Monday, March 15, 2010

Storytime Tricks: Using the Flannel Board

Flannels! I use these visual props to enhance songs and rhymes during storytime. As I have no budget for purchasing readymade flannels, I make my own as a way to update my storytime repertoire. My method of creating flannels -- a bit of a misnomer as I don't use this fabric -- requires only paper, plastic and sandpaper.

Note: for those who may be confused as to what is a flannel board, it's literally a board covered in flannel. There are many versions available, and below is the one that I use complete with pockets.

My flannel making technique in four easy steps:

1) Find a coloring page online or draw an image yourself
2) Color image (or outsource to your library volunteers)
3) Cut out and laminate pictures. You might be fancy enough to have access to a laminating machine. As I don't, I use KAPCO, a hard plastic designed to cover books, which also works wonderfully for this purpose.
4) Stick a small square of sandpaper to the back using double stick tape.

Voila! The pictures will stick to the flannel board, and I find them much more aesthetically pleasing than using flannel fabric with sharpie markings.

The flannels I use most often are "Little Red Wagon" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep". Both have the same concept -- a color themed nursery rhyme/song with an interactive element of guessing which color we'll sing about next. After first singing about the title color, I keep the rest of the options in the pocket of the flannel board and have children predict which color will be chosen at random. Once we've sang with three or four different colors, we'll wave goodbye to each color as a further way to practice color names. As in, "bye bye, blue wagon" or "bye bye, yellow sheep" and so on.

This is the "Little Red Wagon" flannel:

And the "Baa Baa Black Sheep" flannel:

A seasonal flannel I adore is "Five Little Snowmen", just because it's rather fun to act out the melting of each snowman. You can even display the lyrics for parents. Last time I sang this song one observant child asked me why there was one snowman whose nose wasn't colored black. Good question!

Some further resources you can use for flannel ideas are The Flannel Board Storytelling Book by Judy Sierra (H.W. Wilson, 1997), Storytime Magic: 400 Fingerplays, Flannel Boards and Other Activities by Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker (ALA, 2009) and Flannelboard Stories for Infants & Toddlers by Ann Carlson (ALA, 2005).


  1. A fun extension activity of the flannel board is the flannel apron! By using fabric glue to attach a piece of flannel to a cooking apron, you create a way to make the children a part of the show. Children can wear the aprons and can move themselves (and consequently their pieces) around as the story is told. Some children may be able to listen to the story for longer periods of time if they become a part of the display.

    Deanna Jackson, Assistant Director, The Goddard School

  2. Deanna, thanks for sharing your expertise!

    Not only do I imagine your suggestion to be super adorable, but I love the approach of making children active participants in storytelling.

  3. Sarah,
    Before we worked together I had been using the same, tired flannel board stories for far too long! This idea really spiced up my story hours and encouraged me to try new stories. (Also super easy for even the least craftiest person, like myself!) Thanks Sarah!