Bears At The Zoo

Help your child learn to sort, understand patterns and positional words (above, below, over, under, between, beside, on, off, in, out)!  

For this Activity you will need:

  • "Counting Bears" (about 20 plastic bears in 4 colors)
  • Four (4) Containers labeled with four (4) colors
  • The book: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury
  1. Place all the bears and containers on the table in front of your child. Tell your child that together you are going to play a game called, "Bears At the Zoo."
  2. First, tell her that the bears need to be put in the right "cage at the zoo." Show your child how to "sort" (put into groups) the bears by placing a blue bear in the blue container or "cage."
  3. Ask her to put all the blue bears in the blue cage. Then have her put all of the yellow bears in the yellow cage, and so on. Continue in this way until all the bears are sorted by color.
  4. Next, tell her that the Zookeeper wants the bears need to line up in a special way. Begin to make a pattern with the bears. Place them like this: Yellow Bear, Blue Bear, Yellow Bear, Blue Bear.
  5. Ask your child, "What color bear comes next?" If she says the "Yellow Bear," tell her she is "Right!" If she does not say yellow, go back and repeat the pattern, saying each color as you point to the bear. Have her continue the pattern by adding more bears to the line.
  6. When she is done, create several different patterns in this way, making them more difficult each time. Have your child finish the patterns that you start.
  7. Read the book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to your child. As you read, stress positional words such as over, under, through.
  8. Tell your child that you are going to play another game with the bears. Tell her to hold the bear above her head, put the bear in the cage, have the bear jump over the cage, put the bear between the cages. If needed, help your child move the bears.

Next Steps/Follow-Up:
  • Look in your home for things with patterns (curtains, towels, or clothing) and ask your child to tell you about the pattern.
  • Let your child help you do the laundry. Have her sort by color or match socks.
  • Play a variation of the game "Simon Says." Give your child directions to follow using position words. (For example: jump over the stick, walk around the tree, stand next to the car.)

Background Information:

Mathematical thinking involves:

  • Sorting objects by different traits (color, shape, or texture).
  • Using words to describe things and what they are used for.
  • Identifying and copying simple patterns.
  • Using words to talk about position (over, under, in, top, bottom, etc.) and order (first, next, last etc.).
  • Counting objects.
  • Using words to communicate an understanding of numbers and relationships (more, less, equal, etc.)

When your child starts school, she will be more likely to do well if she is able to do these things.


You can help build your child’s mathematical thinking skills by doing this activity.

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