GILLETTE — With schools closed because of the coronavirus, parents are working overtime to keep their children from ransacking the house. Luckily, the outdoors aren’t off limits. Biking and walking through neighborhoods is safe and a nice way to change the scenery.
Just watch out for bears.
To help children stave off boredom during their coronavirus quarantines, people all over the world are placing stuffed animals in their windows so that kids can go on “bear hunts” in their neighborhoods, including Gillette.
The “hunts” are inspired by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” In the story, a group of brave children overcome numerous obstacles in a journey to “catch a big one” on a beautiful day.
Traci Barkey, owner of City Brew Coffee in Gillette, has put a teddy bear in her window at the store as well as her home in the Western Skies neighborhood.
“It gives us something else to talk about other than coronavirus,” she said. “I think we all need a little sunshine.”
Her entire neighborhood is organizing a Friday “bear hunt” so that neighborhood kids can go out for a bike ride or walk any time during the day to find bears in the windows.
Traci Daly organized the event in the neighborhood for Friday. She saw a post on “The Quarantined Mom” Facebook group and thought it would be a great way to get out and get exercise.
“And to keep a sense of community going,” she added.
Daly has been working at home with her two girls, ages 6 and 5, and understands the added stress of keeping kids entertained and educated while they’re in quarantine.
“I’m working from home trying to teach something other than trampolining, snacking and pulling your sister’s hair,” she laughed.
She latched onto the bear hunt idea to incorporate exercise, education and keeping people close even in these times of isolation.
She plans to keep track with her 5-year-old to count the number of bears they see and, of those, how many are brown and black.
Her kids are already looking forward to the bear hunt after going on a shamrock hunt last week. Her daughter’s birthday was on St. Patrick’s Day and since the family couldn’t have a party for her, they invited all the neighbors to put shamrocks in their windows. It was a hit throughout the neighborhood and even came with an added surprise of a real-life leprechaun during the “shamrock hunt.”
Taryn Nemec who started “The Quarantined Mom” Facebook group, shared the post on Monday.
Her 3- and 5-year-old children have already been seeking out bears in their Moonshadow neighborhood.
“They had lots of fun just picking out the animals to put out,” she said.
For their family and neighborhood, it will be an ongoing thing.
“I’m definitely hoping more people do it,” she said.
So is Stefanie Crawford, who is program coordinator for Gillette Main Street. When she saw the post earlier this week on social media, she shared it to her own page in hopes of spreading a little cheer in this difficult time.
“Right now is a time for something different and positive and to engage the community,” she said.
Crawford has put three bears in her windows at her home on Fairway but said several businesses downtown are also getting in on the fun.
The Ice Cream Cafe also has a bear in its window and Teacher’s Corner, Kid’s Mart’s bear is reading the famous book.
“I just hope it brings a smile in the end,” said Crawford.
That’s something everyone could use.