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DIY “Books” or Cards

My toddler (“J”) loves looking at pictures in books, magazines, catalogs, and anything else he can get his hands on.  He particularly enjoys pictures of his favorite things (like electric drills, kitchen mixers, blenders, and trucks).

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The other day, he made a grab for the Crate & Barrel catalog and found a picture of a mixer, which has been his most recent obsession after seeing me use it to make cookies and muffins.  He also found a picture of a blender, a slow cooker, and a toaster.

“J” would flip through the magazine in search of his favorite pictures, always wanting to close it for some reason and then open it again and find them.  Of course, it was difficult for his little fingers to turn the very thin pages, and the magazine was not holding up well to a lot of handling.  When “J” nearly had a tantrum because he was having trouble turning to the picture of the mixer, I decided it was time to take the mixer out of the magazine.

And so, the “trading cards” were born.  They are sort of half books, half trading cards.  My husband says they are like toddler baseball cards and that it would be funny if toddlers carried these around with pictures of their favorite equipment and traded with their friends.  That sounds pretty awesome to me, so get your toddler on board with us!

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Materials:
Old magazines or catalogs with pictures of things your toddler recognizes and likes
Scissors
Cardboard remnants (I cut up an old box)
Mod Podge or other decoupage glue
Scrapbook paper, construction paper, or other colorful paper (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Choose the pictures you plan to use and cut them out in the shapes you like.  You can cut closely around the objects if you want or can cut out squares or circles leaving some border around your object.  What works best depends a lot on the type of picture you have.  I tried to cut mine so that none of the advertising text was visible.
  2. Cut cardboard pieces so that they are the size you want.  They should be big enough for at least one picture on each side, but you could also make them larger if you want to put more pictures on each page or if you just want a lot of “white space” around them.
  3. (Optional:  Cut scrapbook or construction paper to the size of the cardboard pieces.  This will be the background for your pictures.)
  4. Using Mod Podge or other decoupage glue, adhere the paper to the cardboard and then adhere the picture(s) on top.  I like to use decoupage glue because you can put it over the top of the pictures to seal them so that it won’t be easy for little fingers to pick at the edges and pull them off.  It also helps firm up the card/page a little and make it sturdier.
  5. Let the glue dry.  If you are making two-sided cards/pages, it’s a good idea to do one side at a time and find a place where you can dry them in between gluing.

All done!  “J” loves these cards and carries them around with him when we go places in the car.  It’s much easier for him than flipping through the magazine, and it’s fun for him to flip them over and even use them as toys (putting them in and out of his toy trucks, building little tunnels with them, etc.).  I’m planning to do more of this in the future with different types of pictures.

Other Ideas:

  • Use markers to write the names of the objects on each card, giving your child increased familiarity with seeing the written word.
  • Cut up the cards, and use them as puzzles.  (Note: It’s difficult to cut these after finishing them.  I recommend cutting before gluing or using an X-Acto-type knife afterwards.)
  • Make a bunch of cards and use them for playing games like “Go Fish!” or matching.
  • Hang the cards on the wall as decorations.  You could use clothes pins and maybe boards nailed to the wall or yarn hung on the wall (as long as you make sure it’s not a strangulation hazard).  Your child could play with the cards and the clothes pins and enjoy putting them up and taking them down again.
  • If you have an older child, you could do this project together.  It’s very simple and safe, as long as you closely supervise the cutting.  I recommend that an adult be the one to cut the cardboard, since it is tough to cut and will require a sharper knife.
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The Library

Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives that we forget the simplest, cheapest, and funnest places to take our children.  One of those is the library.

“J” and I go to circle time at our local library almost every week, but we rarely think to go on other days and just explore the space.  We went a few times when he was smaller, and he spent the whole time clinging to me and/or pulling every book in the children’s department off the shelf and throwing it on the floor.

We are fortunate enough to live in an area rich in libraries, so we don’t have to travel far to find a variety of different choices.  I love our local library, but it’s not set up as play-friendly as some of the others nearby.  I’ve discovered that some have whole play areas with toys (baby dolls, trucks and cars, the proverbial wood block with beads on it, etc.), as well as comfortable seats for little ones and accessible board books so that they toddlers won’t pull down so many of the other books.  It’s actually pretty amazing.

Today we ventured to a nearby library that had a nice but not outstanding play area.  Nonetheless, J had a fantastic time, and it was all for free!  There were several other kids near his age who showed up, and they all played together quite well.  There were some plastic magnetic letters they all seemed to enjoy, as well as bins to put them in and a magnetic board that happened to have a fun “pass-through inside it” (well, a pass-through only large enough for a child under 2!).  J also really loves books right now and enjoyed having me read him a few.  It was nice to get a little change of pace from the same few favorites he has at home.

Libraries are pretty amazing places.  They have so much to offer, especially for children, and they are designed specifically to build literacy and help your child become a lifelong reader and learner.  And they are free!  You can’t get much better than that.