Monday, April 2nd, 2007
Part 2: How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for Toddlers
(For context, read: Part 1 of this article.)
I learned several important things this weekend after visiting a teacher supply store and watching my almost-three-year-old daughter ramp up her tracing activity at home.
Make Single-Use Books into Reusable Books
The free downloadable tracing pages profiled in part 1 are great, but so are some retail options. I bought two single-use tracing books and made them reusable. My plan was simple: remove the bindings and slide the pages into clear sleeves. Reality was a little different.
First, after carefully pulling off the outer hard paper cover, I discovered the glue binding the pages was too tough for removing pages one at a time. So I opened the middle of the book, flattened the two sides and pulled the halves apart, sort of like a wrestler ripping yellow pages in half, but a bit gentler. I repeated that step two more times with the newly created smaller sections. As small chunks, the pages easily separated from one another.
Second, the pages were 12 inches long, too tall to fit in our binder. So my wife trimmed an inch off each page with a paper cutter while I shuffled the final product into sleeves. At 80 pages, we had an assembly line going on the living room floor after my daughter went to sleep, an experience that made my wife a bit misty. There are a lot of wonderfully emotional times in a new family, but apparently manual labor for the benefit of our daughter is magic.
The outside of our binders have clear sleeves, so we cut out each book’s cover and used them as our binder covers.
A personal paper cutter is a great investment. You could sneak over to a Kinko’s or another copy shop to borrow a paper cutter. A compact model can be had as cheap as $15. A more traditional, but still compact model runs about $30. Check out Costco and office supply stores.
Dry-Erase Gunk Removal
Use a paper tower for cleaning binder pages. Dry-erase ink normally wipes off as a clumping dark powder-like substance. Using facial tissue or a cloth rag often only moves the powder around. I found that a paper towel effectively captures the powder on the first wipe. Experiment to see what works best for you.
So, you say you don’t want to give dry-erase pens to your toddler. There is a nifty alternative called wipe-off crayons, sometimes called dry-erase crayons. They work well on plastic sleeves, with two caveats. First, only use dark-colored crayons to optimize the visual impact; they simply don’t compare to pen. Second, there can be a residual waxy mark or pressure imprint left on the sheet after wiping the color awayâ€”the sort of thing you see when tilting the page to look at light reflecting off the surface. The imprint is trivial, but with heavy use, several kids and years later, might become an issue.
Incidentally, a great side effect of a binder-based tracing book is that the opposing pages lay flat. I spent a good hour with half the binder on my daughter’s lap and half on mine as we sat together on our sofa. She traced the page on the right and I traced on the left. After dinner, Mom asked her if the two of them could trace together, but was curtly informed, "Mama, you can’t trace. I only trace with Papa." Ahh, bonding.