How to Turn Old Mittens Into Dolls Your Kids Will Love
Do you have a few old pairs that won’t see another cold season?
Are you ready to just throw them all out?
Wait! The trash bin doesn’t have to be the final destination of errant mittens.
In this article I’ll show you how to turn those orphaned mittens into mitten dolls–an easy craft project that’s also a subtle lesson in recycling, math and geography (but we don’t need to mention that to the kids!).
Why Reuse Stray Mittens?
Left at school or a friend’s house, dropped in the snow, left in the car or on a park bench—such is the fate of many a mitten. I don’t know about you, but our family ends up with more than a few single mittens every year.
When you clean out the front closet or mudroom and get ready to shift mittens out and raincoats in, you may be tempted to just throw all those orphaned mittens in the trash.
But what if they could provide hours of fun for your kids (and a fun way to practice some important skills, too)?
Teaching children to reuse items is an important lesson that is too often neglected in our throw-it-away society. Plant the seeds early with simple activities like these. You’ll be surprised at how your kids will carry this idea into other areas of their lives.
Using one item—in this case, extra mittens—for several different activities is also an exercise in creativity. Teach your kids how to see the multiple possibilities and uses in one common object, and you’ll hear them say “I’m bored” less frequently.
This craft uses your lonely mittens and just a few supplies you can find at most dollar stores. Cheap and easy? Yes, please.
With a handful of mittens, I’ll show you not only how to make a mitten doll with your kids but we’ll also explore mathematical concepts, geography and fine motor skills—and your children don’t even have to know they’re learning!
Now I’ll bet you’re glad you didn’t throw away those spare mittens.
#1: Mitten Scavenger Hunt
First things first: Find those mittens!
Even if you’ve been keeping track of those wayward mittens, send your kids on a scavenger hunt for any you may have missed.
Dig through the mudroom or front closet together. Crawl under the beds (you may find materials for weeks of creative activities under there). Search in bags and backpacks, under car seats, in the garage—anywhere you might have left a mitten.
See who can find the most mittens, or make it a collective effort with a timed race.
If you’ve found six or more mittens, you can do a sorting activity. Ask your kids to group the mittens according to size or color, stripes or solids, etc.
Have your kids pick the mitten they like best and set it aside for the mitten doll activity.
#2: Map Your Mittens
With the remaining mittens and a world map or an atlas, you can do a fun geography activity.
Lay the map (or atlas) out on the floor. Have your kids take turns placing a mitten on top of each area of the world where they think people would need them.
Explain to your kids how climate changes the closer a country is to the equator and which countries experience longer summers or longer winters. You could also discuss the opposite seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres.
#3: Make a Mitten Doll
Before you begin, plug in your hot glue gun so it’s ready when you need it and gather up the rest of your craft supplies. The glue gun definitely requires adult supervision. Make sure your kids know not to touch it!
Take this opportunity to practice some basic math concepts with an estimating game.
Have your kids look at the mitten and estimate the number of beans they’ll need to fill it.
Then, count them out. An older child can count by twos or fives. When your mitten doll is finished, your child can quiz other family members and friends on how many beans they think are in the mitten.
For our mitten, we estimated 100 beans.
Fill your mitten with the beans. Make sure to stuff the thumb as well. Keep track of how many beans you’re putting in.
Talk to your kids about their estimate. Was it correct? Did they predict too many or too few beans?
Our estimate of 100 small beans filled the mitten about halfway, so we guessed we’d need another 100 and counted them out. In the end, it took 273 beans to fill our mitten.
Next, put a small piece of stuffing on top.
Now you need your hot glue gun (adult supervision required).
Put a spot of hot glue (about the size of a nickel) on a Styrofoam ball and push it down into the stuffing so that the elastic part of the mitten hugs the ball—like a turtleneck sweater!
Add a line of glue between the ball and the cuff of the mitten to keep the “head” securely in place. For mittens that have a longer cuff, you can roll the cuff down before gluing the head on top.
Have your child cut short lengths of yarn to make hair. Then, use the hot glue gun to stick them in place.
The hairstyle possibilities are endless, so experiment and have fun with it! You can give your doll long hair, short hair, bangs, a Mohawk or just a curl of hair at the top for a baby mitten doll.
If your child isn’t satisfied with the doll’s hair, wait for the glue to dry and give it a trim!
The next step is to glue on the eyes. Again, only adults should handle the glue gun, but your child can position the eyes and hold them in place for the few seconds it takes the glue to dry.
Use a marker to draw a mouth.
Our Styrofoam balls had small holes in one side. Rather than hiding them in the stuffing, we decided to turn them into O-shaped mouths by outlining them in red.
Here are some examples of how our mitten dolls have turned out.
#4: Story Time
Finish up craft time with a story. Your kids will love to have some snuggly reading time!
No matter what kind of craft you’re doing, there’s probably a related book. Here are some suggestions for our mitten theme:
- One Mitten by Kristine O’Connell George (ages 4-8)
- Missing Mittens by Stuart J. Murphy (ages 3+)
- The Red Mittens by Jaime Sommers
- A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde (ages 4-8)
- The Ice Harbor Mittens by Robin Hansen
- Andrew’s Magnificent Mountain of Mittens by Deanne Lee Bingham
- The Winter Mittens by Tim Arnold (ages 7+)
Have your child practice his or her reading skills by reading the book to you or siblings.
Then ask your kids to make up a story starring their mitten dolls.
If they’re too young to write, have them tell you the story and you can write it down. Create a book for your story to enjoy it again and again. Or give the book and doll together as a gift.
To wrap it all up…
It’s fun to take an everyday object and use it in a new way (or several ways). An empty paper towel tube can be a spyglass. A pool noodle can become a sword. Couch cushions can be transformed into a lion’s den or a blanket into a tent. Marshmallows and toothpicks make great building materials. An empty box can be decorated and set outside a bedroom door to serve as a mailbox.
What do you think? Have you ever made something out of an item that would otherwise be discarded? What other uses can you think of for single, lonely mittens? We’d love to see your mitten dolls and gain inspiration from your creativity. Post a picture of your creation in the comments below!
Amanda Shaw is mom to three spirited children and doubles as director of content marketing at WebrunnerMG. On any given day, she dons a tutu or a hard hat. Other posts by Amanda Shaw »