Quick n' Dirty Tracing Book from Dollar Store Photo Album

Today's DIY: Make a tracing book for your pre-schooler using a dollar store photo album.

Let me be sure to state right up front that this idea is Not Original. I don't remember exactly where I came across it first - Pinterest, I am sure! - but it's out there.
For instance, here's a Mommy who did it Much better than I did.  Of course, it also took her a lot longer. She had to create, resize, and print the letters, cut them out and mount them on card stock.
I did something similar for my 4 1/2 year old son, but I went even a step further and laminated the cards and hung them on a ring.  The project must have taken me at least 2 hours and consumed several rather expensive laminating sleeves.  Guess what: it is like pulling teeth to get him to use it!
My son's beautiful, laminated tracing cards. That he mostly won't touch!

Admittedly the kid can be a mite contrary at times (and sometimes the rain is wet, too!) He seems to sense a learning activity 3 miles off and dig in his heels at the slightest hint.
Needless to say, we're going to have to work on this tendency if the whole homeschooling thing is going to work! But whatever the reason, my project violated my favorite DIY maxim:


A good homemade toy is one your kid plays with. 
A great homemade toy is one your kid plays with longer than it took you to make it

Anyway, this morning I was in a bit of a hurry, but I wanted an activity for his (far more compliant) 3 year old sister while I put the baby down for her nap, so I put together a quick n' dirty tracing book.

If you'd like to make your own,
You will need: 

  • 4x6 photo album from Dollar Tree or similar. (Try to find one that will open and lie relatively flat) 
  • Copy paper or 3x5 index cards
  • Sharpies
  • Scissors
  • Fine or medium line dry-erase marker

Here's How I Did It: 

1) Cut a stack of roughly 4x6 rectangles from my copy paper. (Actually, since I am a measure-once cut-three-times sort of girl, they were much larger than 4x6 at first. You get the picture!)

2) Using Sharpies, drew a series of tracing activities on the paper.

  • One page was devoted to straight horizontal lines
  • Another was devoted to straight vertical lines, and another for diagonal ones. Finally, I added some circles. 
  • To aid in both learning to follow directions and form letters properly, I added green dots at the beginning of each line and red at the end. 
  • Having run out of lines, I devoted 5 more pages to the letters of her name, which we've been working on recognizing the last couple of weeks. I also added the red and green dots here. 


Note: I got my tracing ideas from ABC Jesus Loves Me, a wonderful site with a wonderful free pre-school curriculum that I am not using because I am simply Not That Organized right now. (And also, the whole contrary thing!) Anyway, I have full pages of her tracing activities printed out and laminated, but they're getting grungy and bent, plus they're hidden somewhere in my stuff... this was both faster and more portable for our afternoon trip.

3) Put the pages in the book and handed it to her with a dry erase marker. Approximately three minutes of instruction and pencil grip reminders, and I was upstairs with the baby!

Seriously, the whole project took me 20 minutes, maybe less. I've recouped double my time investment in a single day!

If sufficiently motivated I will add more things to trace - perhaps a whole alphabet, maybe even printed.  Or maybe not: she loves simply coloring, and if some of the marker ends up on the less-erasable plastic between the page protectors, who cares? It cost $1 and took 20 minutes!
I do love the idea of being able to almost instantly customize what she has to work on.
I expect to be using this idea when it comes time for her brother to work on his numerals and lower case numbers too.

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