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.

Photo of a tracing page with its top 1 inch cut off.

A tracing page sliced to fit into a reusable plastic sleeve. Read a review of this tracing book.

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.

Wipe-off Crayons

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 away—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.


9 Responses to “Part 2: How to Make a Reusable Tracing Book for Toddlers”

  1. Robin says:

    I am a teacher and we always use odd kids’ socks as erasers–they work great and wash out too. You can also buy low-odor/no-odor dry erase markers for kids–when you have 20 kids writing on their mini-whiteboards, the fumes from a regular dry erase marker are very strong!

    April 2nd, 2007 at 9:52 am

  2. Bethany says:

    AJ, I thought this was such a great idea, I had to try it immediately. I bought a Kumon workbook (the First Book of Tracing) at Target, along with a binder, clear protective sheets, and dry-erase markers. It took my husband and I about 20 minutes total to tear all the pages out, cut them to the required size using our paper cutter (an old-school one bought at a garage sale for $1 years ago), slide them into the protective sheets, and assemble them in the binder. We gave it, along with the markers, to our almost 3-year-old in her Easter basket, and she loves it. Thanks for the idea!

    April 9th, 2007 at 10:38 pm

  3. AJ says:

    Thank you Bethany. It’s comments like yours that make my day.

    April 10th, 2007 at 2:28 pm

  4. Dawn says:

    I have been looking online for days, finding things for my daughter to do while we go on a very long (13hrs straight) trip to San Francisco. These tracing ideas are perfect and I am putting them in a 3 ring binder along with other projects that will hopefully keep her happy for most of the trip. Thanks

    May 2nd, 2007 at 3:11 pm

  5. Elizabeth Z says:

    If you have access to A4 sized page protectors (in the Bay Area, Daiso sells 40-pocket books of them, which will hold a whole Kumon book, for $1.50) you don’t even need to do any trimming. The Kumon books are standard A4.

    November 9th, 2007 at 2:50 pm

  6. Roslyn says:

    This is such a wonderful idea. After reading about your comments on dry erase crayons, I started to wonder whether we have anything like that here in Australia. Just thought others might be interested to know that the “Crayola Beginnings” washable crayons I’d already bought my daughter wipe off beautifully with a tissue – I just tried.

    March 3rd, 2008 at 7:09 pm

  7. Kristy says:

    As an occupational therapist, I’d recommend using the wipe off or washable crayons as you have to put more input and your child will get more feedback into their muscles. I find that the name brand washable crayons tend to work well although you have to use a little water to get the crayon off. Watch how your child is holding the markers too, make sure they are using 3 or 4 fingers not a fist. Use 1/2 of a fat crayon if they can’t remember how to hold the marker correctly. Thanks for the tip on how to make the books!

    July 27th, 2008 at 11:53 pm

  8. LCV says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful idea. I’ve been thinking of ways to introduce an educational program for my daughter when she turns 2. Most “nursery schools” are just day-cares that let them freeplay all day. So we have found some home-schooling curriculms and some worksbooks that are age-appropiate. Now with you idea, I don’t have to buy ink every couple of days. We can wipe and reuse. Also, the kumon books are a great tool. Thanks again.

    March 28th, 2010 at 11:33 am

  9. anjii says:

    I’ve done the same thing with the single-use books, but I use this awesome tool instead… just pop in any page you want, and swap it for another when you’re done.

    March 29th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

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