Thursday, September 17, 2015

Learning Activities for Favorite Children's Books: 25 Ways to Play With Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, originally published in 1967, is a perennial story time favorite which has taken on new significance for me since I now have a toddler old enough to appreciate it. Though the concept of the book is simple, it is amazing how much kids connect with it, and how they never tire of hearing the same repeated phrases. Because the way young children experience the world is through play, today I am sharing a list of 25 ways you can play with your child using the text, pictures, and themes of this book as inspiration.

  1. Sing the story. Each page of text in this book matches up to the first part of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Change up your read-aloud style a little bit by singing each page, instead of simply speaking the words. 
  2. Hear the author chant the book. Bill Martin, Jr. died in 2004, but there is a video onYouTube featuring his own unique reading of the text. Have fun chanting along with the familiar words. 
  3. Sing "Colorful Morning." The clever librarians in the King County Library System have written a piggyback song based on When Ducks Get Up in the Morning that focuses on colors. Once you've read the book, reinforce your child's knowledge of colors by singing and acting out this fun song. 
  4. Clap, tap, or shake to the rhythm of the text. As Bill Martin Jr.'s reading above demonstrates, the text of this book has a great, consistent rhythm. Help your child feel the beat by encouraging him to clap his hands, tap on a drum, or shake a maraca or shaker egg as you read the text.
  5. Sing "I Can Sing a Rainbow." This song celebrates both colors and imagination, just like Eric Carle's illustrations. Play the song on the ukulele, or look for the Fred Penner recording. 
  6. Act out "Rainbow Over the Waterfall." Take a break between readings of the book for your child to move her body like a rainbow following the directions in this action rhyme by Jean Warren. 
  7. Play Fill-in-the-Blanks.  Pause periodically as you read the story and allow your child to fill in a missing word or two. This is a great way to help pre-readers begin to understand how sentences are constructed and how rhyme works.
  8. Tell your own version of the book personalized to your child. Line up your child's favorite colorful toys (animals, shapes, peg dolls, etc.) and ask each one what it sees. At the end, repeat everything in the line-up, just as the author does on the final page of the story. 
  9. Play I Spy and talk about what you can see. After asking each of the animals in the book what it sees, turn the tables and ask your child. Give as many clues as necessary to help your little one figure out what you're looking at, then invite him or her to spy his own object for you to guess.
  10. Play Brown Bear Bingo. Use these printable templates from Making Learning Fun to create a set of Bingo cards.  As you read the story, have your children mark the squares on their cards for each animal as it is named. Alternatively, call out the names of the animals independently of reading the book and award a prize to the first child who calls out Bingo. (This would be a great birthday party game!) 
  11. Read and color. Some kids listen better when they have something to do with their hands. Lay out some crayons and provide your child with a copy of DLTK's printable Brown Bear coloring pages. As you identify each animal by color, have your child color the appropriate page with the correct color.
  12. Draw or paint a favorite animal from the story. Is your child especially attached to one specific animal named in the book? Encourage her fascination with this animal by inviting her to create her own using art supplies.
  13. Draw or paint an animal using an unusual color. Eric Carle's illustrations include a purple cat and a blue horse. Encourage your child to think outside of the box and reimagine an animal in a different color or pattern, then have them put the idea to paper.
  14. Share "The Artist's Crayons" on the flannel board. Celebrate the creativity of a true artist by singing my piggyback song based on "Mary Wore Her Red Dress," in which an artist creates a rainbow over the course of several days. 
  15. Use masks to dress up as each of the story's animals. Using paper plates, brown paper bags, or other simple supplies, make a mask to represent each animal named in the story. Then read the story as your child acts out the role of each animal. (Or, invite over a few friends and put the story on as a skit!)
  16. Make different-colored glasses. Allow your child to see the world in different hues by creating pairs of silly glasses with pieces of colored cellophane as the lenses. There are wonderful printable templates for making glasses at First Palette. A similar activity has also been posted by What Do We Do All Day?
  17. Practice naming colors on the end papers. The end papers of the book show all the colors featured in the story. After a few readings, test your child's color knowledge by seeing how many he can name.
  18. Use colored strips of paper to recall and retell the story. Hold up strips of colored construction paper and ask your child to name the animal that goes with that color. Then check the book to see how many she gets right! 
  19. Make the sounds of the animals. Though this is one of the few animal books for toddlers that doesn't focus on animal sounds, it is still fun to add them in. (It's also funny to hear kids' interpretation of what they think a goldfish might say!)
  20. Act out the story by moving like the animals. Most of the animals in this book have a distinctive motion that sets them apart from the others. As you read the story, invite your child to pretend to be each of the animals. 
  21. Tell the story with stick puppets. Because this story is so simple and easy to memorize, it is a great one to act out and retell. Using the same coloring pages from DLTK (also linked above) create some popsicle stick puppets and tell the story in a new way.  
  22. Play Brown Bear charades. Have your child act out an animal from the story without using words and see if you can guess which animal he is meant to be. Then switch roles and allow him to guess! 
  23. Paint like Eric Carle. Eric Carle has a very distinct artistic style that you can recreate with your kids using basic art supplies. See one librarian's approach to this project at In Short, I Am Busy
  24. Name colored objects to match each animal. Pause after reading each page and see how many objects of the same color your child can name. When she runs out of ideas, move onto the next page. 
  25. Imagine changes to the story. On his blog, back in 2010, Eric Carle talked about the different changes this book has undergone since its original publication, including some  versions where the teacher is replaced by a mother, or even a monkey! Encourage your child to reimagine the book in different ways and discuss how this might change how they feel about it. 
Do you and your kids enjoy classic children's books? Also check out my learning activities to accompany Caps for Sale, May I Bring a Friend?, and Where the Wild Things Are


  1. Great post! Fantastic ideas to freshen up an old favorite. And I've never heard the audio of Mr. Martin himself reading the book--it certainly is unique and not what I expected.

  2. This is such a great post! May I link to it on our library's caregiver blog (

  3. Cool list! My two year old really likes Brown Bear Brown Bear right now. :D


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...