I had this whole winter-themed storytime all planned out for this week, but then I got embroiled in going through my library’s storytime kits. I love the idea of storytime kits: 4-6 books, some fingerplays, a flannelboard or two, and a craft suggestion. No planning, just tweak it and go! However, a lot of our kits need a little TLC due to outdated book offerings, missing flannelboard pieces, and so forth. Since I had already planned to use some version of the folktale The Mitten in my winter storytime, when I ran across a Mittens kit, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for an easy overhaul. The books in this kit are timeless, and it just needed some fingerplays, a flannelboard, and a craft to get it back up to snuff. I did, however, make one book substitution.
The Mitten by Jan Brett
You know this one. I know this one. A good portion of my storytimers knew this one, but instead of, “Ugh, we have that book at home,” the reaction was, “Hey, we have that book at home and we know it’s awesome!” One little boy asked, “Is this the Baba book?” in reference to the grandmother in the story. In case you’re one of the 15 people on earth who hasn’t read this classic, it’s Brett’s retelling of a Ukrainian folktale complete with her trademark lush illustrations. A little boy begs his grandma to knit him snow-white mittens, but he drops one. Along come a series of woodland creatures who squeeze into the mitten to get warm, even though they break several laws of physics in the process. Finally, a little mouse causes a big sneeze and all the animals fly out!
Interactivity factor: Medium. You can point out the mitten-shaped insets (which I called “mitten windows”) and ask the kids what animal they see there, as the next animal to appear will show up in the window before you turn to its page.
The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg
Annie has lost her mitten, and that’s the fifth one this year! She and her dog Oscar retrace their steps, imagining all sorts of humorous fates her mitten may have met. The crown jewel of the story is Annie’s daydream about growing a mitten tree. Finally, a rainstorm melts the outer layer of a snowman to reveal its red, beating heart…oh, wait, that’s Annie’s mitten!
Interactivity factor: Low, but the story had everyone cracking up.
A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Morgan Stoeke
No chicken is cuter, funnier, or more loveable than Minerva Louise. I LOVE that chicken. This book is the only one I used that did not come from the kit; I swiped it from the Hat kit because it’s really about mittens! In this adventure, ML tries to find warm clothes so she can stay out in the snow longer, but the silly gal doesn’t know that a water hose is not a scarf, gloves are not boots, and a boot isn’t a hat. Finally she finds the perfect “hat,” a mitten! Oh, but there’s a second “hat”! Guess what? Chicken butt!…is where the second mitten winds up, warming her fluffy fanny.
Interactivity factor: High. When she finds each of her clothing options, ask the kids what they really are, and then say, “You’re right. That’s a hose (or pot or boot or whatever)! Silly chicken!”
The Hat by Jan Brett
I have no clue how this story wound up in the mitten storytime kit. Gloves and mittens are never mentioned. I went with it because it’s hilarious and it did provide a nice “start and end with Jan Brett” arc to the storytime, but I plan to relocate it to another kit.
In this one, Hedgie gets a woolen stocking stuck on his head prickles and can’t get it off. When every animal on the farm laughs at him, he shuts them up one by one by telling them that it’s his hat, which is warm, dry, and beautiful. Finally the little girl in the story sees Hedgie with the stocking and snatches it back, much to his relief. However, she goes back to the clothesline to find that the other animals have each stolen a piece of her clothing so that they can all have “hats.”
Interactivity factor: Low. Again, you can draw attention to the “windows.” Since it’s such a funny story, though, the kids stay on board with it.
Honorable Mention: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Nobody stone me, but I don’t get what the big fuss is about this book. It bores me to tears. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up with it, but I just cannot connect to this story. Since it doesn’t really mention mittens and didn’t have the laugh factor of The Hat, I left it in the bag. Since it’s a good one for all-purpose winter themes, I’m not going to weed it from the kit, but it didn’t feel as engaging as the stories I chose, so I cut it and subbed Minerva Louise. I’m not sorry.
The Winter Pokey
You put your mitten in, you take your mitten out
You put your boots in, you take your boots out
You put your hat in, you put your hat out
You put your coat in, you put your coat out
Credit: Step by Step – Winter Theme
Boots and Parka, Scarf and Hat
Boots and parka, scarf and hat, scarf and hat
Boots and parka, scarf and hat, scarf and hat
In wintertime we dress like that!
Boots and parka, scarf and hat, scarf and hat!
Storytelling Activity: Our Own Mitten
I got this fantastic idea from Teach Preschool: Make a giant masking tape mitten on the floor and use it do your own version of The Mitten!
Why, yes, that IS a ginormous tape mitten! Thank you for asking! I “drew” it all by myself.
I explained to the kids that The Mitten is an old, old story, and that we human-type people often retell old stories, also known as fairy tales, folktales, and tall tales, depending on where they’re from. I told them we could do our own version of The Mitten, and I asked them to each think of an animal they’d like to be. The story went thusly:
“Once upon a time there was a librarian named Miss Jacki! One day, she went out for a walk. She had her mittens in her coat pocket, and while she walked, one of them fell out. She didn’t notice. She just kept walking, and the mitten was left behind. Pretty soon, along came a…” At this point, I asked the first child what animal she wanted to be and improvised a little, like, “along came a hippity hoppity rabbit, and she wriggled into the snuggly warm mitten!” I went around and asked every child what animal he or she wanted to be and improvised a sentence or two to get them into the mitten. Here’s how the story ended: “It was getting dark, and the librarian named Miss Jacki noticed her hands were getting cold. She reached for her mittens, but one was gone! She ran back the way she came, looking for the missing mitten. ‘Oh!’ she said. ‘There’s my mitten! But…why is it so big now? And why is it so lumpy now? And…why do I hear a (name of outlandish animal) inside it?’ And she shook the mitten as hard as she could and all the animals came flying out! ‘Oh, dear!’ she said. ‘All those animals were in my mitten. They must have been cold. Well, they can’t go inside a house and warm up, and they can’t buy their own mittens. Here, animals! You can keep this mitten so you’ll stay warm, and I’ll get new mittens.’ And all of the animals climbed back into the mitten, where they were snuggly and warm, all winter long!”
I ended the story that way for two reasons: A) I’m a bleeding heart and B) I had to take up almost my entire floor space with the mitten, so the kids had to sit inside it prior to this activity and needed to stay inside it after the activity so they could see the next book.
Craft: Paper mittens!
We have a big mitten die for our Accucut, so I cut out a bunch of white mittens. Then I printed off the Jan Brett reproducible mitten animal page from her website, cut out the animals, and let the kids color them and glue them to the mitten. Simple, fast, and fun. The page also includes mitten parts if you don’t have access to a die cut.
How It Went: Beautifully! Insane amounts of fun were had, particularly during the masking tape mitten adventure. Some kids chose to be animals from the book, like the badger or bear, but we also had a horse, a monkey, an elephant, a crocodile, a frog, and TWO giraffes AT THE SAME TIME. The kids loved this activity, and the parents all clapped for them like it was a real play. When the big day care class came in, though, I couldn’t do this game. There are just way too many of them to fit into the tape mitten, plus they wouldn’t fit outside the mitten prior to the game. So, I made some felt mittens and we played a rhyming game. They caught on easily, and some of the older kids started throwing out rhymes to the words on the first page of The Missing Mitten Mystery, so I went with it and randomly asked them to rhyme a word on each page.
Everyone remained engaged with the stories, proving you can’t beat the classics.
I asked the kids to suggest extra winter clothing items once we passed mittens and boots in the Winter Pokey, and since we’re in Idaho, they knew all about winter gear. I did get one suggestion for goggles, though, and let me tell you, it’s not necessarily fun shaking your goggles all about. Woo, dizzy! Also, someone said chapstick, and that action was pretty hilarious. On Boots and Parka, we started out slowly and got faster and faster and faster AND I kept asking them to add more items, so by the end we were blurting, “Boots and park, scarf and hat and earmuffs and gloves and snowpants and goggles!” as fast as we could while racing to point to the right body parts at the right time.
I now have a copy of Hat for ML on its way to go into the kit, I have copies of the Jan Brett printables that can be Xeroxed in the kit, I have these action songs and some traditional fingerplays in the kit, and I have a set of colorful flannel mittens in the kit, although I’ll have to make another set in case anyone wants to do the second flannelboard, which is a color-matching game. For the most part, though, this kit is good to go once more. By forcing myself to use it, I was able to get a really good idea of what the kit needed.
I’ll try to get a post about the flannelboard up tomorrow for Flannel Friday.
Great Quotes from This Week:
Me: What animal would you like to be?
Lil Gal: I’m already an animal.
Me: Okay. Do you just want to be a you-animal, then?
Lil Gal: No, I’m a monkey!
Yes, she is, folks. Yes, she is.
Lil Guy (looking at chapter books he can’t actually read): I’m just checking these books.
Me: Oh. What are you checking them for?
Lil Guy: For when they’re awesome.
Another Lil Guy, during our discussion of where mittens come from: Miss Jacki? My mommy knitted me very cozy mittens that are yellow and green.
Yes, a three year old boy used the word “cozy.” Such is the power of The Mitten.
And finally, the refrains of the being-taught-proper-manners daycare kids at craft time: “Please pass the owls! Please pass the bears! Please pass the badgers!”