Reading Christmas Books is a favourite family tradition, and I love using children’s books to develop unit studies. Here are some Montessori-inspired Toddler and Preschooler activities that we enjoyed during our Mitten Unit Study.
The Mitten is a beautiful Ukrainian folk story that our family first became familiar with through the Jan Brett version. The richly illustrated book tells the story of Nicki, a young boy who asks for white mittens from his Baba (grandmother), and promptly loses one, which is explored by several forest animals before it is returned to Nicki… albeit, a bit stretched out. The book features beautiful Ukrainian folk patterns, clever use of descriptive adjectives, and multiple visual details that make for repeated readings (such as the small mitten “windows” on either side of each page which provide a reminding glimpse into secondary and tertiary actions running alongside the main story). This is a wonderful book that will age well for any family.
I would also note that while The Mitten displays positive descriptions of the animals, their potentially dangerous attributes are mentioned which would be appreciated by a family who might live in an area populated with these animals — they aren’t made out to be cuddly and cute, they are clearly depicted as wild animals capable of hurting with talons, diggers, shiny teeth, etc. I think it’s important that children respect and understand the difference between wild animals and domesticated animals, especially if they have opportunity to come into contact with them! (And this is an important Montessori principle, as well.)
Our enjoyment of The Mitten inspired this week’s mini-unit, which is smaller than most of our previous toddler unit studies, but we still enjoyed ourselves!
The wonderful Folkmanis puppets that I mentioned yesterday were used to enhance our storytelling experience of The Mitten with the addition of a giant felt mitten! Yes, the mitten is blue, not white — I decided to borrow one that was the wrong colour rather than make one in the right colour! Initially, I hid the puppets in my lap and used them to act out the story for Ella; she really enjoyed the excitement of each new animal appearing and helped me put each one in the mitten. On our next reading, Ella had a lot of fun waiting for the story cues and finding the appropriate animal and placing it in the giant mitten. (A pillowcase or small bag would also work well for this activity.)
In addition to reading Jan Brett’s Mitten, we also learned and clapped along to a Mitten poem:
Mittens for snow time, when the world is white
Mittens for my two hands,
Mittens left and right
Mittens with a thumb place
Mittens warm and snug
Mittens make me feel like a bug inside a rug.
(I detest the horrible “Three Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens” story, but you could maybe come up with a version with more positive consequences!)
I encouraged Ella to practice lacing two felt mitten halves together to make a mitten that she could actually place her hand inside, but she was more interested in lacing her Melissa and Doug pizza lacing card (which I failed to hide). At least she did some lacing work! A fun aspect of the mitten lacing activity is that if you make it big enough for your child’s hand, they can actually wear and display their own handiwork!
I made some mittens to match our colour tablets and encouraged Ella to match them first to each other, and then to the corresponding tiles (I used leftover foam but this could also be done with patterned paper).
I then encouraged her to help me “hang mittens up to dry” in her cleaning corner with some cute gingerbread men mini-clips.
Kala (a reader and friend) did a fun activity where she numbered the mittens, which allows for them to be used for counting (with the addition of counters) or ordered — perhaps ordered on the clothesline?
I also showed Ella how to “fold” real mittens into each other.
For gross motor, we tried to do yoga and kinetic movements to imitate the animals in The Mitten story:
- the mole tunneled and burrowed
- the rabbit hopped and wiggled
- the hedgehod snuffled
- the owl swooped
- the badger’s diggers made it hard to walk on his hands
- the fox trotted
- the bear lumbered
Ella isn’t tracing yet, beyond her Magnatab, but a fun activity for a child who is ready for tracing would be to have them do a basic outline of their hand to make a mitten craft.
What favourite winter books would you like to see mini-units for?