DIY "the Mitten" Play Set

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I am a sucker for books with props. Adding that extra level of tactile interaction always elevates storytime. "The Mitten" by Jan Brett is an excellent example of a book that lends itself well to props. In case you aren't familiar with the story the Mitten, the concept is pretty simple. A boy drops a mitten, and a group of animals decide that it looks warm and move in. The animals range in size from hedgehog to bear so, unfortunately, their cozy cuddle pile doesn't last. At least no one gets eaten.

The process of making these does take a little time and a little creativity,  but they aren't too hard to reproduce. Not focusing on hyper realism helps. You might notice that my bunny's mouth is crooked, for example, but it adds to the homemade charm that fits this story well.

Disclaimer: I did not seal these with anything, so I only allow my monster to play with them while someone is watching, to hopefully prevent him from putting them in his mouth. 

Mitten (from Amazon)
8 Peg Dolls
Acrylic Paint

The design for these animals was both simple and difficult at the same time. The ears for the animals are lying back on the top of their head, and they were what tripped me up the most. I tried to simplify the creatures by picking iconic features to focus on. The stripes of the badger, or the nose of the mole, for example.

To paint my animals I used watered down acrylics. This allowed the wood grain to show through, giving the dolls a more natural look. I tried to keep everything toned down, using the more muted colors found in nature. I feel like this really helps tie in with Jan Brett's illustration style.
The process for each doll went a little like this: first layer of watered down acrylic was the base layer color. White for the rabbit, yellow for the owl, orange for the fox, light brown for the mouse and the hedgehog, and dark brown for the mole, bear, and badger.
Let that coat dry, then start the face details. I drew them on with pencil first then traced my drawing with a very fine brush. While I kept using watered down paint for the large sections of color, I switched to straight acrylic for any fine detail work.

I love the way these little guys turned out. Giving the kids a chance to stuff all of the animals into a mitten, even if they are not quite to scale, gives the children a extra level of silly. These peg dolls are the perfect size for this activity because they stretch the mitten just enough that you do actually wonder if they all will fit inside.

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