Sure, it’s a little old-school. I say felt board, and all of a sudden you’re smelling chalk dust and watching your Sunday school teacher tell the story of Joseph and his amazing technicolor dreamcoat on a big felt board at the front of the classroom.
Well, think of it this way. The felt board isn’t retro or dated- it’s classic!
A felt playset is fun to play with, versatile, educational, and it happens to be just about the easiest craft you can possibly make.
Did you learn how to cut with scissors in Sunday school? Yeah? Then you can make a felt playset.
The first step, and the hardest part, is figuring out what felt to use. Do you prefer to craft with natural materials? Then use wool felt. Are you vegan? Buy traditional felt, which is manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. Do you only craft with recycled materials? Gather some thrifted wool sweaters, and check out my felting wool sweaters tutorial.
Now you need to figure out what to cut. Feel free to freehand your shapes, but I’m a bit of a neatnik, and I like my felt shapes uber-precise. I always cut from templates that I trace directly onto my felt, either with a Sharpie on light-colored felt or chalk on dark-colored felt. For templates, you can gather stencils from the Internet or trace pictures from a kid’s coloring book. I have my graphic designer husband draw me stuff, and I make ample use of die-cutting machines, as well.
Of course, there’s nothing like a ruler and some basic geometric shapes to really kick a kid into a high creative gear. You can also make a felt playset based on a theme. Some of the sets I’ve made for my daughters are a dinosaur scene, with dinosaurs and volcano; a cityscape, with a skyline and buildings and cars; a rainbow, in which each color is a separate piece of felt and is put together like a puzzle; and a paper doll set, with two figures and lots of clothes to put on them.
Stuck for ideas? Give a stack of felt, some fabric scissors, your Sharpies to a kid. They’ll be thrilled about having their own kid-made felt sets.
The last thing that you need is a surface on which to play with your fabulous new playset. My daughters really love their felt playsets, so I covered a large piece of scrap plywood with felt and mounted it on a wall at kid-level. For those of you less committed, you can cover a square of corkboard and get the same effect. For a travel playset, cover a Scrabble board with felt, or just sew ribbon onto a large piece of felt and roll it up when you’re done playing.
I’m a firm believer in simple toys for creative kids, and if they’re handmade, all the better. Do you make some simple toys for your creative kids? Tell me about it in the Comments section below, and link to your blog post about it if you have one.