I was recently thinking about the notion of sharing, and what it takes for a child to share what they have with someone else. This can be very hard for even some adults, let alone young children. I imagine that when asked to share, some children think something like this:
Why should I share what I have and want with someone else? That makes no sense; then I wouldn’t have what I want anymore!
I realized that in order for a child to see another person’s point of view, cultivating a sense of compassion can be helpful. Ideally, when you ask a child to share, they might think something like:
I really want what I have, but this person doesn’t have anything and they are feeling sad. Them feeling sad makes me a little sad too, so I’m going to share with them to help them feel better!
I wrote the song, “Mr. Bear and Birdie,” because I wanted to teach children about the importance of helping others through sharing.
When I was growing up, sharing with my best friend was easy, but when I had to do it with someone I didn’t like or didn’t know, it became very difficult. When writing this song, I thought back to my childhood and realized that I wanted to create two characters that were very different from one another. Mr. Bear and Birdie look nothing alike; one is small and one is large, Birdie lives in a tree while Mr. Bear hibernates underground, and Birdie sings happy songs while Mr. Bear grunts scary noises. If we can learn to be compassionate toward everyone, even those who are very different from us, hopefully sharing with others will come more easily.
There are many ways you can use this song, and you might consider having a discussion after listening. Here are some ideas for questions:
“What happened to Birdie’s home?” (It was destroyed in a storm)
“Do you think it was hard for Birdie to ask for food from Mr. Bear, and why?” (Mr. Bear is big and scary; he doesn’t look anything like Birdie. Mr. Bear and Birdie aren’t friends at all)
“How did Mr. Bear help Birdie?” (Mr. Bear gave Birdie food)
“How did Birdie help Mr. Bear?” (Birdie helped Mr. Bear learn compassion, and helped him see that sometimes it is nice to share with someone who needs help – even if that person is not your friend and does not look the same as you do)
For younger children, you can play this song and then have each child take turns being both Mr. Bear and Birdie. You can also have them illustrate each character and then describe what they’ve drawn.
The above artwork is from a drawing (from one of the children in my pre-school class) after we did a class on sharing and compassion.