Before a child can understand an abstract concept (like learning shapes), there must be concrete learning experiences. The child must feel shapes, see shapes, manipulate the shapes. This is what makes play such an effective learning tool, as opposed to direct instruction.
One way a child can become involved in these concrete learning experiences is through the use of a flannel board. In addition, your child will be developing fine motor skills.
You will need:
- A sturdy piece of plywood, cardboard or posterboard
- A piece of flannel large enough to cover the board
- Duct tape (or a staple gun or upholstery tacks if using plywood)
- Felt squares to make shapes and other cut-outs
What to do:
- Wrap the piece of flannel around the board you have chosen.
- Secure all edges around the back side with the duct tape, staples or tacks.
- The flannel board doesn't have to be large to be effective. A 1 x 1 foot square is adequate and can travel in the car, or you can make a larger board for use at home.
- You can find scrap pieces of felt or fabric squares, which are very inexpensive at a fabric store, hobby shop or local discount store.
- Try starting out with "easier" concepts like shapes and colors, and then move on to numbers, letters and animals.
- You can also color images from coloring books or use pictures from magazines. Just mount these on some posterboard or sturdy paper and hot glue some small squares of sandpaper to the back so that it will stick to the flannel board.
There are a number of companies that make felt sets to go with flannel boards, which are excellent for when your child is older and wants to use the board to create stories and scenes. Here are some of my favorites:
- Animals and Dinosaurs
- Felt Paper Dolls
- Bible Stories
- Discount School Supply's Felt Stories -- Discount School Supply is one of my favorite places to purchase educational toys. Every parent should order one of their free catalogs. They have very low prices and high quality materials that are made to stand up to school use, so you know they'll last.
And, if you're an avid eBayer, you can often find story sets there. Just use the phrase "flannel board sets" in the search box.