5 Play-Based Jan Brett Activities for Preschool: A Winter Mini Unit

jan brett activities for preschool

Jan Brett’s books are one of the best parts of the winter!  That’s why I created this mini preschool unit using Jan Brett activities.

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If you’re not familiar, Jan Brett is an incredible children’s author and illustrator.  Her illustrations are beautiful with a ton of detail.

She is known for putting a side story into her books in the sidebar illustrations.  It doesn’t track with the words like the main words do, and it greatly enhances the story!

Jan Brett has written many books that are set in the winter.  I selected a few of these books to focus on for this mini unit.

The four books in this unit include The Hat, The Mitten, The Three Snow Bears, and Trouble with Trolls.

They can be found on Amazon by clicking on the links.  Most libraries will carry all or most of these books, as well!

In this unit, I review the story and explain the preschool activity that goes with the story.

Each activity just uses things that you already have at home!

Ready to get started?

Jan Brett Mini Unit Time Table

There are four picture books and four correlating activities.  

You can easily accomplish this in four days, by reading a book, and then doing its activity.

If you’d like to stretch it out, you can read a book on day 1, then provide the activity the following day, with the book nearby for reference or a reread!

Jan Brett Mini Unit Objective

The children will be exposed to the author and illustrator, Jan Brett, and some of her high quality children’s literature.

Jan Brett Mini Unit Song


Oral recitation, beginning reading skills


In this mini unit full of Jan Bretty activities for preschool, I’ve included a sweet song!

Each day, we began with this adorable song, “Little Mitten,” in reference to the book, The Mitten.  It goes to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.” 

Point to the words as you sing the song, so your child can begin to pick up on the idea of one-to-one correspondence with the words we say and the words we read.

I’m a little mitten

Buried in the snow

If you find me hidden, 

You will need to know.

Inside me is an owl 

Or maybe a hare

You might find a hedgehog, 

A mole or a bear.

You may see a badger, a fox, 

or a mouse.

But whatever you do, 

Don’t take me in your house!


The Three Snow Bears


This story is a snowy version of “Goldilocks and Three Bears,” where a little girl named Aloo-ki wanders into the igloo of the three snow bears.

It is not mentioned where exactly this story takes place, but it appears to be Alaska or northern Canada, where snow and ice are everywhere.

As is often customary in Jan Brett’s books, there’s another story going on within the story.  

But you have to pay attention to the illustrations, because the words don’t mention it at all!

In this side story, Aloo-ki loses her three sled dogs in the very beginning while she is ice fishing.  

The sled dogs float off on a chunk of ice, only to be saved by three bears later in the story!

Meanwhile, Aloo-ki wanders into the bears’ igloo while they are out.

She tries out their soup, boots, and of course, their beds!

This familiar tale has a beautifully wintery twist!

jan brett activities for preschool


The Three Snow Bears Sensory Bin


Develop imaginative play, explore content ideas, hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning


Bin, cotton balls, bowl, figures of a girl, bears, and dogs 


Set any necessary boundaries or rules.  Allow your child to play and explore with the pieces you added to the sensory bin. 

Set the book nearby.


Help your child retell the story using the pieces in the bin.

The Mitten


This Ukrainian folktale is about a boy who loses his mitten in the snow. 

Throughout the story, many animals squeeze into the mitten to find warmth.  

The mitten stretches out large enough to fit a rabbit, a hedgehog, owl, badger, and more! 

In the sidebar story, you can see the boy playing in the snow and searching for his mitten.

You also see the next animal that is going to go into the mitten.

This is really helpful in allowing your child to predict what will happen next!

Your child will love to see what happens when a tiny mouse tries to get into the mitten with all the other much larger animals!

jan brett activities for preschool


Does it fit in the mitten?


Develop spatial awareness, sorting, hand-eye coordination


A mitten, 2 baskets (one label “yes,” and the other labeled “no”), animals figures, preferably from the story, or just some household items. Some that would fit in the mitten, and some that won’t.

jan brett activities for preschool


Round up the supplies.

Set up the baskets, mitten, and objects nearby.

Have your child, one by one, try and fit each animal or object into the mitten.

If it fits, put that object in the “yes” basket.  If not, it goes into the “no” basket.

Repeat with each item.

Here’s some questions to ask during or after the activity:

How many items are in the “yes” basket?  How many are in the “no” basket?

Do you think a real bear could really fit into the mitten? Why or why not?

Do you think this story could really happen?  Why or why not?


You could set out a mitten and the baskets with different items for your child to try and fit and sort for another day of exploration! 

 Since your child already knows what to do, he could do this pretty independently.

The Hat


Hedgie the Hedgehog shows up in many of Jan Brett’s books.

In this story, Hedgie accidentally gets a red woolen stocking stuck on his head.

He’s embarrassed by this, but plays it off like it’s his hat when each of his animal friends ask him about it.

Like in The Mitten, the children can predict which animal will come into the scene by using the sidebar pictures.

In the end, all of the animals use other pieces of clothing that have fallen off the clothesline to be their own hat, to be like Hedgie!


Pinecone Hedgie


Sensory experience, fine motor skills


Pinecones, playdoh or clay, googly eyes


This adorable pinecone Hedgie idea comes from EasyPeasyFun!

Hunt outside for some pinecones, or gather them ahead of time!  

Help your child to make Hedgie, using the supplies!


After initially making Hedgie, you can allow your child to play with the play-doh and the pinecones together!

If pinecones are hard to find, you can paint your on Hedgie on a rock!

Trouble with Trolls


A girl, Treva, and her dog, Tuffi, climb a snowy mountain, as she’s trying to go to her cousin’s house.

On the way, she keeps encountering troublesome trolls.

The trolls keep wanting to take her dog, but she outsmarts them by tricking them into taking her hat, mittens, and other things instead.

This strong girl continually outsmarts the trolls throughout the story.

In the sidebar, we see Hedgie, in the den of the trolls.  We see him getting warmed by the fire, playing, splashing in water, and resting.

jan brett activities for preschool


Winter Wear Obstacle Course


Dressing skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills


Any outerwear pieces such as a coat, hat, mitten, boots, any other items you have on hand that you could use for an indoor obstacle course such as a tunnel or mats


In Trouble with Trolls, Treva takes off and puts on her winter wear throughout the story.  

Like Treva, your child can practice these essential skills through this fun indoor obstacle course!

Depending on your supplies and outerwear, obstacle courses may vary.

I would suggest laying out a piece of the outer wear, followed by an obstacle, and then another outerwear piece, and another obstacle, and so on.

To mimic Trouble with Trolls, I will be using mittens, hat, coat, and boots for this example.


  1. Lay out mittens.
  2. Follow up with a mat.  Child has to jump five times on the mat.
  3. Lay out a hat.
  4. Set down a box that the child has to step over.
  5. Lay out a coat.  (Depending on your child’s current abilities, they can just put it on, or you can encourage them to zipper it, too!)
  6. Put out a tunnel to crawl through.
  7. Set out boots.
  8. Follow up with some space where they can stomp over to a rug.
  9. Once at the rug, they have to take all the outerwear off again, and done!


If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you don’t need winter gear, try out regular clothes like a sweatshirt, socks, or anything else!

To make the obstacle course a little simpler, you can end it at step 7, once all of the clothing pieces are on.  Then maybe go outside since they’re dressed?!

If you would like to mimic the story even more, grab a stuffed dog, or any other stuffed animal, and have your child carry it along with them through the obstacle course!



Using these Jan Brett activities for preschool is a great way to have your child engage with high quality children’s literature!  If you love it, please share these Jan Brett activities for preschool with a friend!


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