If you’ve spent any time here at Mel’s Desk, you know I usually use clip art for my storytime flannels. Last week, though, I made a set of felt strawberries for Flannel Friday, and I had a lot of fun getting out the felt again! Making the strawberries and seeing everyone’s amazing ideas from last week’s Round Up made me want to make more felt flannelboards. But it also reminded me of why I like clip art so much, so I thought I’d share those reasons with you.
We have time for free play after our storytimes, and I love letting the kids play with the flannelboard pieces we used in storytime. It’s a great opportunity for them to revisit what we did in storytime, tell their own stories, and talk with their grownups. Not all kids have a flannelboard at home* so they are often fascinated by the ones at the library. When I have laminated clip art pieces for them to play with, I don’t have to worry as much if the kids are being gentle with the pieces or are they keeping them out of their mouths. My clip art pieces are made with color printed images with a 110lb cardstock backing sandwiched between 3mil hot laminating sheets. They are really stiff and fairly thick, which makes them easy for little hands to pick up, and if they go in someone’s mouth, they don’t dissolve instantly. For older groups, I like being able to hand out pieces to all the kids that they can bring up and put up on the board, and the durability of the clip art pieces is nice for this purpose as well.
When a piece does go missing or a set does get worn out, I like clip art because it is so easy to make another set. I just print another file to the color printer, and laminate them again. I don’t have to start from scratch. If a child does inadvertantly damage a piece, I can truthfully reassure the parents that it’s no trouble for me to make another one. Also, my library has about 60 “resource packs” for storytime, boxes full of puppets, books, flannelboard sets, rhyme and activity ideas, and so forth. Staff can request these themed kits and get a jump start on their storytime planning for the week. I’m one of the staff who get to develop and maintain these kits, and clip art sets make it easy for me to put the same set in with different themes, ultimately offering more choices for staff in each kit.
When I found out that the developmental milestone for 20/20 vision isn’t until 36 months, I immediately began replacing all my fist-sized flannelboard pieces with larger ones, to help out those still-developing toddler eyes. Well, the bigger a felt piece gets, the floppier it gets, and the harder it is to maneuver on and off the flannelboard. But the stiff laminated pieces are still easy to move around, no matter how big I make them.
Our kids are pretty visually sophisticated these days. They grow up surrounded by images that have been carefully crafted and designed. By using clip art, I can use photographs and different styles of cartoon images in addition to my felt pieces. I think this adds variety and helps keep the visual interest of the storytime high.
Another reason I like clip art flannelboard pieces so much is that it’s very easy for me to make them. At my library, I have access to a color printer, a color copier, a hot laminator, a cold laminator, and a budget which allows me to purchase the laminating sheets, the thick cardstock, and the Velcro sticky dots for the backs. The hot laminator is actually pretty key. I’ve found that it’s much harder to glue felt or make Velcro dots stick to the back of our cold laminated items (one of our staff came up with the idea to sand the laminate first to help felt adhere), but everything sticks like a charm to the hot laminated ones. Plus we have volunteers who are able to help with the cutting and laminating. If I didn’t have all of these resources at work, trust me, I would be making different decisions about my flannelboard production!
Please note: I do still like felt sets! I do still use felt sets! And thanks to all the ideas on Flannel Fridays I have a feeling I am going to be making more… So come back next week; I’m planning a post about why I like felt for flannelboards! Why do YOU like what you use?
I often remind my grownups how easy it is to make their own flannelboards: Buy an inexpensive cookie baking sheet at the dollar store or the grocery store, and purchase a sheet of adhesive-backed felt at a craft store. Then just stick the felt onto the cookie sheet! For a couple of dollars, you can buy your own sheets of felt and cut simple circles and squares and triangles and your kids can go to town. Plus, then you can flip over the sheet and use magnets on the other side!