The book Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack has been read by children and their parents for many generations. It was written in 1932!
It’s about a little boy named Danny who is trying to find the perfect gift for his mother’s birthday. On his quest, he consults various animals for ideas. I love the eye-catching illustrations and the non-material values reinforced in this story.
Our week with this book was simple, but greatly enjoyed.
Gluing together an Ask Mr. Bear craft.
6 Ask Mr. Bear Activities
1) Animal Sorting
The tray: labeled dishes for each type of animal in the book and a bowl full of plastic animals to sort.
Sorting plastic animals. Rocket loves words! He is constantly asking what different words spell, so I decided to label these dishes with words instead of pictures. He caught on quickly after I read them to him once and remembering what I’d said, completed this tray without my help the second time.
2) Bear Feeding At The Zoo
We went to the zoo with friends to visit the bears!
We came just in time to see them feeding the bears.
We also saw them feed the tiger and the meerkats. What an awesome thing to see at the zoo!
3) Ask Mr. Bear Small World Play
The tray: all the characters from the book- the little boy, his mother, the farm animals, and the bear in the forest. This tray is designed to spark his imagination and has no specific goal. It is an “open play” tray.
He looked at the book next to the tray for a refresher on what the characters should do.
He then reenacted the story by playing with the figurines. His reenactment was quite different, however! In the book, Danny asks each farm animal if they can give him a gift for his mother. When they tell him what they have to offer, he responds by saying that his mother already has it. Then he moves on to the next farm animal. Rocket changed the story a little bit! As the animals told Danny what they had to offer, Danny (played by Rocket) decided he wanted it all. In this picture, you can see the cup of milk I got him when he accepted the cow’s offer (Rocket promptly drank it). Then when the goat offered milk, Rocket asked if he had kombucha instead! The empty shot glass next to the milk is supposed to represent the kombucha.
When Rocket said “yes” to the sheep’s offer of wool, I gave him some Play-Doh. We rolled it into a “dress” for the mother after the animals tracked their footprints in it first!
When the goose offered feathers, Danny accepted once again! He used the feathers to decorate the mother’s Play-Doh dress.
When the bear (voiced by me) suggested to Danny to give his mother a bear hug like in the book, Danny (voiced by Rocket) thought about it for a second and then asked if he had any fish instead. So I produced a fish magnet and he added it to the dress. It may not be the non-material “bear hug” gift from the book, but it’s certainly creative and from the heart nonetheless!
Rocket saw me taking a picture and decided he wanted to snap a few too. He took this one of his sister wrapped in the blanket we’d made her before she was born (#9 in this post).
A note on picture-taking:
Some children, like Rocket, absolutely love being in the spotlight. Rocket is not at all bothered by having his picture taken. He also loves to scroll through my phone and see what shots I captured of him playing, often laughing at his own silliness. His easy-going nature about being photographed is partially because of his natural personality type and also because I sneak them quickly while he is deeply engaged, careful not to be too distracting or turn it into a drawn-out session.
I wanted to mention this because I recently saw a little girl at the playground who was clearly uncomfortable, embarrassed, and flustered about her mother demanding that she stop and smile every time she tried to go down the slide. I could feel the child’s anxiety about it and just couldn’t understand how the mother didn’t realize she was sucking all the fun out of the playground experience for her daughter.
If your children seem uneasy about having their pictures taken, I urge you to just put the camera down. It is more important to show our children that we respect their wishes and empathize with their feelings than it is to capture any particular moment paparazzi-style. Some children may be self-conscious about being photographed for other reasons, but the first thing we as parents should consider is whether or not we are being intrusive with our photo-taking. As parents, we naturally want lots of memories to look back on and can get snap-happy with the camera, but it is of utmost importance that we remember not to LOSE the moment in trying to capture it.
4) Ask Mr. Bear Craft
I asked Rocket if he wanted to do gluing, pasting, or painting for his Ask Mr. Bear craft. He wanted to glue and paste! This was the final piece.
The invitation: a tray with construction paper cut-outs of trees for the forest, a tray with construction paper cut-outs of sketches I’d drawn of the characters from the book, a sheet of paper to glue them onto, glue, and paste.
A close-up of the characters.
He started pasting the tree leaves onto the trunks.
He switched to glue for the rest of the project after the first tree.
Songbird was nearby as he worked.
Before gluing the characters down, he wanted to play with them. We did this for a while before moving on!
Patting down the cow to make it stick.
Both of them were in the zone!
When he was done with the trees and characters, he wanted to keep gluing. I took out our leaf & star shaped confetti and he added them to the portrait until he decided it was complete.
5) Reading With A Focus
A couple of things we focused on during our reading sessions of Ask Mr. Bear:
- Audio book. When I checked it out from the library, I got the book that came with an audio cassette tape. Rocket listened to the book and turned the pages by himself as he followed along. Audio books are a great tool for teaching him to teach himself. It’s like having a “teacher” without being there!
- Gift giving. We talked about material gifts AND intangible gifts, and what they mean to the recipient.
- Manners. Danny was very well-mannered, telling the animals “Thank you,” every time he rejected their gifts.
6) Related Reading
- Baby’s First Library Farm – An old favorite from Rocket’s baby days. Since Ask Mr. Bear features all kinds of farm animals, this was a perfect go-along book.
- Where’s My Hug by Amy Hest – Another bear book.
- Katy No-Pocket by Cynthia Rylant – In this well-loved book, which we already “rowed” not too long ago, the main character also approaches several animal friends seeking help with a problem.
- Goldilocks by Dom DeLuise – One of our favorite bear-related books!
- Cuddly Animals by DK Publishing – A board book with several of the animals in Ask Mr. Bear. This book is not nearly as interesting to him now as it was when he was a baby.
- The Bearnstein Bears’ Big Bear, Small Bear by Gorel Kristina Naslund – Another book with bear characters.
- Bubble Bear by AlphaTales – A bear book focused on the letter B.
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