A nationwide teddy bear hunt is helping keep New Zealand’s children occupied during the country’s month-long coronavirus lockdown, with tens of thousands of homes taking part, including the prime minister.
New Zealand has more than 600 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is in the midst of a quarantine period, one of the strictest enforcements anywhere in the world. Going outside is prohibited unless for essential supplies such as food and medicine, or a brief respite of exercise and fresh air, taken locally.
Inspired by the popular children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, the real-life Kiwi bear hunt has seen homes from Bluff to Auckland place teddy bears in their street-facing windows, allowing local children to “hunt” for bears in their neighbourhoods. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed she too had placed a teddy in the front window of Premier House in Wellington, where she is in lockdown with her fiancé, Clarke Gayford, and toddler, Neve.
The New Zealand organiser Annelee Scott said the hunt was designed to “entertain our little ones” but the bears have kept self-isolaters busy as well, meticulously arranging their window displays, swapping bears in and out, giving their teddies different outfits each day, or moving them to hard-to-spot corners of the front garden.
The teddy bear hunt is now a global pastime as millions upon millions enter self-isolation. The motto of the book – “We’re not scared” – has resonated for many.
In New Zealand the hunt has a distinctly Kiwi feel, with farmers building behemoth teddy bears out of straw bales, and forestry workers constructing them out of tree stumps.
Jiavra Cohen is a student who is is self-isolating with her family in Dunedin, and every day she and her mother create a new scene on their porch, including elaborate picnics, and a day out fishing by the clear blue water (a repurposed blue duvet).
“Mum and I put up a new scene every day but the fishing scene is because it’s one of my dad’s favourite hobbies,” Cohen said. “Coming up with ideas is a good time-filler when I finish my uni work. Mum also enjoys conversing from the porch with our neighbours.”
Others have engaged in teddy bear graffiti and chalk drawings have also appeared in many inner-city centres.
People without teddy bears have painted or made them instead, and other creatures and children’s characters have appeared in windows too, including Kiwi birds, Shrek and Donkey, Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, mounted stag heads and a surprising number of inflatable sharks.
With the book’s author now in hospital in intensive care, the teddy bear fun has turned into a tribute too for his beloved children’s classic.
“Get well soon the going on a bear hunt has kept a lot of us sane in the last week during lockdown,” one New Zealand mother wrote on Facebook.
According to the BBC, it is unclear whether Rosen’s hospitalisation is the result of coronavirus.