Using Flannel Boards in Early Childhood Education

What is a flannel board or story board? It is an invaluable and versatile educational tool for preschool teachers and children. The story board has become an integral part of the preschool curriculum. It is basically a story-telling board covered in a flannel or felt material that teachers can use with preschoolers to tell visual stories with pictures, storyboard shapes and a variety of other manipulatives that are made from flannel or felt cut-outs (flannel sticks to flannel). Flannel boards can come in a variety of sizes and can be mounted on a wall or be a smaller table-top style with an easel that easily folds up to put away.

The table-top style is great for small groups of children and encourages more participation and interaction and can easily be stored away. The larger wall-mounted style is more permanent and better for large groups such as in a classroom setting. Flannel boards or story-boards can be purchased commercially but it is very easy to make your own. Some of the commercially bought boards have a magnetic side on the reverse for use with magnetic manipulatives and some may have whiteboards on the reverse.

Story re-telling is an important skill in developing language and memory skills with preschoolers. Pre-literacy is important and even toddlers will benefit from listening and watching as older children play. Younger children always learn by observing and modeling older children. Most preschool settings have a multi-age population and age overlaps for various groups, just as most families do.

Encouraging a child to re-tell a story or a number sequence or identify colors and shapes is a great independent activity as well as partner fun. Re-telling reinforces learning and abstract concepts. Preschoolers will gravitate toward this anyway if the materials are left on the board for their use. They will also make up their own creative stories using the flannel board shapes in a free-play setting. Children enjoy touching and feeling the soft manipulative shapes.

For parents, flannel board play is a great independent activity for quiet times such as waiting at the doctor’s office, long car rides or just before bedtime or nap time. Flannel boards are also fun for rainy day indoor activities for kids. Teachers love to use them for everything from storytelling; abc kids games, themed lesson-plans to teaching songs, rhymes and finger plays.

Flannel board sets are soft, colorful felt cutouts of shapes, alphabet letters (upper and lower case) colors, numbers or story characters and props. Commercial sets can be found for fairy tales, nursery rhymes, popular literature, safety lessons, maps, the seasons, calendars, animals (zoo, jungle, farm, pets, etc.), special holidays, dinosaurs, multi-cultural ideas, Bible characters, games, transportation and many more early childhood themes. They can be purchased pre-cut or teachers and caregivers on a budget can make their own designs from felt.

Flannel board activities are fun for families, pre-school centers, Head Start centers, home daycare providers, home school families, early childhood education settings, Sunday school teachers, special education classrooms, librarians, and school teachers in the lower elementary grades. Even teachers in higher grades may find good use of flannel boards for teaching the States or other geography, maps or math lessons. The usefulness is virtually endless.