I was thrilled when the good people at Children's Miracle Network Hospitals reached out to me about developing a DIY gift idea that would be both special and safe for a child in a hospital bed this holiday season. There are a lot of restrictions on hospital gifts (no latex balloons, stuffed toys, sports cards, living plants or flowers, food or candy, etc.), but I think these amazing, brave kids deserve extra attention and support at this time of the year especially. The thought that more than a million children will spend the holidays in a hospital is heart-breaking.

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CMN Hospitals raise funds and awareness for 170 children's hospitals in North America (including Phoenix Children's Hospital, where my sister in law works!). The hospitals provide $3.4 billion in charitable care every single year. If you'd like to help them in their noble efforts by contributing to the CMN Hospitals holiday initiative, visit here. Donations stay local, and the children's hospitals use the funds first where there is the most need.

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I made this super simple no-sew flannel storyboard for my DIY gift idea - I think it would be perfect for a child that is bed-bound and also a great present for the lucky kiddos that are healthy. I am hoping to make a lot of our Christmas gifts this year, and this one will be for Evie. I had Gracie and Claire do a little secret test drive on it for me this week. I think they would have played with the book all day if I had let them. And both of them requested their own flannel boards for Christmas (and threw in their story choices and color preferences for the binding!), so I think it's safe to say this gift idea is going to be a winner around here. :)

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Here's the tutorial breakdown:

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For supplies, you'll need:

- 1/4" thick foam core board (a colored one makes for a pretty cover - I used baby blue)
- Assorted ribbons in different colors, patterns and sizes (ranging from 1/4" to about 2.5")
- Fabric glue (Fabritac will forever be my favorite)
- Assorted colored sheets of craft felt
- Sharpies
- Pencil
- Ruler
- X-acto knife
- Very sharp scissors with a fine tip (I like these a lot)

First, use a ruler and pencil to mark out two equal-sized rectangles on your foam board. The book I made is 10x13" and I feel like it's the perfect portable size without being too small. If you keep the (new and sharp!) blade up tight against the ruler and push down hard, you should have a crisp edge when you're done.

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For the left side of my flannel board book, I wanted to simulate grass and sky so I cut the felt to fit and glue them about a 1/2" set in.

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The right side I decided to keep white.

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Once the felt for the inside of your book is glued down, run a few lines of glue along the inside center seam of the two boards (you'll want them spaced just like shown above - close, but not flush) and glue down your 2 or 2.5" ribbon on top of the seam. Let that dry for a few minutes and then fold the boards on top of each other and glue the continuous ribbon around the other side of the spine. Be pretty generous with the glue.

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Once you've finish glueing the ribbon around the entire board, snip and glue down the edge.

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Use various types of ribbons and trims to fill in the gaps where the white foam core shows and where the book could use some finishing.

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For the back of the front cover, you'll want to make a little pocket for storing your pouches of felt pieces. I was going to head over to the jersey/spandex section of the fabric store when I remembered this old and too-small swimsuit of Evie's that was sitting in our donation bin. She loved this suit so much, I'm glad she gets to keep using it in a new way. Plus, that seersucker pattern was a perfect pairing with my vintage trims! 

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I cut the suit down at it's widest points and glued a U-shaped pocket down on the back of the cover.

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And then added more trim for finishing. I bought this one at SAS in Phoenix. EBay is a treasure trove for vintage trim though if you don't have a good place locally.

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I bought about twenty small bundles of this mustard velvet ribbon on clearance at a teeny-tiny, but so beautiful art supply store in Brussels (we stayed there for a whole summer about five years ago). I've used bits and pieces of it here and there and this seemed like a fun place to dedicate a few of the remaining bundles.

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It worked beautifully to cover up the foam core edges.

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For the front cover, I used some felt letter stickers from the craft store and free-handed my daughter's name with pencil and later filled in with Sharpie.

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One of Evie's most favorite books is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" We've had the same little board book version since Gracie was a baby and the poor book is nearly falling apart after so many years of heavy rotation from the toddlers. Evie keeps the book by her bed and reads it to herself all the time. I knew I wanted one of the "story bags" to be from Brown Bear.

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You can use the book for reference obviously, but I wouldn't worry too much about cutting out the shapes perfectly or even exactly. I'm actually hoping my girls end up making a lot of their own story bags. You just cut out the rough shapes, glue the pieces in layers, and then use a little permanent marker for shading and smaller features. 

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The most important part is to make the shapes and characters small enough to fit in your pouches. The wedding favor aisle at craft stores sells these small bags that are the perfect size.

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 I like these muslin ones best because you can write the story titles right on the pouches using a sharpie.

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You can fit a ton of these small story bags in the large (stretchy!) back pocket.

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The book is a great way to work on spelling and math problems (using those pre-cut felt numbers and letters!) and a perfect way to encourage imaginative play. 

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I started a new pouch earlier today for Evie with a little paper-doll style dress ups. There's going to be a princess in there for fun, but mostly occupational dress ups, like a doctor and a scientist and a designer.

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It seems like the best way to play with these books though is to let your child reenact the story with the felt characters while you read from the book (or vice versa, where your child reads and you show them the story). It's a great way to to help kids fall in love with books and characters, even the most simple animal characters!

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While it doesn't take all that long to make the flannel board itself, the felt characters can be a little time-consuming. But they're easy to do while watching a show or talking on the phone. My mom would make a lot of our Christmas gifts each year growing up. I keep reminding myself that I can hardly remember a thing that I got that was store-bought, but I can tell you every special present she made for me, and I still have many of them now.  

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This post is brought to you by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. Donate $5 and give a miracle to a child in the hospital this Christmas.