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The Teddies Making New Zealand’s Lockdown Bearable

“We’re going on a bear hunt! … We’re not scared!” In New Zealand, with the country just heading into a four week long nationwide lockdown, that lyric from Machael Rosen’s popular children’s book has taken on a whole new meaning.

Walk around any Kiwi street now and you’ll be bound to see at least one toy teddy bear peeping out of someone’s window. They’re there as part of a now global trend helping to keep Kiwi children entertained when leaving the house for “fresh air and exercise” during the lockdown.

“I just wanted to give children something to smile about,” Debby Hoffman, an organizer behind the Kiwi bear hunt told the NZ Herald. “Let this New Zealand movement take off and bring some joy and fun to kids (and everyone else) in such uncertain times … Pop a teddy in your window, facing the roadside for others to spot.”

Kiwi kids are in the midst of what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “the most significant restrictions on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history.” One of the world’s most stringent national quarantines is taking place in the country, with going outside only allowed for those getting some local exercise or shopping for essential goods.

The bear hunt has taken off across the world, with houses in countries from Indonesia to Finland joining in. But in New Zealand, the idea has gained particular traction, with even the Prime Minister confirming she had put two bears in the window of her house in Wellington. A site set up by Kiwi organizers, where people can “log” their bears on a map of New Zealand, has had thousands of entries.

A NZ Bear Hunt “Tracker”

Bear displays range from the casual to the meticulously curated – the Guardian reported that one Auckland student was setting up a whole teddy bear scene on her front porch every day. One such scene included an elaborate picnic.

“Mum and I put up a new scene every day but the fishing scene is because it’s one of my dad’s favourite hobbies,” Cohen told the Guardian. “Coming up with ideas is a good time-filler when I finish my uni work. Mum also enjoys conversing from the porch with our neighbours.”

In a press conference on 26th March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reminded Kiwis of the restrictions that came with the lockdown – staying within your “bubble” – but encouraged Kiwis to take part in the bear hunt. “They might look for teddy bears in windows but as they pass people, keep your distance, don’t talk to others, just stay within your bubble,” she said. “And if you’re in Wellington and you’re walking in a local neighbourhood, you might see one in my window.”

And people with long drive ways or without bears are not missing out – in Cambridge, in New Zealand’s North Island, wooden cut out bears can be seen clamped to one rural gate. One farmer posted a photo of giant teddy bears made out of straw bales.

#Bearhuntnz features in hundreds of tweets, though the ‘bear hunt’ is not the only way Kiwis are keeping themselves entertained online during the lockdown.

New Zealand’s Director-General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, a calm and collected face at the Government’s daily Covid-19 cases updates, has found himself with hundreds of online fans.

Calling themselves “Bloomers”, fans have leapt on an opportunity to make light of the coronavirus situation.

As of April 1, New Zealand had 647 cases of the virus, though only 6 had been placed in the “community transmission” category by the Ministry of Health. 74 people had recovered.

Meanwhile, for the four weeks minimum that New Zealand will be in national lockdown, Kiwi kids and parents will continue to find ways to lighten their spirits – with friendly neighborhood teddy bears and otherwise.  With most of the country enjoying warm weather, another line from Rosen’s book – “What a beautiful day!” – is also relevant.

Featured image: Matteo Di Maio

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Matteo Di Maio
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I'm a Kiwi High School student and freelance journalist. I've written for the Independent, the New European and openDemocracy. I also write a column in my local paper. If you have a story you want teens to hear about, don't hesitate to get in touch at or on Signal at +64 0204 164 5963. More of my work can be found here:

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