Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

We finally made it to The Cooper Gallery to see Bears! and it was so cute. I’m going to try and go back before the exhibition finishes (September 1st). The FREE exhibition is from Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books and “embarks on a bear-illiant teddy bear adventure with an exhibition inspired by the clawsome world of Bears! in children’s literature”. We thought it was totally fantastic, very engaging, cute and Eric loved it. Very interactive for little ones and well done to The Cooper Gallery for providing a great exhibition for under 5’s in the school holidays. It was a fantastic free day out I really recommend and a free double whammy day out if you combine with Experience Barnsley just across the road! Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

Bears! the exhibition was much bigger than I expected and was presented as a trail around The Cooper Gallery as opposed to just one room (which I expected!). We were really pleasantly surprised how the trail took us around the gallery into different rooms with more to see and do. We followed little bear footprints on the floor and in each room was something to see, read, learn about and touch. Great for toddlers who can lose interest quickly 😉 it was great fun to say ooooh I wonder what we will find next, and I wonder where the feet will take us? Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Bear footprints for the trail

In the first room I loved looking at the art works and learning about different species of bears. This was too old for Eric but just a bonus for us; there was enough suitable for toddlers and he was busy cuddling bears, getting into a bed and reading stories.

In the first gallery there was a small colouring table, too, and lots of dress up. It was all so presented to lovely, very cute and a “touchy-feely” board with different types of bear coats. Plus lots of little quotes/facts to read on the walls and bears to spot climbing ladders.

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

Eric absolutely loved the bed, he climbed right in and asked for stories; tucking the teddy bears in. So sweet 🙂

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Dress up, bed and story zone | Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
bears! at the cooper gallery, Barnsley
Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

All the stories and dress up were high quality and attention to detail made it all very special and high quality. I loved that about the exhibition because it makes all the difference, in my opinion, when things appear to be so “new” and “good”, it really does change the experience you have and make it more enjoyable. Everything was tidy and invited Eric to play.

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Touch different types of bears and learn about their fur | Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

We could easily have spent a while just reading stories and looking in here but having arrived late in the day we had to get moving to see the rest. If you go, I recommend going early in the day and then you don’t have to rush. Stories can’t be rushed!

bears! at the cooper gallery, Barnsley
Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

To find other parts of the exhibition it’s up and down stairs, turning corners etc but there are little bear illustrations on the walls to find, sensory boxes, puzzles, art works and dress up everywhere. There isn’t a moment where there is nothing to do or see. Eric liked playing with these puzzles in the downstairs gallery where they had a “bear under the stairs”.

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Sensory / discover baskets | Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

 

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Dress up | Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

The little wooden baskets were in each gallery, inviting little ones to dress up, play or find things to do. I saw object handling and explorer kit backpacks. All of this was free!!!

We didn’t have time to get one of these, but thinking about it should definitely have! I think £1 is a good price for a little “goody activity pack” and could have been something to look forward to on the train journey home. Next time!

bears! at the cooper gallery, Barnsley
Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

Upstairs the exhibition continued with portraits around the room featuring all different types of people, young and old, with their favourite teddy bears. Really interesting to read whilst Eric was busy playing with the teddy bears, who were all set up in circles as we entered the room. Stories were provided to read and even more dress up. It was a really comfortable area and Eric is fond to look back at these pictures.

Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley
Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

At The Cooper Gallery is a cafe, a patio area and a garden. Having brought our own food, we took it to Experience Barnsley museum just across the road to enjoy near the fountains. The cafe at the Cooper Gallery looked really inviting, though, and I’d consider eating there another time. Bears! at The Cooper Gallery, Barnsley

What makes this day out even better is the option to do more, with another free museum that’s great for toddlers just across the way: Experience Barnsley Museum. I’ve mentioned this lots before, but forgot how good it is, really. Eric mostly just played in the dressing up and fun fair ride areas, there is a shop, digging zone and stories.

Experience Barnsley Museum
Experience Barnsley Museum

The 2 cars and carousel horse used to be funfair rides in Barnsley, but are now permanently at this museum to play with. The small green car is Eric’s favourite as the wheel moves and so does the steering wheel! The play shop was a hit, too. He could have played here for ages, but sadly we had to leave as they were closing at 4pm.

Experience Barnsley Museum

Experience Barnsley Museum
Crafting and lego area | Experience Barnsley Museum

Experience Barnsley is in the town hall, with a cafe (currently being renovated so it is closed, though) and library. Outside are these fountains, very fun for a hot day.

Read this for 6 Reasons Why You’ll Love Experience Barnsley Museum

experience Barnsley museum

There’s a variety of free workshops and activities at Bears! until September 1st, I had a look at this events guide in flash so maybe take a look and see if anything is going on when you go. There’s enough to do without any of those extra things, though!

The only negative was that I wish this was a permanent exhibition! And it’s inspired me for another trip… to Newcastle, for Seven Stories!

Have you been? What did you think? Did your little one enjoy it?

I recommend these museums & bookish days out for you:

All About Weston Park Museum, Sheffield For Kids
All About Weston Park Museum, Sheffield For Kids
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