I’ve had a bad case of the Crafties this holiday. So I though I would subject you to one more post on a DIY gift that needs no special occasion: an easy way to make a felt play-station for a toddler or young child.
Felt boards are simple to create and can be used for hours of open-ended play. I gave two felt boards as gifts to my nieces, and made one set of felt cut-outs for Maya. For the board, I used a stretched canvas for the ones I made as gifts, and a large piece of felt cut and punched to fit on our easel over the whiteboard for Maya.
Whiteboard markers are dubious due to the xylene they contain, so that part of a child’s easel is better converted to something other use. (Magnet boards are also great and can be clipped on.) If you do use whiteboard markers, there’s a marker made without xylene by Auspen that allegedly works well.
- Felt in a wide range of colors (some is made of post-consumer recycled fabric, which is nice; you can also get fun felt with animal prints), and a larger piece in a neutral tone for the board backing
- Sharp scissors (fabric scissors are best)
- Stencil stickers for numbers and letters (like those used on posters)
- Stretched art canvas for the board (I used these ones, which are a nice size, but the price fluctuates), a staple gun with staples, and velcro strips for hanging; or an easel or bulletin board
- Optional: Fabric glue or thread and seed beads for making animals, trees, clouds, houses, etc.
For the shapes and letters:
For the letters and numbers, to keep things uniform, I used large-format sticky poster board stencil stickers from an office supply store. I further trimmed any useful shapes from inside the letters when I could to use in the sets.
After some random trials, I found it simplest, particularly as I was making multiple sets of numbers and letters, to go through the alphabet in order, making sure to cut many copies of vowels and other letters often used in pairs (t’s, or p’s, for example).
In front of the TV, it was a pleasant diversion and allowed me to re-watch all of Downtown Abbey just in time for the start of Season Three (tonight)! I then divided them up into sets after laying all the pieces out on a board.
I also tried my hand at a few animals, using this allegedly non-toxic fabric and felt glue, with only modest success. When so inclined, Maya can easily pry the creations apart, showing the glue. So for the younger crowd, you may want either to keep it very simple with the shapes, or to invest the time in sewing the pieces together for durability. Still, for the few I’ve managed to keep intact, the pieces are cute.
To make the board:
If using an easel, just cut the felt to match the whiteboard or other support you are using, punch a hole with the scissors and slip onto the screws.
If you would prefer to make a separate felt board, it’s very simple to do so. Cut the felt in the size of your board, leaving three to four inches of fabric on all sides around the canvas.
Then fold and tuck the felt into the backside of the canvas on all sides, making “hospital corners” with the felt on each corner to keep it smooth on the front.
Using the staple gun, work your way around the back edges, paying special attention to keeping the corners flat. Hang with velcro or a nail as you prefer.
Maya has enjoyed playing with the shapes and trying to name the letters, which often occasions the alphabet song. I’m hoping her cousins are enjoying the sets as well! I’ll be adding more animals, and sewing some, as Downtown Abbey gets back underway…
Next week: A guest post on Type 2 diabetes from a blogger pal, and the full scoop on children’s “flame retardant” pajamas — so stay tuned!