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by Dan Cohen


Runaway Bunny
by Margaret Wise Brown

   This is a great book, a classic, and a great one to start with if you’re new to getting goofy and acting out books with your kids. It’s episodic, meaning that it comes at you in small, bite-sized chunks. When baby bunny does this, mommy bunny does that; then baby bunny does this, then mommy bunny does that . . .so you don’t have to read the whole book. And there’s no role-playing — you don’t have to act like a plane or train or chimpanzee to make this work. And switching roles — where your child plays mommy or daddy and you play the baby bunny — is always popular with kids. Though perhaps that should wait until you’ve done it a time or two! Here goes:

   Runaway Bunny is a story of a baby bunny and his struggle for independence from the mommy bunny. I’ve encountered parents who have reservations about this book, thinking the mommy bunny is too controlling, too powerful. I don’t read it that way at all. I think it’s comforting for kids, especially ages 4 and under, to know that their mommy or daddy wants to follow them wherever they go.

Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.
So he said to his mother, “I am running away.”
If you run away,” said his mother, “I will run after you.
For you are my little bunny.”

   First, come up with a bunny hop dance that you can both do together. It should be simple, something you can do over and over, and have some accompanying song. I’ve written my own tune for it when I do the book in my classes, but feel free to make up yours, or to hop along to a favorite tune.

   Next, the bunny says he’ll become a fish in a stream, and the parent counters that he’ll be a fisherman “and fish for you”.

   This one’s easy. Have your kid get on the floor (preferably carpeted) and swim around like a fish. It’s helpful to have something to keep them from fishing out the door. I play ‘fishy’ music, and when I stop, they must freeze in a ‘fishy’ pose— using hands for fins, making big fishy eyes, or freezing their legs like a fishtail. The ‘music’ you use can be a simple rhyme you make up, like ‘Swish swish swish/I am a fish” repeated over and over, and when you stop, they assume the pose.

   After a few rounds of these, it’s time to get your fishing tackle out. No, not real tackle! You’re going to fish in the imaginary pool, so you put on imaginary tackle and ‘fish’ for your child. Put on big imaginary boots (just like in the picture), and a basket, and a fishing pole. Cast your net way out into the water and reel it in. If your kid(s) start coming to you the first time you reel in, explain to them that no one catches fish on their very first cast; it’ll take at least three casts to reel them in. They’ll get a big kick out of avoiding your imaginary hook. Then on the third cast, where you hook your fish, begin reeling it in slowly. See if they can mimic your motions with the rod and reel in the water — if you pull way back, they come way forward; when you let the line out, they swim around more freely. Eventually, you reel the fish in, and when you finally touch, you both turn back into bunnies and hop, hop, hop in a joyous bunny dance.

   Continue along these lines with the subsequent episodes where role play includes:

Bunny: rock on high mountain                             Parent:   mountain climber

crocus                                                       Parent: gardener

bird                                                           Parent: ‘tree that you come home to’

   Use your own rhymes or music to give shape to each episode, pay attention to the pictures for dramatic and costume ideas, and most importantly. . . have fun!

  Dan Cohen, aka kids' performer Danna Banana

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