Making a Flannelboard: “Seals on the Bus”

So, I made the “Seals on the Bus” flannelboard from Making Learning Fun and tried to photo-document my process so that I could theoretically teach others how to make the same flannelboard.

Obviously, an image intense entry, sorry slow browsers!

The “Seals” template had great instructions for the bus template, so I seriously just followed their directions.

I made two wheels, six windows, and cut a large piece of felt for the bus. (The pattern said to extend the middle of the bus 18″, but that was much too large for my flannelboard, so I only extended the bus 8″.) In the picture you can still see that the bus template is taped onto the yellow felt, which is how I know where to cut without marking the felt.

Next up, the characters:

What I did here was separate the characters into different levels of details. For the left group (snake, monkey, seal, and goose), I have a base layer and maybe one or two details. For the right group (bunny, sheep, skunk), there will be a lot of layering/detailing. And for the top group (tiger, girl, boy), there will again be a lot of layering/detailing, but a different kind. I’ll try to break down each group and my thoughts as I go.

For me, the easiest way to make a flannelboard character is to literally copy the template. I follow the following steps:

1. Print out the template and cut it out.
2. Tape the template to the felt.
3. Cut out the main piece.
4. Cut out the details from the template; largest to smallest!
5. Tape the detail templates to the felt and cut.
6. Glue layers/decorations.
7. Add eyes and paint.

So, for the seal, I just cut out the main piece first. Then, I cut out his flipper, and taped that to a felt scrap to make a felt flipper. To put together the seal, I put the template (with the flipper missing) on top of the felt seal, added a drop of Tacky Glue and placed the felt flipper where it belonged. Pretty simple!

And for the monkey, I cut out a large body piece using the whole template. Then, I cut off his head and cut a head out of brown felt. Then, I cut the template again and got a peach colored snout for the monkey. Finally, I cut off his tail and made a longer felt tail to attach to the back of the piece for some dimension.

Always start cutting out the biggest piece first and trim your template down from there. Don’t make the smallest pieces first, or you’ll wind up printing out multiple templates.

Now, for the second grouping, I’m going to use the bunny as my example.

Okay, so this picture gives you an idea on how I actually make the different pieces. Sometimes I use tape on the back of a template to adhere the template to the felt. Sometimes, I use a piece of tape over the template directly on the felt.

It also shows how I have a main piece that I add layers to. The front layers (the closer foot and arm) will be glued on top of the bunny while the back layers (the farther foot and arm) will be glued to the back of the bunny. If you’re gluing to the back of a piece, always make sure to leave some extra felt attached to the shape so that you can glue it without gluing anything together by the edges. (You can see in the picture the back arm has an extra bit of brown felt sticking past the template for gluing!)

For the third grouping, the people — start with the base/skin color and cut the whole template out. (Orange for tiger, peach for people.) Then, simply add the clothing in layers and trim the base/skin color so that it doesn’t show around the clothing. I didn’t take pictures of this because a) I was on the desk after-school while making this and b) it’s pretty straightforward.

But a finished product photo of all three: tiger, girl, boy:

Now, for painting and wiggly eye gluing.

So, painting. I just use a smidge of tempura paint. And yes, that IS a paper clip in the paint! It is way easier than using a brush (which is hard to control for small, concentrated areas like eyes) and I kind of hook my finger into the curve of the paper clip which helps me keep a steady hand.

A giant felt painting tip — don’t drag anything across the felt! You will actually pick up felt fibers which can and will smear your paint job. When I paint, I just get a little of the tip of paper clip and poke the felt. (So, for an eye one poke will do, but for the tiger’s stripes, I had to poke it several times to get the shape I wanted.)

Painting is the most stressful part for me, and I have had to remake a piece because I dribbled paint where I didn’t want it. (On the other hand, I’m a perfectionist and maybe the paint dribble wouldn’t have bothered you!)

Lastly, I attached wiggly eyes to some of the pieces. (Always for human characters, and occasionally for animal characters — the like the skunk, which I couldn’t paint black eyes on a black body.)

(I’d be wary too, little girl, with a skunk so close!)

Anyway, I hope this long and drawn-out post has given you some insight/ideas on how to make your own flannelboards. If you have questions, you can always feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to try and find an answer/give advice!

I leave you with a final look at the newest flannelboard at my library:

30 comments on “Making a Flannelboard: “Seals on the Bus”

  1. Erika T
    April 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

    I am a library school grad student with the hopes of becoming a children’s librarian in the near future. Conducting story times is not something that they teach you in library school so I am hoping to learn as much as I can from other more experienced librarians in the field. I have yet to create a flannel story & run my own story time but it is interesting to see the various ways that other librarians prepare & plan their story times and flannel stories. Your blog has been such an eye opener and very helpful to me!

    My experience in working with felt is limited but I find that when I try to trace templates onto felt, it is hard to find materials that write on felt. Do you trace your templates onto the felt and then cut the shapes out or do you just tape the template onto the felt and cut around?
    Thanks for your help!

    • Katie
      April 30, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

      I cut out the template and just tape it on the felt — so much easier than trying to trace things. As for getting any markings on the felt, I use paint and did wind up finding some Paint Pens at a craft store that worked well.

      If you have any more questions, let me know! I remember feeling pretty lost in library school as to how to actually run storytimes and such, so I’m more than happy to help out if I can.

  2. Melanie
    May 23, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    How do you attach the heads? If you just use the tacky glue isn’t there a bump where the pieces overlap or do you butt it piece to piece?
    Love the detail. I normally do my simpler pieces completely out of felt but stories that require more detail I do the easy way by printing on paper and backing with velcro, sandpaper or felt.
    Thanks for putting this up!

    • Katie
      May 23, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      You’re welcome!

      I use tacky glue to attach the heads — and there isn’t a bump at all. My tacky glue is pretty fluid and doesn’t leave any kind of marks that I can see.

  3. Sarah Ducharme
    September 25, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    This is amazing. Thank you for your detailed tips. I am new to this, so far just using clip art with felt backing. But, I’m getting bored with that look. You’ve inspired me to try a “real” felt story.

    • Katie
      September 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

      I’m glad that this tutorial helped you! It’s a lot simpler than it looks and you’ll be just fine. 😀

  4. Priscilla
    November 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    I’ve been providing story time with props and felt activities for years. “The Seals on the Bus” characters you created are adorable!

    I also use pellum (interfacing) becasue it is easy to see thorugh and trace RIGHT FROM THE BOOK! You can color with map pencils or sharpies and they stick very well to a felt board. I’ve also created story props using magnets and a new / clean cookie sheet and even a pizza box (new not used) painted on the outside and inside with a scene painted on the inside.

    One other fun prop is foam masks that look JUST like the characters in the book! I created masks to look like the characters from “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” , had the chidlren read and act out the story during a parent presentation. The “woman” stood on a chair with a black sweat suit on and a large piece of black fabric draped around her. After she “ate” each character – they “filled” her belly. As the story was read – she go larger!

    I work at the San Antonio Children’s Museum as the Art, Music & Early Childhood Educator – feel free hit me up for ideas!

    • Katie
      November 29, 2011 at 12:21 am #

      I really need to get a cookie sheet/magnet board going for when I do outreach storytime! Thanks for the ideas and thanks for reading!

  5. katie
    February 4, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    This is great! Thank you 🙂
    What type of felt do you recommend or where to get it?

    • Katie
      February 4, 2012 at 12:28 am #

      I just get the $0.29 sheets at Michaels or JoAnns. Nothing fancy for me!

  6. renee
    August 30, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    I really appreciated the detailed description! Thank you Renee Is the seals on the bus a book?

    • Katie
      August 30, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Yes, “Seals on the Bus” is an amazing book by Lenny Hort!

  7. Andrea
    September 17, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    When using a template that can be damaged, I just staple the template to the felt, and cut around that. The staple is easily removed, and I don’t have any lines left on the felt :).

    • Katie
      June 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

      Good tip — I’ve never thought to use a staple before!

  8. Laura
    August 11, 2018 at 11:23 am #

    what size of the flannel board did you buy and where did you purchase it? Did you get an easel to set it on? If so what kind?

  9. Laura
    October 17, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

    Where are the templates? This is really cute id love to make it for my grandson


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