DIY | Chalkboard Panels

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Overview

These DIY chalkboard panels support creativity, self-expression, and the development of early literacy and numeracy skills. They are simple and inexpensive to make, easy to store, and can be used throughout your early learning setting.

Supplies

You’ll need:

  • Plywood panels ( use 1/2 inch thick cabinet grade plywood)
  • Primer
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Sandpaper (120 and 180 grit)
  • Chalk
I’ve only worked with RUST-OLEUM chalkboard paint, but there are other brands available. I opted for traditional green because I’m old school, but they do make a version of this paint that can be tinted to 12 different colors.

Process

Creating classroom chalkboard panels is pretty straightforward: cut the panels, sand the panels, prime the panels, and paint the panels. Below, I’ll add a bit of detail to that quick outline.

Cut It

First, determine what size panels you want. While there’s no wrong size, I’d recommend sticking with sizes that don’t stay very far from the dimensions of a standard sheet of paper. If you stick to that general size, your panels will be both easy for kids to manipulate and easy to store. The panels below are 13 x 9 inches, 18 x 8 inches, and 14 x 14 inches. Why those sizes? Well, they were sizes I could cut from the panel of scrap wood I had sitting in the corner of the shop.

You’ll want to use cabinet grade plywood because it is sanded on both sides and that’ll give you a much smoother surface. Many (cheaper) types of plywood have pitted faces that’d make poor chalkboard surfaces.

For best results, cut the panels on a table saw. Cuts can also be made with a circular saw.

Sand It

Before priming, sand all sides of the panel with 120 grit sandpaper. Take special care to round the edges just a bit and dull the corners. Next, give the panels a going over with the 18o grit paper. Keep that 180 grit sandpaper handy, you’ll need to give the panels a light sanding between coats of primer and paint.

Prime It

After sanding, apply primer to the panels as directed on your primer of choice. I gave these panels two coats of primer with a light sanding between each coat with 180 grit sandpaper.

Paint It

After the primer has dried, give it a quick go-over with the 180 grit paper and then apply the first of at least 2 coats of chalkboard paint. I opted for three coats of paint with a light sanding between each coat.

Prepare It

I saw online that, after the last coat of paint has dried, RUST-OLUEM recommends you ‘prepare’ the chalkboard surface by using the side of a piece of chalk to completely cover the surface and then wiping it off. It’s supposed to make erasing easier.

I gave it a try on one panel and it did seem to erase a bit easier than the others the first few times, but after a bit of use they all seemed to erase about the same.

Conclusion

These chalkboard panels are a great way to support writing and drawing throughout your early learning setting–sketching building plans in the block area, making signs for the new dramatic play area farmer’s market, drawing rainbows in the art area, writing notes warning classmates to watch out for bees on the playground, and more.

If you give this project a try, I’d love to see and hear how it went–you can share thoughts and photos in the comments.

Also, I wrote a DIY chalkboard playground sign project post earlier this year that may interest you.

May-2020-Patrons

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

After nearly 30 years working in early learning programs, Tasha now devotes her time to making Explorations Early Learning and Playvolution HQ work, quilting, and taking care of her pet duck, Tape.

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