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Felt Board Fun (Making and Using Your Own Feltboard and Figures)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 13, 2010


     Special note:  I wrote this article years ago, and it originally appeared in Home School Enrichment Magazine.  It is re-printed with permission.  I added the pictures; they are from my own felt board sets.  Be sure to peek after the article for links to some of the resources I describe; a couple of the links are also embedded in the pictures. 

     A note to parents of school-aged children:  Felt board sets are also wonderful for older children; many of the companies listed below also sell sets designed for older children, so don’t skip this article! (there’s a human body set, for instance–put the organs in their proper place!) 

Pre-printed and pre-cut figures from the Family Worship felt set, from Little Folk Visuals

     Sunday school was always something I looked forward to when I was young. My two favorite things about Sunday school were the music and the stories. I always got excited when my teacher pulled out her felt board to illustrate—it made the story special. Sometimes, if we were especially good during the story, she would even choose some of us to put the figures up on the board—the ultimate reward.

     The felt board has been a traditional part of Sunday schools, preschools, and kindergartens for 50 years or more. When I was young, I had a small felt board set of my own at home, as did many of my friends. Nowadays, however, felt boards are nearly forgotten.

The Type of Felt Board Sets I Had as a Child

     Felt boards deserve to be saved from their untimely demise. They can be used for more than just illustrating stories; they can be used as serious early learning tools. Felt boards can do things that books can’t. They don’t just tell stories—they let your child participate in the story. Felt boards can be used to retell stories in new and creative ways, or to practice the sequence of the stories (what happened at the beginning? The middle? The end?) Felt boards can also be used for practice and reinforcement of new concepts, for games, and for other hands-on learning activities. They can be used to teach letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and much more—but most of all, they are fun!

A few pieces from my Beginner's Counting Set from Little Folks Felt--

     Felt boards and felt board sets can be purchased pre-made—you can even buy the figures pre-cut and pre-colored so that they are ready to go—but what fun would that be? It’s cheaper and more fun to make your own. And when you make your own, you will be able to customize your sets according to your children’s needs and interests. 

Homemade set; the pattern is from "Felt Board Fun" by Liz and Dick Wilmes

     Making your own felt board and felt board figures is easy—and doesn’t take many supplies. You don’t even have to be artistic. If you can trace lines and color, you can make your own felt board figures.

     If you are interested in making some felt fun for your children, you need to learn a couple of secrets.

     The first secret: felt boards aren’t covered with felt. A real “felt” felt board quickly frays and pills, turning quite ugly. The best covering for a felt board is actually flannel.  Another secret: not all felt board pieces are made of felt. The best material for homemade pieces is pellon. Pellon, otherwise known as interfacing, is used to stiffen and reinforce clothing (especially around the collar and button areas). It is available anywhere fabric and sewing notions are sold. The pellon you choose should be thick and smooth—and not the iron-on variety.

Making Your Own Felt Board

     If you can wrap a present, you can make your own felt board quickly and easily. Here is what you will need:

     •  Particle board or some other thinly cut board, in whatever size you choose (even heavy cardboard will work in a pinch). I like my boards to measure around 20” x 25”. For church use, bigger is better. For a personal felt board, 14” x 14” is a fun size.

     •  A yard or so of blue flannel to cover the board. 

     •  Masking tape or staple gun

     To make the felt board, simply wrap the board in flannel, in the same way you would wrap a present. Lay two layers of the flannel on a table or other hard surface, smoothing out all the wrinkles. Next, center the board on top of the flannel. Pull the flannel over to the back of the board, one side at a time. Tape or staple it in place. Next, do the opposite side, checking to be sure that the flannel is not wrinkled. Continue until all the sides are secured.  

To make your own felt board figures you’ll need:

     •  Pellon (start with ¼ to ½ a yard)

     •  Sharpie brand permanent markers (especially black ones)

     •  Oil pastel crayons (I like Cray-Pas brand)

     •  Sharp scissors (small ones work best)

     •  Patterns or ideas for your figures. There are several different options for this—picture books, pictures cut from a magazine, or felt board pattern books (my choice). My favorite pattern book is Felt Board Fun for Everyday and Holidays by Dick Wilmes, Liz Wilmes, and Donna Dane (you can find it on http://www.amazon.com). You might be able to find other, older pattern books that include felt board stories at your local library. An example of what you might look for is the book Story Telling with the Flannel Board, Book One, by Paul S. Anderson (there are at least three volumes).

"A Color of His Own"--homemade figures

      To make your own felt board pieces, use a pattern from one of these felt board books or  use a simple children’s book such as A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni (trace only the chameleons), or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Bill Martin for a pattern. Lay the pellon over the picture you want to recreate. Use a Sharpie brand pen to trace over the lines, leaving out any intricate detail.*  If you are making a story, it’s a good idea to number the pieces in the order they will be used. Next, color the pieces as desired with the oil pastels. Cut around the pieces and they are ready to go.  

     Another option: save catalog and magazine clippings and use rubber cement to glue a piece of pellon onto the back of them; this makes an instant felt board piece. 

     I put my finished pieces into labeled zipper bags, or into file folders that I staple along three sides. 

 Using Your Felt Board

     Letters, numbers, shapes, and animals are great first felt board pieces to make. Use them to practice counting and to match numerals to sets. (For example, make one cow, two ducks, three dogs, and so on; have your child find the animals that are alike, and then put the correct number by each set of animals.) A really fun idea is to make a farmer and various animals to illustrate the song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” (The patterns for these are in Felt Board Fun for Everyday and Holidays.)

     You can create a fun game by making small, medium, and large-sized apples. Find any simple apple pattern and enlarge or reduce it on a copy machine. Draw a simple worm or caterpillar, too. To play the game, place the apples on the board. Ask your child to point to the large apple, the medium-sized apple, and the small apple. Next, show your child the worm. Tell him that worms love to eat apples. Have your child close his eyes while you hide the worm under one of the apples. When your child opens his eyes, have him guess which apple the worm is eating: is he hidden under the large, medium, or small apple?  To extend this activity, have your child place the worm on the apple, under the apple, below the apple, beside the apple, and so on. 

Other Activities

With letters:

     •  Make the alphabet letters, then have your child match upper and lower   case. 

     •  Put the letters in alphabetical order. 

     •  Pick out letters and name them.

     •  Pick out letters and say their sound.

     •  Pick out letters and spell their name.

     •  Beginning readers can use the letters to practice word families. Put up the letters “a” and “t.”. Read “at,” then add sounds at the beginning of the word to change it (add “c” to spell “cat” and so on).

With numbers:

     •  Point to the numbers and practice counting, and later, skip counting.

     •  Label objects/sets with the correct number.

With shapes:

     •  Name the shapes.

     •  Make structures and designs with the shapes.

     •  Put the same shapes into a set.

     •  Put the same color shapes into a set.

With stories:

     •  Tell the story to your child, and then have him tell it to you, putting the appropriate figures on the felt board.

     •  Retell the story in a creative way, changing a dog for a cat, etc, or changing the ending. 

With finger plays:

     •  It is simple to make figures to illustrate finger plays such as Five Little Ducks, Five Little Monkeys, Five Green and Speckled Frogs, etc. You can also number the figures so that your child can see the count down.

For creative play:

     •  Let your child make up his own stories and play with the felt board. This works especially well when you use themed sets (Christmas figures, pre-made Bible figures, and so on).

     The felt board is a great tool that parents can use to teach their children valuable skills in a fun, game-like way.  I hope you will try some felt-board fun with your children. 

*(An extra note about copying pictures directly from books:  Make sure the pen doesn’t bleed through the pellon to the book.  If you are worried that it will bleed through, your solution is to trace the pattern onto plain white tissue paper with a pencil or regular ink pen.  Then lay your pattern onto the pellon.  Use a Sharpie pen to trace over the pattern; it will bleed through to the pellon and make your pattern.)

This article is copyrighted to Home School Enrichment Magazine and is used with permission.  Pictures and extra text © 2010 Susan Lemons, all rights reserved.

Links:

Felt Board Fun for Everyday and Holidays, by Liz and Dick Wilmes (I haven’t seen their other felt board books, but would guess that they are great, too!  This is my all-time favorite felt resource book.

Story Telling with the Flannel Board, by Paul S. Anderson (there are 3 volumes to this; they are old and out of print.  I don’t like every story in this series, but many of them are considered “classics” or “staples” in preschool classrooms.)

Betty Lukens Felt

Little Folk Visuals

The Felt Source

Story Time Felt

Free Online Resources:

Tutorial with pictures–making your own flannel board: Maya Made 

Preschool Printables: Printable felt board patterns/stories

Billy Bear 4 Kids:  Printable felt board patterns/stories

DTLK’s printable felt stories

Other Articles/Ways to Use Feltboards in your homeschool: (remember, they do make felts for older children, too!)

The Feltboard is Your Friend

Check out You Tube for more ideas–making flannel boards and figures, and how to use them!

Remember:  The the best boards are made of flannel, not felt.  You can glue pellon, felt, velcro, or sand paper to paper pictures and they will stick to your board.  Of course, you can use felt board pieces, too!

Final tips:  In addition to pellon, you can purchase milk filters from dairy supply stores for making your figures.  They are heavy and stiff, and pre-cut in a medium-sized circle shape.  Don’t forget to color your figures with Sharpies and Cray-Pas (oil pastels!)

  And most of all…have fun!

      ~Susan

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10 Responses to “Felt Board Fun (Making and Using Your Own Feltboard and Figures)”

  1. LaToya said

    I LOVE felt boards. I have made some for my boys. I usually just use paper to print or copy and then laminate them. I stick the felt peice on the back or use magnets so they can be used on the fridge, white boards, or cookie sheets.

    I was looking for some other ideas for more stories so I will definitely checking out those links.

  2. kimita said

    Thanks for this! I have the perfect piece of cardboard to use…but quick question. Is the flannel you wrap the board in the same kind of felt found at fabric stores? I wasn’t sure what the difference was between flannel and felt and what I should be asking for at the fabric store :) Thanks!

    • Kimita,
      It’s not felt at all, it’s flannel. Think flannel sheets, flannel pj’s, flannel shirts….just buy some in sky blue. It’s not thick like felt, and it’s soft and warm feeling. I’m sure if you ask for help, you’ll have no trouble finding it.
      Have fun!
      Susan

  3. Mel said

    Thank you for the tips on making a felt board. Once you color the pellon pieces, are the oil pastel crayons messy to the touch? I have a 1-yr-old and a 2-yr-old. Wondering if I’d be able to let them hold and play with those pieces if they’ve been colored on. Thanks!

    • Once the pieces are colored, they aren’t sticky at all, so little ones can use them. Even so, I would teach your little ones how to handle them gently; they wrinkle easily, and the wrinkles won’t come out. Also, be sure they don’t put the pieces in their mouths.
      ~Susan

  4. [...] also like the idea of a flannel/felt board for any number of displays – nature, letters, numbers, Bible stories, etc.  I love handmade [...]

  5. sheaukang hew said

    Thank you for this info! I was at the fabric store looking for pellon and they had so many! I was not sure which ones to get…I avoided any that can be ironed on, and got some pellon fleece (they are thicker and feel like felt), did I get it right? Thanks!

    • The pellon fleece with probably be hard to draw or color on. I’d recomend the stiffest and smoothest pellon you can find…it will be about as stiff as a heavy piece of typing paper, but not as thick as construction paper. Hope that helps!
      Susan

  6. barbara N said

    My feltboard pictures do not stick anymore, Help! What can I do?

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