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The Mitten State – Fun Facts about Michigan by PlayDrMom

exploring geography at mama smiles

Today we are learning some fun facts about Michigan with PlayDrMom, a mother of 2 who’s also a psychologist specializing in children and Play Therapy. She has been a practicing therapist since 1999 and obtained her doctorate in psychology (PsyD) in 2005 from The Center of Humanistic Studies (now called the Michigan School for Professional Psychology). She has additional training from the Association for Play Therapy. Currently she works part-time in private practice while also being a full-time mom!

She and her husband have two kids: a son, Henry, born in March of 2006 and a daughter, Honor, born in May of 2009. The blog includes games they play, the places they go, favorite toys, and the things they create together and for each other. It is also a place for her to advocate for children and the importance of play, as well as sharing ways parents and teachers can strengthen relationships with the children in their lives. I love PlayDrMom’s posts about promoting positive behavior, favorite books about feelings, and favorite children’s books about anxiety. You can also follow PlayDrMom on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.



Michigan is often called the “mitten state” … not because it’s so cold that we need to wear mittens all the time, but because if you look at the map of Michigan you can see the the Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. Because of this most people from Michigan will hold up their right hand and point with the left hand where they are from or where they are going! The Upper Peninsula looks less like a mitten, but with a little stretch of imagination you could see how it could be a mitten tipped sideways above the Lower Peninsula.


Image source

So, now you know about the shape of the state and that it is made up of two peninsulas (a peninsula is an area of land that is surrounded by water on 3 sides). Water … fresh water … is another thing Michigan is famous for. Michigan is also called “the Great Lake State” because it touches 4 out of 5 of the Great Lakes. To help remember the names of the Great Lakes remember the acronym “HOMES” … Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. (Lake Ontario is the only one that doesn’t touch Michigan.)


If you’ve never seen a Great Lake before you must put in on your to-do list. The Great Lakes are breathtaking … most who see them for the first time are convinced they have to be oceans because they are so large and you can’t see to the other side. But they are lakes … unsalted and shark free!


Michigan not only has the Great Lakes … but there are also 11,307 inland lakes. No matter where you are in Michigan you are always within 6 miles of a body of water.

The Mackinac (pronounced Mac-in-naw) Bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, spanning over five miles of the Straits of Mackinac (which is where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron come together). Residents of the Lower Peninsula are often called “trolls” by the residents of the Upper Peninsula because they live “under the bridge”. And the those that live in the Lower Peninsula call the people in the Upper Peninsula “Yoopers” because they live in the “U.P.”

The Ambassador Bridge crosses over the Detroit River and connects Detroit, Michigan, USA to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. There is also a tunnel that runs under the river. It was the world’s first car tunnel to connect 2 countries.

Here are some more facts about Michigan …

State Capital –Lansing
State Flower – apple blossom
State Tree – Eastern White Pine
State Reptile – the Painted Turtle
State Mammal – White-tailed deer
State Bird – Red-Breasted Robin
State Stone – Petoskey (a fossil that is only found in Michigan … it looks plain when dry, but when wet or polished one can see the unique grayish honeycomb pattern)

The Childrens Museum of Indianapolis - Petoskey stone

Image source


Michigan State University, East Lansing
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Wayne State University, Detroit
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo
Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant
Northern Michigan University, Marquette

Sport Teams

Hockey – Detroit Red Wings
Baseball – Detroit Tigers
Basketball – Detroit Pistons
Football – Detroit Lions

Famous people from Michigan … Henry Ford (auto maker), Jimmy Hoffa (labor leader), Gerald Ford (38th president of the USA), Bob Seger (singer), Jerry Bruckheimer (tv & movie producer), Francis Ford Coppola (film director and screenwriter), John Hughes (writer & director), Tim Allen (actor and comedian), Sandra Bernhard (comedian), James Lipton (host of the Bravo series “Inside the Actor’s Studio”), Casey Kasem (radio personality), Aretha Franklin (singer), Diana Ross (singer), Martha Reeves (singer), Smokey Robinson (singer), Stevie Wonder (musician), Alice Cooper (musician), Eminem (rapper), Kid Rock (musician), Madonna (singer), Ted Nugent (musician)

Products from our state …

Jiffy Muffin Mix, Chelsea
Kellogg Company, Battle Creek (“the cereal capital of the world”)
Cherries, Traverse City (“the cherry capital of the world”)
Vernors (a gingery flavored soda), Detroit (the first soda pop made in the USA)
Domino’s Pizza, Ann Arbor
Little Caesar’s Pizza, started in Garden City in 1959

and CARS! Most of Michigan’s economy is based on the auto industry. The three major car manufacturing companies (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) are based in Detroit … “the Motor City”! In Southeast lower Michigan (the most populated area of the state) most people either work for one of the “big 3” or work for a company that services the auto industry.

I had a lot of fun sharing information about my great state. (Can you tell I love it here?!?) I hope to come back a write more posts for this great series to tell you more details about places in Michigan. It truly is a magnificent state!

Thank you for this fantastic introduction to your home state! I find Petoskey stones absolutely fascinating, and I have added the Great Lakes to my “must-see” list, and I hope you will be back to write more about your wonderful state!

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

17 thoughts on “The Mitten State – Fun Facts about Michigan by PlayDrMom”

  1. ah yes the mitten state! do you know how much I hated coming to WI and they would try to tell me WI looked like a mitten?! only MI :)

    I grew up across the street from Lake Michigan and its gorgeous! and now I’m lucky enough to live on the other side of it. I can’t imagine not living by it!

  2. I never realized Michigan was shaped like a mitten! I always noticed the Great Lakes more and the weird shape caused by all the lakes. What a great and fun post!

  3. This is a great post! I learned so much I never knew about Michigan. That Petoskey stone looks amazing.

  4. I hadn’t heard of the “mitten state” but that totally makes sense! I remember learning about the five lakes in school. Unfortunately I have yet to visit them (and a whole bunch of other places) but that would definitely be something cool to take my kid to when he learns about them as well.

  5. I always learned the Great Lakes with “Sister Mary Hellen Eats Onions,” don’t know why but it stuck for these 20 years or so……..

    I love it, Mitten state!

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