A friend and I were talking the other day about different types of workbooks you can buy to give your child practice with different skills. They have workbooks on just about any topic ranging from colors, shapes, letters, math skills, or whatever else you can possibly imagine. They have them for preschoolers. They have them for high schoolers. There are hundreds of styles and formats by numerous different publishers. Some are pretty expensive costing as much as $15-20 and others you can find at the Dollar Store. My friend was telling me how she would like to expose her son to educational activities and not just coloring books; however, she really has a hard time investing in them. She hates buying workbooks because her son doesn't know how to read and therefore it's difficult for him to understand the directions or expectations of the activity unless she is sitting right beside him. She spoke about how they seem to go through these books in hardly no time because he will "complete" five or six pages (or more) in one sitting. She also said that once he has finished a page (whether it's done correctly or not) it ends up in the trash and she feels like they are wasting so much paper because of how quickly they go through these books. No matter how you look at it, buying these workbooks can get really expensive, especially if your child enjoys completing multiple pages a day.
It was then that I realized that not everyone knew the secret I had been told a few years ago. At the time I was told, I didn't know it was a secret. In fact, I felt so silly because I thought I was the only one who hadn't heard of it before. Imagine my relief when I shared these tips with my frustrated friend.
The secret? Are you ready? Well, here it is...you get your kid to REUSE the same pages over and over again. Simple enough, right? But then, how do you do that when there is marker, crayons, and color pencil all over the page? Well friends, it's all about prepping the pages BEFORE your kid uses it the first time. Here are several tips that have helped me and hopefully they can help you too:
Round up your resources!Find any and every activity book you have and make one large pile. My grandmother found a few preschool workbooks on sale at Costco and they have tons of great activities in them. In addition, I have found partially used books at yard sales for a quarter (or less). Sometimes people are so desperate to get rid of these types of book they will just give them to you. I have friends who have older kids and they are always trying to clean out the "junk"they don't need anymore. I was given four like-new workbooks absolutely free.
Tear up your books!That's right. You heard me. Forget what your momma told you and for a brief moment, be a rebel! Any page in any of the books that you think might possibly be usable, tear it out! As you are doing this, begin to look for themes and create piles. Some of the piles I created when I sorted through our books included shapes, colors, Dot-to-Dot letter activities, Dot-to-Dot number activities, mazes, and more. I sorted every letter of the alphabet into separate piles so that when we did our Letter of the Week series I had several handwriting and practice sheets for that particular week.
As you can see in the picture below, you can end up with a ton of the same type of activity from many different books. Then, as your child goes through a stage where he or she really enjoys that particular type of activity you have an overabundance of resources to choose from.
Protect and preserve!Depending on the type of activity, you need to decide on what will be the most efficient and cost effective way to preserve that particular resource. For example, my preference is to either laminate or use sheet protectors depending on the activity. Lamination and sheet protectors both protect the original document and allow your child to complete the activity over and over again as many times as they would like by simply using a dry erase marker or a crayon! And, it's just as easy to clean up. I use a wet paper towel to wipe and then follow with a dry paper towel. Here are the pros and cons to each method I use as well as a few examples.
- Lamination- Lamination is a beter option if you are looking to make something sturdy, if you plan to use the item more than 2-3 times, or if your goal is semi-permant durability. Lamination can be cumbersome and costly. An inexpensive lamination machine can be found for $25 and the lamination pouches cost anywhere from $10 and up depending on the quantity you want and the thickness of paper. I choose to laminate worksheets that I know I will use on a fairly frequent basis, such as beginners handwriting activities. I also choose to laminate activities that are oddly shaped, because I can cut around the edges to make the activity look much nicer.
- Sheet Protectors (pocket protectors)- These are essentially a sleeve of plastic that remains open at one end, which allows you to slide any paper in and out. They are reusable and will keep your papers pristine. They are much more cost effective since you can purchase a pack of 25 for as little as $3. One minor drawback to sheet protectors is that sometimes the paper slides back and forth and what was written on the outside will not actually match up with the worksheet. Again, this is minor and if you are using it for a very short time, it will not really matter.
Think outside the box!Finally, look for things that are free or that you can get extremely cheap and use them in new or different ways. I have gotten many partially used word search or sudoku books that I use for letter or number lessons. One of Addi's favorite activities is to use a Do-A-Dot marker and find her Letter of the Week in a word search puzzle. She doesn't have to find the words that are actually hidden in the puzzle, all she knows to do at her age is to look for her special letter of the week. For her, it's great fun. And, for me...it's free fun!
Now, the last thing to consider when planning with all of this is the time it takes. Time is money right? So, you need to think through if taking apart your books, organizing, and laminating is worth it in comparison to the amount of money you would be spending on new workbooks. Everyone is different and the only right answer is to identify what works best for you. I've only just shared my opinion.