By Cathy Chesher /
Anyone who has ever been to at least a few of my storytimes knows that I like to incorporate flannelboard, or feltboard, activities in almost every storytime. I might tell The Three Little Pigs, sing B-I-N-G-O, recite nursery rhymes like Jack and Jill or invite active participation by having children put felt pieces on the board. Whatever it might be, children love the flannelboard and it is not unusual for children to play with the pieces after storytime.
I might have a particularly squirmy bunch of preschoolers while I’m reading a book or doing fingerplays or rhymes, but as soon as I start putting felt pieces on the board, calm settles in and I have their rapt attention
Many parents have been inspired by their children’s fascination with my flannelboard to make one at home. Parents report that their children love playing with it. Flannelboards are wonderful and inexpensive tools for developing creativity, language skills and manual dexterity. You might like to try making one for the child or children in your life. A flannelboard kit makes a wonderful, unique and relatively inexpensive gift too.
Below you will find resources for creating or purchasing a flannelboard set. At its very basic, a flannelboard set includes a sturdy, cloth-covered board and felt pieces. I cover my self-made boards with neutral color flannel or felt. The material needs to be one that felt will “stick” to. Stores like Hobby Lobby and JoAnn Fabrics sell squares of felt in many colors that can be easily cut into any kind of shape. Below is an example of a commercially produced flannelboard with simple felt shapes:
This particular board is available on Amazon.
Purchasing a flannelboard is of course the easiest way to start. A teachers’ store, if you can find one, will most likely have them. And it should be no surprise to online shoppers that Amazon.com sells them as well. Other sources that specialize in educational products include Discount School Supply, Kaplan Toys, and Constructive Playthings. (Hint for searching these sites: companies use different terminology, so try searching for flannelboards, flannel boards, felt boards, and feltboards)
There is no reason why you couldn’t make the board yourself, though. It is a lot cheaper. There are many online and print sources with directions for making them. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I will just include some helpful links to get you started.
Teach Preschool has simple instructions for making flannelboards using painters’ canvases which come in a variety of sizes. I might try this technique myself next time.
The Loons & Quines @ Librarytime blog shows how to make a small, round flannelboard.
Whiteboards are also good bases for flannelboards and Oopsey Daisy shows you how to use one.
Here is a YouTube video demonstrating exactly how to make a two-sided board with foam core. This is the technique I have used. The presenter isn’t particularly engaging but her video is informative. The directions on her blog Textiles4You might be all you need, though.
When I started out as a children’s librarian (back in the olden days before the Internet!) I learned how to make a flannelboard from Judy Sierra’s book, The Flannel Board Storytelling Book. She also has lots of great, simple patterns, stories and rhymes (some of you may recognize some of the patterns in this book)
Once your board is made, you need the felt pieces. Again, an easy way to start is to purchase them. All of the commercial sources also sell felt piece sets. You can buy ready-made nursery rhyme sets, fairy tales, animal sets, alphabet and numeral sets, Bible stories and many more.
Nursery rhyme set
I rarely purchase felt board sets (although I do have the nursery rhyme set above). I make my own and there is no reason why you can’t either. If I can make them, you can too! They can be simple like these:
Or add a few techniques and enhancements like googly eyes:
Or if you’re really ambitious, something like this:
Basic supplies for making felt pieces include
- Felt squares of different colors
- A pattern or template
- Straight pins or tape for securing the pattern to the felt
- Sharp scissors
- Sharpie-type marker for tracing pattern or adding detail
- Optional supplies: googly eyes, fabric paint, colored markers, ribbon, pom-poms, embroidery thread, etc.
- Optional: Fusible interfacing
There are many sources of patterns, stories, rhymes and songs for felt pieces. Below are some helpful internet sites to get you started.
This site shows an easy way to make felt pieces using fusible interfacing, permanent markers and simple artwork.
Lots of theme-based templates
Childcare worker’s blog with lots of ideas including simple instructions for making felt pieces and theme-based suggestions with photos. Not many templates here, though, and some of the links are broken, but still worth checking out.
This is the go-to site for children’s librarians. Participating bloggers share storytime ideas, including flannelboards. Boards on the Pinterest page are sorted by themes. There are loads of ideas here including many complex ones created by over-achieving children’s librarians!
Many of the flannelboard templates and ideas I use come from printed sources including the aforementioned Judy Sierra book.
Lots of great ideas and patterns can be found in The Mailbox: Preschool magazine which the library subscribes to.
There are endless sources for flannelboards and felt pieces and hopefully some of these will inspire you to create a flannelboard kit for your child. I guarantee it will be worth your time.
And if you can’t, or just don’t want to make one, you can try the Felt Board app by Software Smoothie, available on iTunes and Apps for Android. At $2.99, this is a bargain app that will inspire take-anywhere creativity.
Cathy Chesher is originally from the Chicago area and moved here after marrying Steve, an Adrian native, 32 years (!) ago. They have two adult children, Michael and Amanda (who Cathy is happy to say love to read). When she is not working, reading or playing with her new iPad, Cathy tends to her perennial garden, does yoga and other exercise, cooks, and enjoys travel. Cathy says she has the best job in Lenawee County! “There are many things I like and love about being a children’s librarian, but nurturing and supporting the love of reading is at the top of the list. In my mind, there is no such thing as a child who doesn’t like to read; just one who hasn’t found the right book yet.”by