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MILFORD, Maine — Mainers hunkering down at home have adopted a new pandemic pastime to stay entertained — teddy bear hunting.
“Teddy Bear Hunts” have become a favorite for restless kids and people in the mood for a game of iSpy, right in their own neighborhoods.
The pastime has picked up a global following, too, and has dozens of Facebook groups dedicated to the activity, where people from all over the world are encouraged to share photos of the stuffed teddy bears they spot placed in their neighbors’ windows or on front porches.
“While we are in our ‘new normal’, our kids are feeling the restlessness and boredom of being quarantined. Let’s all put a bear up, in the window, doorway, a chair outside! Anywhere that a child can see a bear(s) on the ‘hunt’!!! So, while out and about in the car or on a walk…WATCH OUT FOR BEARS!!!” a biography from one bear hunt page said.
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The game is believed to be inspired by the 1989 children’s book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen.
People all around the nation have jumped into the game — some using it to showcase their sense of humor by dressing bears up with face masks and setting bottles of hand sanitizer next to them.
But Milford resident Caitlin Richards Libby might be the one to thank for bringing the game to town.
About a month ago, Libby posted in a Milford neighborhood Facebook group asking if anybody would participate in a town-wide bear hunt — an idea she had borrowed from an out-of-state friend who was doing it.
People immediately joined in, vowing to place a teddy bear or another stuffed animal in their windows for kids to spot.
When Libby took her 4-year-old son and their 3-year-old neighbor on a hunt last month, the kids loved it — and so did she.
“It was nice to get out of the house and do something fun. Some people that didn’t have any stuffed bears put out other stuffed animals … a cat, a squirrel — and the coolest was a giant sloth,” she said.
“The kids are still looking for bears every time we’re in the car.”
One woman, sitting by her window beside a stuffed bear, waved to her and the kids when they came by.
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“I think it was fun for those who participated in that way, too,” Libby said.
The socially distant activity has so far proven to be a good distraction for families with kids all around the state.
“For about an hour we didn’t think about anything else that was happening in the world,” Monmouth resident Allison Angell told WMTW after taking her kids on a hunt.
“It was just about the bears. The kids sat in the back seat. My daughter kept a tally. We kept looking, and it was only that, and I had completely forgotten what was going on until we pulled back into the yard.”
Watch: Common myths about COVID-19