How to Turn Old Mittens Into Dolls Your Kids Will Love

Do your kids always seem to lose one mitten–just one?

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!).

How to turn a stray mitten into an adorable doll. Fun activities to create mitten dolls and teach your kids recycling, math, geography and writing.

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)?

pile of mittens

You can do lots of things with those old mittens!

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.

You Will Need

  • Stray mittens—as many as you can find (Live in a warm climate? Try it with socks.)
  • A world map or atlas
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Beans (to fill mittens)
  • A couple of cotton balls or small piece of pillow stuffing
  • Styrofoam balls (of a size that fit snugly into the cuff of your mittens)
  • Yarn (leftover pieces work great)
  • Googly eyes
  • Red marker
  • Scissors

Preparation Time

10 minutes (to gather materials)

Activity Time

  • 15 minutes for mitten hunt
  • 15 minutes for mitten map
  • 1 hour to make mitten doll

Location

At home

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.

cleaning out mudroom

Time to clean out the mudroom!

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.

looking for mittens

Award a prize to the kid who found a mitten in the most unusual place!

See who can find the most mittens, or make it a collective effort with a timed race.

checking under bed for mittens

When all else fails, check under the bed.

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.

sorting mittens

Sorting activities are at the base of more complex mathematical concepts.

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.

This can lead to a great discussion about how people adapt to their environment, which areas of the world experience the harshest winters and in which countries there is no market for mittens!

reading map of world

Where in the world do people need the warmest winter clothing?

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!

supplies

These simple craft supplies can be found at any craft store or dollar store.

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.

pile of 100 beans

How many beans? This pile has 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?

filling mitten with beans

The mitten looks small and flat, but it can hold a lot of 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.

adding fluff

A small piece of fluff will keep your beans in.

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!

glue gun

An adult should always handle the hot glue gun.

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.

cutting yarn

Cutting is good practice for fine motor skills.

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.

short haircut

This mitten doll is sporting a fun, short haircut.

If your child isn’t satisfied with the doll’s hair, wait for the glue to dry and give it a trim!

cutting doll hair

Time for the mitten doll’s haircut!

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.

gluing eyes

Googly eyes come in lots of different colors!

Use a marker to draw a mouth.

drawing mouth

Draw an expressive 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.

family of finished dolls

Make a whole family of mitten dolls!

Here are some examples of how our mitten dolls have turned out.

doll with ponytail

Her straggly hair looked better in a ponytail.

#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:

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.

doll named sven

We called this one Sven. We’re going to give Sven and the story my daughter wrote about him to Grandma for her birthday.

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.

When we teach our kids to reuse items and think outside of the box, we help them develop their creativity, ingenuity and spontaneity—and they just might learn something in the process.

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!

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About the Author, Amanda Shaw

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 »


  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Amanda! What a great idea for using the strays. I really like the way you tied in a little math, a little geography, a little reading…

  • http://socialmediaopenkitchen.wordpress.com/ Linda D’Alessandro

    Great ideas, I think they will work perfectly with the tons of single socks in my laundry basket. :-)

  • Amanda Shaw

    Thanks, Jennifer!

  • Amanda Shaw

    What a great idea, Linda! I want to try that, too. :)

  • Laura Clapp

    So creative!

  • Amanda Shaw

    Thanks, Laura!

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Really clever idea for mittens! I think of many single gloves, socks, mittens, etc. that can be repurposed!

  • Amanda Shaw

    Yea! It can be just as fun for us as for our kids, lol.

  • http://www.familylifeuniversity.org/ Eric Dingler

    When I read the title, I totally expected to see the “face” on the finger area. Never thought about turning the whole thing upside down. Our daughter will love this.

  • Amanda Shaw

    Feel free to post a picture of her creation! :)

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