A sweet and silly game is being played around the world and in all 50 states to comfort and entertain children during the current pandemic. You can participate too. All you have to do is put a teddy bear or other stuffed animal, or a drawing of a rainbow, in a window.
Kids are home from school these days. It's a scary time for them, even more than for us adults. But tens of thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of individuals and small business owners in all 50 states and at least 12 other countries are doing one small thing to help: They're putting a teddy bear or stuffed animal in their windows.
This may not sound like much, but it will make a bigger difference to the children in your community than you might think. Not only are schools closed because of the coronavirus, so are playgrounds, malls, skating rinks, movies theaters, toy stores, and pretty much anyplace else where children go to have fun. Even McDonald's play areas, an option some parents depended on in bad weather, are closed.
So what can kids do for fun, other than watch TV or play video games? They can go for a walk or a drive with their parents. Those are fundamentally boring activities that suddenly become a lot less tedious when you turn them into a teddy bear hunt. That's what children are doing all over the world. They compete with each other to see how many teddy bears or other stuffed animals they can spot, and they keep count of their finds. They take pictures of the most unusual and the ones they like best.
A 10,000-member Facebook group.
Many of these pictures get posted to the Teddy Bear Hunt Facebook group which seems to have been started by a 12-year-old Iowan named Tammy Buman along with her 8-year-old sister and parents. It has more than 10,000 members so far. "I think that it helps people get their mind off of what's happening right now," she told the New York Times. The game seems to be inspired in part by the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt by British author Michael Rosen, who himself is in the hospital with severe flu-like symptoms.
Children as old as 13 and as far away as New Zealand say they are excited to go walking each day to see how many stuffed animals they can find. There are no reports so far of people using Google Street View to look for bears in faraway places, but it's only a matter of time. (That way, of course, you lose the benefit of going outside for fresh air and exercise.)
It's easy to participate. If you have a window or doorway facing a street or road, or if you have a storefront or office, even if it's closed these days, just put a teddy bear where people walking by can see it. If you have kids, getting them to help make a teddy bear display is a great way to distract them both from the coronavirus and the latest video game. If you don't have a teddy bear, other kinds of stuffed animals are welcome too. And if you have no stuffed animals at all, don't fret. Some people are taping a drawing of a rainbow to their windows or doors instead.
All these things send the same message to the children -- and adults -- in their neighborhoods. "We're here. We're all connected. We're all going to get through this together. Even if, for the moment, we have to stay far apart."