A teddy bear is seen as a boy and his mother, who are the photographer's family, pass by on March 29, 2020 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
  • Children around the world are on the hunt - for teddy bears.
  • From cities in the United States to Australia and New Zealand to Belgium and the Netherlands, people are leaving stuffed animals on their window sills as part of a global scavenger hunt to entertain kids under coronavirus lockdown.
  • The stuffed animal scavenger hunts were inspired by the children's book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," written by Michael Rosen in 1989.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

People around the globe are leaving stuffed animals outside their houses as part of "teddy bear hunts" to entertain children under coronavirus lockdowns.

The stuffed animal scavenger hunts were inspired by the children's book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt," written by Michael Rosen in 1989. As countries impose lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to socially distance and contain the spread of the coronavirus, parents and children going out for walks or drives can take part in the activity.

From cities in the United States to Australia and New Zealand to Belgium, and the Netherlands, children worldwide are on the hunt - for teddy bears.

Not only can the bear hunts be fun, but they serve as educational opportunities for children to learn more about the coronavirus and practicing good hygiene.

Two stuffed animals are perched on a window sill in Belgium, along with a list of good hygiene practices to use during the coronavirus outbreak.

As of April 1, the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, has infected more than 935,000 people in 180 countries and territories.

In Reykjavík, Iceland, children are encouraged to go out and find bears as a fun, socially-distant activity amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A Tennessee resident who spearheaded a bear hunt in her own neighbourhood, said she sees children in full safari outfits using binoculars to spot teddy bears in window sills.

Shanna Bonner Groom, who spearheaded the teddy bear hunt idea in her neighbourhood in Tennessee, told Time Magazine she spread the word of the scavenger hunt via Facebook and now sees children in safari outfits with binoculars.

"Everybody's trying to enjoy this time at home with each other but do social distancing at the same time," she told Time. "So we're trying to come up with some fun activities."

Teddy bears and other stuffed animals are perched on window sills in New Zealand.

Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern encouraged children to have their own teddy bear hunts, even putting her own "special brown ted" as part of the activity, the New Zealand Herald reported.

"They might look for teddy bears in windows but as they pass people, keep your distance, don't talk to others, just stay within your bubble," she said. "And if you're in Wellington and you're walking in a local neighbourhood, you might see one in my window."

Rhodes Bailey, whose family is based in South Carolina, told Time that the bear hunts have increased a sense of community in the uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a way of communicating with other people while you're still safe in your family isolation," he told Time. "It's like a silent visual message that families get to send to each other from their windows and it says, 'We're all in this together. I'm experiencing what you're experiencing.'"

"When you go by a bear house, it's almost like a positive love code that people are sending," he continued. "You feel like they're immediately friends. You have the same sense of community and the same sense of love for kids and family."

Bailey told Time he turned the bear hunt into a counting game for his five-year-old daughter when they go out on daily drives to get out of the house.

"We said, 'We gotta go find as many bears as we can,' and my wife got a pad and paper so that my daughter could write down the number of bears she'd seen," he said. "Whenever we saw one, everybody would yell 'There's a bear! There's a bear!' and point at it. You get kind of caught up in the moment but in a really positive way."

Bears are making appearances in houses in Australia as well.

Chu Chen/Xinhua via Getty

Tanya Ha, who resides in Melbourne, Australia, told the BBC the bear hunts enhanced the sense of community in her neighbourhood, and she wanted to take part.

"I've always felt a sense of my local community, and being part of it," she said.

Ha said she puts extra care and time working on her displays with her two children to be both humourous and educational.

"It's just fun," she continued. "There's a real buzz in sharing [science] and the delight in how things work around you."

A news correspondent based in London told Time she was "emotional" after experiencing the heartwarming response to the bear hunt in her own neighbourhood.

CTV News correspondent Daniele Hamamdjian, based in London, also took part in the worldwide bear hunt after she shared the idea in a WhatsApp group for her neighbourhood, she told Time.

"We put our teddy bear in the window and the next thing you know, everybody was putting one in their window," she says. "It was really heartwarming."

"I got emotional looking at all the pictures coming in because I think people just want to hang onto anything positive, even if it's a stuffed animal in a window," she added.

Hamamdjian said the bear hunt is doing its part in distracting children from the stark reality of the coronavirus outbreak.

Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images

"How do you explain to a four-year-old that she's not allowed play dates and her friends aren't allowed play dates because people are sick?" she told Time. "You don't want to traumatise them and you don't want them to fear other human beings, but they still have to be cautious."

"So spotting stuffed animals in windows is a really nice distraction from the coronavirus conversation," she continued.

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