Felt Board Fun
Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW RSW
Felt board resources are a great way to “re-invent” familiar songs or stories and to introduce new material or concepts. They provide a visual component which helps to keep children interested and engaged and often extends the learning and play.
Used with a group or even with just one or two children, felt board activities can be tailored and tweaked to best suit your needs.
Just starting out? No problem! An easy way to introduce the felt board is to start when the children are already gathered and seated—perhaps while they have a snack. This provides a natural sort of captive audience. Pull out your felt board and let them know that you’ve got something special to show them. Keep your felt pieces hidden away in a small bag or basket. Start with something simple and familiar—maybe a little rhyme or poem (make sure to have the words handy if you need them). Make a habit of using your felt board regularly with a variety of songs, finger plays, and stories. When the children get used to seeing the felt board they will naturally wonder what sort of shapes you have in your bag.
Once you feel comfortable and confident using the felt board to tell a song or story, you can extend and expand upon the learning by introducing other concepts—colours, shapes, counting, matching, vocabulary, guessing, etc. You can ask questions, discuss ideas, and play games.
Felt shapes can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. You can make your own or purchase a variety of sets, ready to go (check out the mini felt kits available on our e-store!).
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Create a small collection of felt shapes that correspond to a set of familiar songs and pull out one shape at a time asking the children “Hmm, I wonder what song goes with this? Do you know any songs about _____?”. Examples include: Star—Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Boat—Row Row Row Your Boat, Spider—Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc.
- Tell a more elaborate song or story using a variety of felt shapes:
- A farm collection for the song Old MacDonald—pull each animal out of your bag one at a time to maintain the element of surprise.
- People, animals, and keys for an adapted version of “Good Night, Gorilla”.
- Pair with an audio recording of a book—key felt shapes provide a great visual.
- Use a series of 5 shapes to tell a finger rhyme or sing a song:
- Five Little Ducks, Five Little Monkeys, etc. To make your fingerplay more elaborate, include other shapes. For example: Five Green and Speckled Frogs—5 frogs, one log, a small bug, and one pond.
- Use several pieces of two shapes to introduce matching, sorting, and patterning.
- Play a guessing game—hide shapes in your bag and give clues for guessing (one shape at a time). Clues can be easy or hard depending on your group. Once they’ve correctly guessed the shape, pull it out of your bag and tell a little rhyme to go with it.
- Tell a story: put a few random shapes in your bag and pull them out one at a time to tell a made-up story. Involve the children in deciding what shapes to use and invite them to help tell the story. Don’t worry about your story making sense, silly or mixed-up stories are fun too.
- Play a little hiding game—set up a few larger shapes and then hide a small shape underneath and have the children guess where it’s hidden. Or, if you have lots of felt sets make up a hiding game and rhyme: for example, with one mouse and a few different coloured houses you can play “Little Mouse, Little Mouse are you hiding behind the red house?”.
- Have a large number or colour die? Include it in the fun. Have the children take turns rolling the die and then place the corresponding number/colour shape(s) on the board.
- Use puppets to interact with the felt pieces—puppets can add a “3rd voice” to your play, talking, playing, or even eating your felt shapes.
Another way to extend the activity and invite expression, is to allow the children to handle the various felt pieces—to use the pieces in their own way, exploring the colour, shape, and texture, re-enacting songs and stories and making up new ones as they play. Perfect for independent or small group exploration, felt play provides an opportunity to develop skills and enjoy many benefits:
- Fine motor development, hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity
- Imagination and creative thinking
- Language and vocabulary
- Cognitive skills including early numeracy (counting, sorting, matching, etc.), problem solving, organization, planning, memory and recall, cause and effect, etc.
- An opportunity to share and practice turn-taking, to communicate and work together to tell a story, act out a scene, or play a simple game.
- A lovely, soft, quiet sensory experience
- Spatial perception and exploration
- A way to re-enact stories and events, helping children to better understand the world around them. A time to explore emotions and think about things they have seen or heard.
- An opportunity to learn about and practice being gentle and caring. Some felt shapes are delicate and the children can learn to care for them in a kind and careful way.
- Connection—with you the adult, and with peers. A time to build relationships, laugh, learn, and be silly together.
If you’re new to felt board play, I hope you give it a try—take the time to explore and enjoy it and the children will too. For those of you with lots of felt board experience, I hope you find a way to stretch the play in new and exciting ways.