eco-friendly but the easiest way to be eco-friendly is to use what you already have at home!

For those interested in the specific toys we have used, we have included the brands name where known. 

We’re going on a bear hunt sensory walk – Its time to get messy kids!

We’re going on a bear hunt sensory walk

Please feel free to substitute these ideas with whatever you have at home. Most of this is suitable for babies.

Prep time: 45 mins to set it all up the night before.

Set up time: 20 minutes if you have all of the containers ready.

What you will need:

  • Grass scene – Grass from the garden with some garden leaves and flowers. We added fern leaves and twigs.
  • River scene – Chia seeds with blue food colouring pre-prepped the night before. Add hot water to the chia seeds and soak overnight.
  • Mud scene – Weetabix with cocoa powder mixed with water. Place some twigs on edges for the kids to use to stir it all up. This smelt lovely and chocolatey so added another element to the sensory experience.
‘Uh oh! Mud! Thick, oozy mud. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve got to go through it’ – Extract from We’re going on a bear hunt children’s book. 
  • Deep dark forest scene – We just used 3 logs that were donated to us. The kids loved climbing these and many companies can be contacted who will donate their offcuts.  Just make sure these are smoothed down to avoid splinters. An alternative is to use pine cones, wooden trees, craft leaves, bran flakes or coco pops, small log plaques, twigs etc.
  • Snow scene – Porridge oats and flour mixed with water. The oats get all between their toes and the flour makes swirling murky patterns when they move. Surprisingly when we pretended it was baby sick the kids just played more! Gross!
  • Beach scene – We got a large container propped up on end and added sand from her sandpit to the elevated side. We filled the base with water from the water butt and added some seaweed which was spaghetti coloured green. You could add some shells to the edges and characters but remember the kids will be playing in here with bare feet so put these on the edges and remind them they are there.
The beach was really simple. The kids loved splashing in the water but really enjoyed playing with the ‘seaweed’ which is simply cooked spaghetti dyed green using a food grade colouring. 
  • Bears cave – We grabbed two chairs and a few sheets to make a den. We hid a bear inside for each toddler. You could add some bear footprints or make a den using a glue gun and twigs. For older kids, why not gather larger sticks and see if they can make their own den structure?
  • You will need a towel and a bowl of water to wash feet at the end.
We found the bears. Three happy kids playing in the bear den. 

We’re going on a bear hunt tuff tray/small world.

Prep time: The night before dye the rice which takes 5 minutes to prepare but dries overnight.

Set up time: 30 minutes.

Lay each section out into horizontal rows from top (house) to bottom (cave).

House – Wooden house (Ours is Tildo) and Bear hunt story figures (£24 from Small Eco Steps of Chester). An alternative is to print the characters and place them on lollipop sticks if you don’t want to use any specialist equipment or use a wooden family set. We also had a compass.

Grass – Grass and flowers from garden. We used some Tender Leaf animals and Lanka Kade mini beasts and a magnifier. Finally, we added the green arches from our Grimms rainbow.

River – Blue scarf or blue sparkly top lined with garden pebbles and some scattered blue dyed rice. We also added some blue semis from our Grimms collection and a frog but these are optional.We added a fence using toys we had lying around but you can make one from left over lollipop sticks or craft match sticks (these have no heads).  

Mud –  We used store brand Bran flakes and twigs. On the side of the tuff tray, we added a small spade for digging. 

Forest – We continued with Bran flakes but then started to include some log plaques, sticks, wooden trees, a Tender Leaf fox, squirrel, badger and a hedgehog. We didn’t do this but you could make a sensory bottle with mud and water for kids to shake (great for babies). We also used a few Lanka Kade mini beasts.

Snow – Desiccated coconut, and a spade or rake to shovel snow.

Beach – Sand from her sand pit, shells, dyed rice coloured blue, white rice for wave froth, Tender Leaf whale, turtle, crab and seagull and a few garden pebbles. We found a small beach ball we had lying around. too. For the seaweed you can use shredded green paper left over from a project or use some of your dyed green spaghetti left over from the sensory walk. You could print bear prints leading to the cave. We added some blue arches from the Grimms rainbow but these are optional.

Bear cave – We used our Grimms rainbow (as you can see its such a versatile little thing). Another alternative is to bend some cardboard and hold it in shape with a lollipop stick or make a cave from sticks and a glue gun.

Activities to extend play:

Ours were too engrossed to try the other things we had set up but you could….

  1. Get them to pretend they are a bear family. Ours spent ages in the bears cave/den just playing.
  2. Design a bear mask.
  3. Role play an alternative ending e.g. what if the family became friends with the bear?
  4. Talk about a bears natural habitat, what bears eat etc then turn the den into a bear restaurant.
  5. Make a map or draw a story map for the characters.

Why not print them a little certificate from

Product review: We're going on a bear hunt wooden characters and story talk cards

Although no specialist equipment is needed as you can create the scene using things you will have at home, we did feel as though the story characters really helped to lift the scene and get their creative juices flowing.

The characters are bright and colourful and the kids loved moving the characters as we read the story. They felt nice to the touch and are pretty durable (well they are designed for nursery play after all). The bear in particular was put to the test being knocked about in the cave and they decided to use the bear rather than the shovels for digging…. He survived 😊 The dog was another favorite.

Our only criticism is that the base of each character needs to be that bit wider as unlike the woodland animals they didn’t always prop up so easily for the toddlers unless the surface was completely flat. This is because of how tall some of the characters are in relation to their base, affecting the objects centre of mass. This meant that some characters do fall sometimes but this was minor and didn’t detract from play. 

The story cards were more of a hit with the older child in the group who used them initially to act out his own story. What we do love about these is that there are a range of activities to support children’s literacy as they contain further play ideas to support reading, writing and speaking with lots of ideas for role play. We haven’t attempted these yet as we couldn’t get the kids off the sensory walk. 

You can purchase both items from

The ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ character cards are £24 and the story talk cards are priced at £12. 

Other retailers....

It is important to note that the items used to create our sensory walk and small world have been purchased from a number of different retailers and we will continue to support these businesses with the occasional shout out where we feel appropriate in similar upcoming articles. 

For this week, a special thank you goes to who were incredibly helpful, rushing our order through as they knew we needed it for our project.

Weekly competitions....

Thanks to Small Eco Steps of Chester there is a weekly competition to win £5 off an item of your choice. To enter, find out the weeks theme by visiting or our instagram account. You will find instructions regarding where to post a photo of your little one completing any activity that resembles the theme.

For more inspiration on actvities, day out, events and more feel free to follow us:

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Additional terms and conditions:

1. No cash alternative provided for competiton entrants. 
2. Competition is not endorsed by either Facebook or Instagam.
3.We have tried to be as eco friendly as possible but as we have said, the best way to be eco friendly is to use what you have and upcycle. 
4. We have used food based items where possible to make them taste safe but this relies on using food grade colourings etc. An alternative to sand would be to dye some rice a yellow/orange colour or use organza scarves.  If your child has any allergies, then again feel free to substitute where appropriate. 
5. Only use play sand. Builders sand can cause a reaction in children. 
6. Some items we used may be a choking hazard for the under 3’s so again feel free to substitute thise. 
7. Prices of the items are correct at the time of publication. 

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