The Mitten

If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed it’s slightly chilly right now, unless you’re living in Southern California. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be colder in Atlanta than in Alaska.

We’ve been reading a lot of books, snuggled up on the couch, with occasional forays into the yard to get some fresh air and prevent total cabin fever. (Once again, I realize that wind chills in the single digits are not a novelty to some of you.) One of our recent favorites is a classic story that you can find in several good versions. The fact that it starts with the line, “[i]t was the coldest day of the winter,” is just a bonus.

lesson plan for the mittenMy favorite version of The Mitten is written by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Yaroslava. First published in 1964, it combines the tale’s Ukrainian roots with the limited color palette typical of the era to make for an amazing setting. Seriously, you read this book, and you feel like you’re in a cold Ukrainian forest in the early 20th century.

The story is simple enough. A little boy drops his mitten, and one forest creature after another wants to climb into it in order to stay warm. By the story’s end, the mitten is literally bursting at the seams, and the final animal to climb in – a cricket – causes a mitten explosion, and all the animals roll into the snow.

Because the story is repetitive and easy to follow, it’s the perfect choice for some simple retelling activities. Using the magic of Google, you can find no shortage of patterns for the animals in the story. I used the page linked here, and Bethany colored and cut the animals to the best of her four-year-old attention span.

lesson plan for the mitten

For the mitten, I traced an oven mitt onto an old grocery sack. Then, I punched holes around it so that the girls could ‘sew’ it together by lacing. I just attached some yarn I had available, putting a piece of clear tape on the ‘needle’ end to make the lacing easier.

Activity for The Mitten

Then, we reread the story and put the cut-out animals into the mitten as they entered the story. The girls thought this was pretty entertaining, and were a little miffed that the mitten didn’t quite seem as full as the one in the illustrations. Since we retold the story together, I’ve left it out for them to retell the story on their own, which they do in an abbreviated sort of way. Odds are, I will end up printing another copy of the animal figures, coloring them a bit more realistically, and then storing them with the book to reuse over the next few years.

[amazon text=The Mitten&asin=0688092381] often comes up in discussions about teaching basic economic concepts to children, because it illustrates so well the principle of scarcity. Even if you don’t want to start talking economics with the little ones in your house, you probably do want them to understand the idea that some resources are valuable and limited, and this book is a great springboard to do just that.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another version of this story that people love. Jan Brett’s illustrations for The Mitten are very charming, and using the two versions together is a great way to talk about the ways that folktales change over time, and with different tellers.

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