Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Made a Mistake, But At Least It Rhymed

Book:  I Made a Mistake  by Miriam Nerlove
Puppets:  Bear, Fish, Frog, Fox, Cheetah, [substitute freely]
Props:  "The End" sign
Presenters:  One
Audience:  Toddlers  (one and two year olds)

Here's one of those books that worked very well in print form, but now it's out of print and almost 30 years old, so puppets are one way to keep it going.  And it's among the simplest puppet tales around, so a great choice if you haven't used them much.  It's based on an old jump rope rhyme and sort of a relative of Old Mother Hubbard, with mistakes and rhymes:  "I went to the bathroom to brush my hair. / I made a mistake and brushed my bear."  That's basically it, with a series of about a dozen verses, with a sensible every day activity in the first line, and a a nonsensical mistake involving an animal in the second line.  So if you've got a handful of animal puppets, you're set.

My first time with this I'm pretty sure I assembled all of the props for the first half and used them.  So I took out a brush on the first line, then popped a Bear puppet out of the bag to complete the rhyme.  And that works fine for the first verse, and for a few others, but once you get to "heater" (for Cheetah) and "sit on the lawn" (for Swan), the whole thing just gets too prop-heavy and difficult.  So I drop all props for the first line
and just go with the animal puppets.  Much less confusing for all of us.

I just say the first line, then after "I made a mistake and brushed...." there's a little hesitation as you reach into the bag and bring out  "...a Bear!"  By the time you start the second verse, which in my version is "I went to the laundry to wash my socks. / I made a mistake and washed....a Fox!" the kids have picked up the pattern.  And they've also heard the rhyme, even if they're not conscious of it.  The story works because of the anticipation of "pop-out," so hesitating a bit, maybe seeing if they can guess based on the rhyme (toddlers usually can't, though), heightens the engagement of the kids.

Since I use this in Toddler Time, I don't go with a full dozen rhymes.  I pick about six, based on the puppets I have around and the rhymes that are the most fun.  And it's fine to add your own rhymes that aren't in the book...that's the way jump rope rhymes work anyway.  For example, I always like the chance to use my Armadillo puppet, so I added "I went to by bed to fluff up my pillow / I made a mistake..."   And for similar reasons I appreciate one rhyme that is from the book ("went to the heater.../...sat by a Cheetah") because I have a very cool, but under used, Cheetah puppet.

One more minor adaptation for presenting with puppets is the ending.  The final verse wraps it up nicely:  "I went next door to find my friend / I made a mistake and found...The End!"  So for that one I print "The End" on a letter sized page and pull that out of the bag, which is a nice minor twist to finish with.


  1. Oh, I'm going to try this one. Always looking for simple stories that can use a wide variety of puppets. Thanks Steven!

  2. This is perfect for my storytime tomorrow. I can easily remember this! Now, off to find what rhymes with the puppets I have handy.