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Bolsover Infant & Nursery School

Better Bears

One Settings pathway back to positive mental health 4 all…

Following the successful 2019/20 pilot from Alfreton Nursery Teaching School Alliance and Derbyshire County Council Early Years Teams, ‘The Teddy Bear Project’, we would like to share with you our ‘Raising Hope with the Better Bears’.

The origins:

The ‘Better Bear’ project was our settings response to the growing concerns of professionals, about our children and parents mental health through the COVID-19 crisis.

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis has gripped the whole world, and we, as a school, were most certainly seeing an impact on our community’s mental health as a result. All stakeholder groups, were finding the increased worry, anxiety and stresses brought about by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, over-whelming to manage and were reporting a whole range of responses from our children.

Throughout lockdown, like many schools and Early Years settings, we continued to respond to these growing concerns. The school community were creative, innovative and reactive in their responses, both with children who continued to attend, but also for those children who remained at home.

However, it soon became clear that there needed to be a planned approach to this issue, when settings began to design their pathways back to a new normal.

Bolsover Infant and Nursery School

We believed the recovery curriculum, in our setting, needed a focus on ‘Positive Mental Health 4 all’. ‘Raising Hope…’ became our settings pathway back to our new normal, which included our recovery curriculum and our pathway back to positive mental health. The Raising Hope with ‘Better Bears’ Project was and continues to be part of our schools response to the recovery curriculum.

The project aims to:

  • Help and support children, families and staff TRANSITION back into our setting after the global pandemic
  • Take an attachment led approach to building RELATIONSHIPS back in our EYFS/Ks1 focused school/community
  • Support children with the loss that has occurred through lockdown – the loss of relationships, friendships, freedom, community, opportunity and routine
  •  Leave resources in our setting that could be long lasting in supporting transition into school post COVID-19 and across all year groups.

Click to see the Better Bear case study...

link: https://youtu.be/g6me2gMRtE8

Better Bears in practice:

All children received their own ‘Better Bear’, which was designed by the child, to be individual and unique. They made the bear a safe place to live (inside a box) and took on the responsibility and challenge of helping their bear.

EVERY child received a bear, those who were learning in school and those who remained at home. Each child received a box of craft resources, a box, a bear, glue and daily updates of things to do, talk about, see, think and ponder. Through a range of approaches including; Social stories, therapeutic stories, Floorbooks and sound early years practice, children worked through a range of sessions designed to help them feel safe, deal with a sense of loss, anxiety, worry, stress and change. But mostly begin to understand a range of feelings and emotions and to help them navigate a new social experience.

The ‘Better Bear’ Project Resources:

The ‘Better Bear Project Guidance’ document includes support and guidance for staff in a setting, no matter the size. Any adult can use it, whether they are a professional working in a home environment or a parent working remotely. It also has discreet sections for parents and guardians. It offers signposting for all adults around their own mental health, as well as a planned approach for children. It includes the first three introductory sessions.

The ‘Better Bear Planning Document’ delivers both lesson planning guidance for setting staff, with help, top tips and session plans for adults at home. In this document, there is a range of ideas for activities with children. These sessions offer practical activities and opportunities to explore their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a safe and non-judgemental way.

The ‘Better Bear Story Book Planner’ is a document, which uses well-known children’s literature to support children’s social and emotional development, with session plans, helpful tips for parents and activities for children.

Most adults can deliver Sessions one to one or in small groups. Practitioners can replicate the concept in any setting in its entirety, with ready to use resources or can adapt the concept and use it innovatively across a whole range of settings.

 Better Bears 4 Parents

View document better_bears_/better_bears_4_parents.pdf

 Better Bear Transition Programme

Lesson Instructions for parents:

(Please click on the picture)


 Lesson 1      Lesson 2     Lesson 3      Lesson 4


Lessons for children 

(Please click on the picture)


Lesson 1   Lesson 2    Lesson 3   Lesson 4

Invisible String Story for Lesson 3


Better Bear documents for professionals: