Five Ways to Use a Flannel Board During Story Time

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Five Ways to Use a Flannel Board

One of my favorite props to use in library programs is the flannel board. It is a versatile tool that can be used in a variety of ways to enhance the story time experience for kids and their families. Here are five different ways to incorporate a flannel board into your own story times.

  • Provide visuals for songs and rhymes.
    Most of the time, I tend to use the flannel board as a visual enhancement for simple songs and rhymes. Though you can always pretend your fingers are apples, or squirrels, or monkeys jumping on the bed, it is often more effective to have those objects available to add or remove as the song suggests. Having flannel board pieces also gives you the opportunity to show the children an object and ask them to name it, or tell you what sound it makes, or show you how it moves, thus increasing their involvement in the story time session.
  • Tell stories.
    Traditionally, flannel boards have been used to tell stories. Since most of my story time groups have consisted of babies and toddlers, I haven’t had many opportunities to do this, but I love to try out different stories with preschoolers and elementary schoolers. Depending on the story, I might memorize the original text and tell it verbatim, or  develop my own version of a favorite tale, told in my own words and style. Two of my favorite stories to tell on the flannel board are Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty and A Perfect Nose for Ralph by Jane Zalben.
  • Retell stories.
    After reading a picture book with children, they can help you retell the events of the story in order, which helps develop their narrative skills. By providing images of key words and pictures from the story, you encourage the kids to remember what happened, and to reconstruct the book from beginning to end.  It can also be fun to intentionally retell the story incorrectly and see if the kids can catch your mistakes!
  • Play literacy games.
    At small-group story times, the flannel board can become a game board. Flannel board pieces can be sorted into categories, matched into pairs, or brought up one at a time as part of interactive games designed to promote early literacy skills. Kids love the opportunity to play with the flannel board themselves, so make sure to give every child a turn to add an item or make a choice.
  • Generate discussions.
    Kids love to tell librarians things about themselves. Flannel boards can provide context for sharing anecdotes from their lives as well as inspiration for new topics of discussion. Placing different animals, cars, bugs, or objects on the flannel board and talking about them provides kids with new vocabulary as well as a chance to develop their own skills as storytellers. I also find that leaving the flannel board out after story time is a good practice that encourages impromptu educational experiences for kids and librarians alike!

If you don’t have a flannel board, you can trying making one  or you can purchase large or small versions.

For lots of wonderful ideas for using the flannel board, most of which fit into the categories I described, check out Flannel Friday, a weekly round-up of flannel board activities hosted by various story time bloggers. Flannel Friday activities are archived weekly on Pinterest, where you can browse by theme and type.

About Katie Fitzgerald

Katie Fitzgerald holds degrees in English and library science, and has worked in small town and big city libraries, serving both children and teens. You can read her book reviews and posts about story time, picture books, and early literacy at Story Time Secrets. Also follow her blog on Facebook for kidlit quotations, story time suggestions, and interesting links.


  1. Awesome list, thanks!

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