Learning activities for ‘Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?’ by Martin Waddell

“Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear?” by Martin Waddell is a gentle tale for young children about a bear who is scared of the dark and can’t sleep. Big Bear who wants to relax and read his book, tries to find ways of helping Little Bear to sleep. What follows are examples of activities that relate to the Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage.

Communication and language

Before reading the book, ask the children to look at the cover and some of the illustrations in the book to see if they can guess what the story is going to be about. Once starting, the children can join in with key words they recognise or the repetitive language used in the book. The children can discuss with their talking partners what they thought of the book and share their ideas with the class. Thinking about the characters, the children can describe how Big Bear and Little Bear feel in the story.  


This fictional book is about bears, and a selection of books can be included in the reading corner to link the books together and to give them different reading or listening experiences. For example selections of non-fiction animal books, other bear stories and animal poems and other books by the same author will allow readers to have a rich reading knowledge. The repetitive language gives the chance for children to join in who may not be ready to read text.


In this book there are ample opportunities to develop mathematical skills. First of all there is reference to non-standard measures. The book introduces the reader to Big Bear and Little Bear and both of them have different objects such as a small lantern, a small bed to reflect their size. Through looking at the illustrations the children can discuss shape and colour. There are hexagonal shapes on Little Bear’s duvet, the cupboard handles are circular and through the pictures the children can talk about the shapes they can see. When Big Bear keeps trying to read his book, the number of pages he has to read decrease so the children can revise counting forwards and backwards.

Understanding the world

The bears live in a cave, but it is their home. This book will link to a topic on animals, houses or homes and family. Computers can be set up to allow children to listen to the story online or look at images of bears, the author or the illustrator. They can think about how their environment is similar and different to the characters in the book.

Expressive arts and design

The patterns from the story can be using different kinds of materials, such as paints, chalk, crayons. More able children may decide they want to draw characters or scenes from the book or make a house. Bear masks can be made and used to act out the story.  The role playing corner could be transformed into the bears’ home so that the story comes to life for them.

In conclusion, “Can’t you Sleep, Little Bear?” is a lovely story that can be enjoyed as a standalone book or used as part of a topic. Above are examples of how it can be used in a foundation stage classroom.