Did you know that the well-known story The Mitten by Jan Brett wasn’t Jan Brett’s idea?
No? Me neither! “The Mitten” is in fact an old Ukrainian Folktale, which features a wood cutter and a variety of animals. In Jan Brett’s version, the main character is a boy named Nicki and his lost mitten is visited by a different set of animals.
This simple and repetitive story lends itself beautifully creating your very own version of the story. Come along and I will show you how you can add your own touch to the story and bring it to life for your children.
Write Your Own Story
When I tell a story to the children in my classes, I always try to find a good balance between my words and visual elements. For this story, I knew I wanted to knit as part of telling the story. I decided to add a conversation between Nicki and his grandmother about what color yarn would be best for mittens.
“If I knit you white mittens you will loose them in the snow and never find them again. I will knit you some blue mittens,” replied his grandmother.
I decided to keep the animals the same, mainly because the printouts for those were easily available online. My version of the story is included in the activity pack.
To create your own version of the story, you can..
- change the main character…a boy, a girl, or even a brother and sister, two friends, etc.
- change the animals that visit the mitten…use your child’s favorite animals, or animals that live in your area
- change the mitten…if you live in warm climate, your main character could loose a sock or a hat.
- change the location where the mitten gets dropped, which could also affect the animals that come along….the edge of the forest, near the pond or by the farmer’s barn (does a cow fit into a mitten?), etc.
As you can see you can take this simple plot and come up with countless variations. Use the template in the activity pack as a guide. (download at the bottom of this post)
Tell Your Story
Yes, you could read Jan Brett’s story or my version of the story and your child will thoroughly enjoy it. No doubt about it.
But storytelling adds a whole new dimension to the story. It brings it to life. It makes it real. Something tangible. Children realize that the story isn’t bound to the book. They can take it out. They can play with it and make it their very own. And that is where the magic happens. For you and for them.
I know that the idea of storytelling can seem daunting if you have never done it before. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been there. And because I’ve been there I can also tell you that it is so much easier than we make it out to be. You see, our brain is amazing at making things up and blowing things out of proportion. Channel that imagination into your stories.
Using props is a simple way to make storytelling easier. Here is a picture of the setup I use for this story.
Props for Story Setup:
- white fabric or felt for snow
- wooden trees and houses – look around and see what toys and nature items could be used as props for the story
- animals – I used drawings that I colored for this story but generally prefer the Schleich animals or Ostheimer animals.
- mittens – I cut out two matching mittens from white felt and sewed one larger mitten from white fabric. An actual knitted mitten would be lovely. Here are patterns for the mitten and the animals that look lovely.
And here is my proven 3-step process for storytelling:
1. Read the story by yourself 2-4 times over the course of at least 2 days. This takes less than 5 minutes. Use Jan Brett’s version, my version or your own version.
2. Write down the list of animals and any other important parts that you don’t want to forget – keep this as short as possible.
3. Tell the story using your notes and props if you choose to use props – rehearse this by yourself if you like or tell it to your child right away.
IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT try to memorize the story word by word. It won’t sound natural. You will be too focused on getting it right versus being in the moment with your child. Remember, they don’t know the words that Jan Brett, myself or you wrote.
Mitten Craft & Handwork
After I told the children in my classes the story I invited them to make their own mitten. I had cut out large white mittens (download template from Jan Brett’s side here) and punched holes all around them. For the toddler group, my daughter laced the mittens together beforehand and then the children decorated them as well as the pictures of the animals. (Here is the set of animals I used for telling the story.)
If you have a toddler, go ahead and do the lacing part together with them. They will likely need your helping hand but every little bit of practice works those fine motor skills and gives them more confidence in themselves. Even seeing you finish the lacing if they run out of patience is beneficial.
The older children (3 to 5’s), decorated their mittens first and then sewed the two pieces together by themselves. The only reminder they needed was to pull the yarn all the way through the hole until it wouldn’t go any further. This kind of handwork not only fosters their fine motor skills but also improves their focus and concentration and in the end gives them a healthy dose of confidence when they see their finished work.
I also had some wooden Melissa & Doug Lacing animals for all the children to practice those fine motor skills.
More Mitten Activities
Matching Game – Do you have a basket full of mittens and gloves? Go ahead and dump them all out and see if your child can match them up.
Hanging Mittens – Tie string between two chairs or other pieces of furniture, add a basket of clothes pins and your child will be ready to hang those mittens to dry.
Laundry Day – Matching up mittens or socks after they have been washed is an easy way for children to help around the house. The feeling that they can contribute to family can be very powerful. When my children were little it was one of their favorite activities. Now, they are not always thrilled about doing it but they know how to do it well and have learned to fold and put away most of their laundry on their own.
Hide & Seek – “Now, where did all the mittens go?” Hide real mittens or ones you made from paper around the house and then ask your child to find them. For the next round, switch roles.
Ready to get started?
Have a questions? Another activity idea to share? Let me know in the comments below.
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