Using Foam Board for Activities

Most of us probably associate foam board with tri-fold displays for school projects such as science fairs and social studies presentations. Another place foam board is often used is with photo exhibits in museums.

Foam board is also useful to help create materials to encourage activity. With a small collection of tools and some planning you can create three-dimensional objects for games, planning, and learning.

  1. Easy to cut – Foam board is easily cut with a sharp craft knife on a cutting map (you can use a flattened cardboard box if a cutting mat is not available). Intricate cuts and puzzle-piece-style rounded corners are more difficult.
  2. Adds dimension to materials – Post-it notes are great for planning, drawing, and brainstorming, but I like the third dimension that foam board objects have. Things created with foam board are easy to grab, whether from a whiteboard or a table.
  3. Light – Wood and thick cardboard are heavier and difficult to cut with simple tools. Foam board is light and easy to move. Plus, the lightness works well when using with whiteboards (see #8).
  4. Works well with cover sheets – I like to create and print designs which can be glued to the foam board. Once dry, the lines on the printed designs make it easy to cut out shapes (see #1).
  5. Inexpensive – I recently paid $5.99 for a 22×28 inch sheet of 3/16 inch thick foam board.
  6. Suitable for all ages – While infants and toddlers shouldn’t handle small pieces of foam board (or anything), foam board is suitable for both school-age students and adults.
  7. Infinite number of shapes – Because foam board is easy to cut (see #1) a variety of shapes can be cutout, especially when using glued-on paper as a guide (see #4).
  8. Works with magnetic strips – I purchased a roll of magnetic tape that I can cut with scissors and affix to the back of my foam board pieces. This lets me go vertical with activities because they will stick to whiteboards with a metal backing or any metal surface that accepts magnets.
  9. One sheet results in several pieces – A 22×28 inch foam board sheet is 616 inches squared. If the average size small piece is 6 inches squared (which allows for some waste), several pieces could easily come from one foam board sheet.

My process with examples

Below are a few examples of how I’ve used foam board. These are the steps I take to create foam board pieces for activities.

Create and print designs. For the shapes (arrow and star) and the rectangular story structure elements from Story Secrets from Scripture, I used Apple Pages. For the story structure elements as puzzle pieces I used Procreate.

Glue designs onto foam board. I loosely trimmed around the designs with scissors and used Elmer’s School Glue and allowed 2-3 drying time (probably less time would’ve been fine).

Cut out final pieces. For this step I used a craft knife and rule (for longer straight edges) to carefully trim around the designs.

Add magnets if desired. For any pieces I wanted to use on the whiteboard, I cut with scissors appropriate length pieces of self-adhesive strip magnet and attached the strips to the backsides of the foam board pieces.

Finished pieces on a magnetized whiteboard
Self-adhesive magnetic tape

Tools and materials

Tools and materials I use for foam board projects
  1. Elmer’s Glue-All Multi-Purpose Glue
  2. OLFA 141B 9mm Stainless Steel Auto-Lock Utility Knife
  3. It’s Academic scissors
  4. Foam board – 3/16-inch thick
  5. Magnetic tape – 1/2-inch
  6. Excel Hobby Blades cutting mat – 8 1/2 x 12 inches

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