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Bolsover Infant & Nursery School

Better Bears

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 - Better Bear Version 2 (Transition) Summer / Autumn 2020

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 Bears @ Christmas Autumn 2020

 Better Bear Version 3 (Lockdown 3 Spring 2021)

Our Better Bear Programme, series 3, was designed to help children and families through lockdown well being issues in Spring 2021. It was designed to develop a joint vocabulary and helps children with their emotional literacy. The aim was to help children better understand their emotions and what they can do about it. 

Session 1

 Session 2

Session 3


Sessions 10, 11 and 12 were planned to be delivered in the classroom by the child's actual teacher on the first week of school (March 8th 2021).

Book  Overview Activity



Squabbling – what this means

We know this might be happening more often at the moment between siblings and families.

Read the story

Can you think why the author called the book ‘The squirrels who squabbled?

How could they work better together?

What does sharing mean?

What does it mean to be ‘spontaneous’? Do you prefer to be spontaneous or do you like to plan ahead?

What is the moral of this story?



Look at the facial expressions of the characters in the illustrations. How are they feeling? Can you draw a number of self-portraits / Better Bears in your Family Floor-book that portray different emotions?

Anxiety about self


Its ok to be different, feel different etc

This book reinforces with children that its ok to be different.

Read the book

Identify how we are all different

Can you identify any ways in which you are different to everyone else?

Do you have similarities and differences with people in your family?

Can we celebrate your differences?

Can you make a family / class difference list in your family floor-book?

Grownups may need to record discussions on this page.

Can you make a list of how you are different from the characters in the book:

·         Have you lost a tooth?

·         Do you need help doing anything?

·         Do you have wheels?

·         Are you small, medium or large?

·         Do you wear glasses?

·         Do you eat macaroni and cheese in the bath?


Separating out your worries

Feeling mixed up

How to sort your worries…

Read the book

Talk about worry jars. What things might create that colour emotion?

The worry monster felt better ones he had sorted out his colours.

Maybe we would feel better if we could sort out our worries and deal with them.

Making colour potions, draw the things that make that emotion in a jar

Mixing paint to make Colour Monster pictures

Making mood pictures like in the book. Draw all the things that make that emotion and then colour washing them

Collecting collage materials in one colour and making a mood board


Better Bear documents for professionals: