Part 1: How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for a Toddler

A tracing book lets 2- and 3-year-olds practice and hone their skill in using writing instruments. Kids start out tracing straight lines and curvy lines, then graduate to shapes such as circles and squares, and eventually letters and simple objects (apples, puppies, etc.). I didn’t start tracing letters until kindergarten, but today some kids begin in preschool. This tip comes from a friend who is a preschool instructor.

You can buy wipe-off tracing books, but they are the same every time they are used and cannot be customized with fun things such as the names of family members. Here are instructions on how to create your own reusable tracing pages.

Example of a tracing page filled with ovals.

An oval worksheet from Sen Teacher.

Simple Explanation:

Download free tracing pages from web sites, print and insert them into clear plastic sleeves, and store the sleeves in a binder. Draw on the sheets with dry erase markers as standalone pages, or while attached to the binder. Then, just wipe clean with a rag.

Detailed Explanation:

Step 1: Buy clear plastic "sheet protectors" from an office supply store. A sheet protector is commonly used in resume portfolios and for archiving documents.

Avoid "non-glare" sleeves that dull printed images, and vinyl sleeves that may "lift print" (ink/toner) from pages. Avoid sleeves that allow the front side of the sleeve to be pulled down and open more than 1 inch for "easy access." It’s just asking for a toddler to pull and rip the sleeve.

I bought a box of 200 Avery Heavyweight Diamond Clear Sheet Protectors at Costco for $8 (costlier bought online). I’m pretty much set for life.

Step 2: Buy dry erase pens. Toddlers smash pen tips when they first learn to draw, so initially use thick instead of fine tips. Avoid washable markers, Sharpies and washable crayons. Some don’t mark well, others don’t clean well. Update: Read part 2 of this article for information on wipe-off and dry erase crayons.

Again, your friend is Costco or another bulk retailer to get a good quantity with varying colors. I prefer Costco because their employees are paid living wages and health benefits unlike a certain other pervasive retailer.

Step 3: Buy a thin binder with built-in clear plastic sleeves on the front and back cover. Insert whatever 8"x11" page you wish to identify the binder, perhaps a sheet your child has permanently colored with crayon.

Step 4: Download tracing pages, print and insert them into the binder. A selection of web sites is at the end of this article.

Step 5: Create customized alphabet tracing pages. Download and install the Print Clearly or Penmanship free TrueType fonts that are designed for handwriting legibility. Create a word processor document and, using these fonts, type the alphabet in caps or lower case. For more fun, type the names of family and friends for your child to trace.

Tracing Page Sites

  1. Alphabet worksheets (at bottom of page). The A-Z For Beginners sheets have a separate page for each letter and include additional fun tracing activities. This page also has a lengthy opinion about when children should begin tracing (e.g., when it’s fun for them).
  2. Line and shape worksheets from KidZone.
  3. Line worksheets from Sen Teacher.
  4. Mazes (simple ones linked at the bottom of page) from
  5. Handwriting worksheet maker. Select font and style, then type in the words you want to appear on your tracing page. Print the resulting web page.
  6. Objects to trace and color from ABC Teach.
  7. Miscellaneous worksheets from
  8. Review of two cool 80 page tracing books by Thingamababy.

Now read: Part 2 of How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for a Toddler.


12 Responses to “Part 1: How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for a Toddler”

  1. Selah says:

    I don’t think pre-schoolers need this. The focus should be on play and learning through their play. Save the worksheets or better yet, get rid of them all together.

    March 26th, 2007 at 8:19 pm

  2. AJ says:

    Selah, I agree with you to a degree. If a child doesn’t enjoy tracing, let it be. It all comes in good time.

    We have a stack of jigsaw puzzle “opposites cards” where my daughter has to match opposite ideas, such as night/day, tall/short, and so on. I threw out the two cards for work/play. Actually, I ripped them in half first.

    The critical failure in education is when learning loses its fun and becomes work. I introduced the tracing idea to her with encouragement AND traced alongside her. After that, she considered tracing to be fun, and sometimes asks me to trace with her. I leave the binder out and accessible to her, and she will pick up the binder and CHOOSE to trace, just as she will choose to make craft projects or choose to gather her stuffed animals for a tea party.

    Just this morning one of my wife’s friends visited for 10 minutes and in that time my daughter thought of and chose to grab scissors, a glue stick and construction paper to make our guest a bookmark. That could be a chore. It could be fun. Maybe my daughter is just super, but I think it’s a result of how we frame situations for her and how she sees us approach our own challenges.

    March 26th, 2007 at 8:28 pm

  3. Kini says:

    I think the tracing pages are an awesome activity. I totally agree that if they are not interested, let them be. Find something the DOES interest them and is FUN for them. I have two daughters, one just turned 12, the other is 3.5. The youngest imitates the oldest all the time. She wants to read, write, go to the “big” school, and do all the things the big one does. That is why I think the notebook is a great idea…because it is something that does interest my little one. Not only can she spell her name, she can write it (first and last name). We never forced her to learn, she sees her sister doing it and wants to also.

    Things can be a chore, a drag, miserable. Or, they can be cool, creative, and FUN.

    Have Fun!

    March 27th, 2007 at 6:07 pm

  4. Angela says:

    Thanks so much for including the print style fonts. We have been looking for a font with “normal” lower case a and 4 for sometime. I have already downloaded and installed them to update our number and alphabet charts we use with our daughter.

    This is a really fun idea for practicing pencil skills plus much cheaper than buying a workbook that gets used and then you have to do something else with it to justify the cost. Thanks for searching out all the resources for other parents.

    March 28th, 2007 at 9:54 am

  5. liv says:

    would crayons work instead of dry erase markers? i don’t trust my 2 yo with dry erase markers, and that stuff is a PITA to wash out of clothing. i don’t want to buy the heavy duty protectors to find that crayon doesn’t rub off of it. :)

    March 28th, 2007 at 10:15 am

  6. AJ says:

    Liv, crayons have poor visibility on the plastic (very light) and are a lot harder to clean off. You could simply print tracing pages and use crayon directly on them without a plastic sleeve. That’s still 100% better in your situation than a retail reusable book that requires pen. You’re paying for the cost of the paper, but using very little printer ink.

    March 28th, 2007 at 10:23 am

  7. Tracy says:

    Liv–try a China marker. It’s a super waxy pencil that wipes off with a paper towel (without the powdery residue of the dry-erase marker). I just tested it on a sheet protector and it works great!

    March 30th, 2007 at 8:40 am

  8. Tracy says:

    on second thought… it does take a bit of pressure to make the mark so it might not be right for a 2yo.

    March 30th, 2007 at 10:16 am

  9. Michelle says:

    If you are going to have your child begin to make or practice letters, it is vital to teach the correct letter formation. Some kids want to do this as young as 3, some have no interest until you begin teaching them to write their names in preparation for preschool or kindergarten. Whichever, whenever, as soon as they are wanting to write their abc’s, get a practice book of some sort and begin teaching them to form the letters correctly. If you don’t, they will start letters at the bottom, in the middle, or wherever and teach themselves a multitude of bad habits that we kindergarten teachers will then have to try to re-teach them out of. The proper printed letter forms are vital to later success in script or cursive writing and you do your child no favors to allow them to just “wing it” when learning to print their abc’s. And please, when teaching them to print their names, use a capital only at the beginning of the name and the rest lowercase letters. It’s a huge help to their teacher, again, not to have to teach them all over again how to write their name properly when they arrive at school.

    March 1st, 2008 at 11:46 am

  10. ephelba says:

    I did this in college with plain paper so I could do my physics and math homework with out killing so many trees.
    Put some blank paper in there and let them go crazy go nuts.

    May 22nd, 2008 at 6:52 pm

  11. ttolson says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with this idea. This is not really a worksheet. It is a manipulative that should be used in preschool for motor skills if nothing else. I get all of your children in Kindergarten who can’t hold pencil or write anything and they are expected to write a sentence and a two or three sentence story by the time they leave K. It’s because they haven’t been taught to trace or write that they can’t master writing letters and words

    September 28th, 2008 at 5:49 pm

  12. ddonahue says:

    Excellent idea. I work in a day care and I have several children who want to practice writing. I usually give them blank paper and a pen but now I will give them the tracing pages. They will be so proud of themselves!

    May 20th, 2009 at 10:37 pm

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