New family attraction offers interactive ways for kids to play

PUBLISHED: 09:30 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:30 28 October 2020

Tea for two in the Bear Cub Cafe. Photo: Bear Town

Tea for two in the Bear Cub Cafe. Photo: Bear Town

Archant

Exeter-based play centre has the latest in hi-tech learning gadgets

Hold on while I wrestle this snake into a cage. Photo: Bear TownHold on while I wrestle this snake into a cage. Photo: Bear Town

Step into Bear Town and you’ll see children everywhere, doing what they most enjoy…playing. But this isn’t any normal play attraction and no day is the same. When we visited we found twin boys hard at work in the hair salon, a very cute five-year-old girl concentrating on operating on a (stuffed) cat in the vet’s, only slightly hindered by her policeman’s uniform and robber’s mask and a team of children working together on the construction site.

Based between Exeter and Cullompton, Bear Town is the South West’s newest and most unique attraction. It’s a role play street which features 12 individual spaces where youngsters can fully immerse themselves in a world of imagination. There are no stereotypes here and no restrictions, the only rules are that the youngsters play safely and have an amazing time.

However, it’s not just about play – Bear Town has been created to enhance children’s learning and development.

The concept is the brainchild of Ben Jordan, the ex-Army officer responsible for the successful Mid Devon-based muddy assault course, the Bear Trail. He set his sights on creating a new year-round attraction, and didn’t let anything stand in his way. Ben explains: “I wanted to create something which offered parents a little more. I’d been mulling the idea over for a while and although there were a lot of challenges to overcome due to the pandemic, we had an amazing team who made my vision a reality.”

Bear Town owner Ben Jordan has fun of his own at the attraction. Photo: Bear TownBear Town owner Ben Jordan has fun of his own at the attraction. Photo: Bear Town

READ MORE: Family opens Exeter’s first vegan deli

The reality is a high-quality play attraction. Ben employed carpenter and set designer Adam Bishop to work with his team to build the attraction from scratch. His creative flourishes and attention to detail can be seen throughout Bear Town, alongside the incredible artwork of artist Debbie Mitchell.

Delivering the post in Bear Town. Photo: Bear TownDelivering the post in Bear Town. Photo: Bear Town

Detail is everywhere, for example there’s a hidden tunnel that youngsters can discover; the whole of Bear Town is fully inclusive and accessible, with even the signs reproduced in braille. Around 15 people worked on site during the build and the attraction has created 12 new jobs.

The team at Bear Town worked with a primary school specialist to create activities to fit in with the curriculum. There are 12 areas and each one has a scannable QR code which will show how that particular activity is helping a child’s development. Bear Town Playmakers support the children to get the most out of their experience and as a bonus there is a large café area where parents can relax and enjoy some great quality, locally-sourced refreshments.

Ben adds: “Watching children come in here for the first time has been amazing. They are totally absorbed in the activities – I think the only problem is going to be when they have to go home!’

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY

Scannable QR codes outside each unique area show parents how their children are learning. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework sets standards for the development and education of children.

Activities within Bear Town have been created to support these targets – from sorting the letters in the post office to balancing the bricks on the construction site, they all support key areas in a child’s person, social and emotional and physical development, as well as improving communication and language.

Join our Facebook group to keep up to date with the latest news, events and people in Devon

Latest from the Devon Life