How to Plan a Lapbook

A Step by Step Guide

Once you understand the basics of lapbooking, you can easily plan your own lapbook to match whatever topic you are studying. You don't need to buy a kit, so you save money. And you can custom design the lapbook to reflect your children's interests and educational needs. So grab a pad and a pen (or print my lapbook planner page), and let's start planning.

Step One -- The Topic

What will your lapbook be about? You can choose any topic under the sun!

Some moms use lapbooking to motivate a reluctant learner. For example, if your child loves animals, a horse or cat lapbook may really delight her. If your child is a fantasy fan, a lapbook on Narnia may be a winner.

Or maybe you want to choose one of the academic topics you're already studying. Don't look at lapbooking as adding something new or in addition to an already overloaded schedule. Consider lapbooking the way you will learn the topics you've already planned to study.

Step 2 -- List Sub-Topics

Once you've chosen an overall topic, break it down into the smaller chunks of information. These chunks or subtopics can be thought of as a day's lesson. List all of these on paper or use my lapbook planner page (linked above). Be sure to list your reference material whether it be a book, a website, or a video.

At this step, you're simply choosing what to study about your topic.

Personally, I find that having a book serve as the basis of my study to be invaluable. I simple look through that main book, listing the main ideas that I want to be sure to cover.

How many chunks of information do you need? Well, each topic is different. It could be from eight to twenty! Don't worry if it seems too few. As you study, your children may ask questions you hadn't thought of which may lead to new subtopics.

By All Means, Plan.

But hold loosely to your plan.

Be willing to explore teachable moments and go on tangents with your children.

Step Two -- Select Minibooks

The next step is where it gets fun! Take your list of subtopics/chunks of information, and consider what type of minibook would best fit the information.

Pencil in one or two minibook options on your list, beside each idea. (My lapbook planner has a space for this.)

There are lots of mini-books --a layered book, a circle book, a jigsaw book, a trifold, on and on. And you can get creative if you'd like! Create your own original folds or styles.

Some things lend themselves to certain types of folds. Lists work well in top tab books, life cycles are suited to wheel books, and timelines are perfect in accordion books, for example. But don't get bogged down in choosing the "perfect minibook" for this chunk of information. Generally any minibook will work for whatever type of information you want to record.

Now that you have a general plan, you do one of two things.

1. You can fine tune your plan by selecting exactly which minibook style to use for each chunk of information. Just aim for a variety of minibooks to give your lapbook more visual appeal. Try not to use a minibook style more than twice in one lapbook.

2. Or if you prefer to give your children more ownership in the process, give them options each day for the minibook style.

By the way, I don't plan the layout of the lapbook -- the actual placement of each minibook in the filefolder base. But you can if you want. That will lead to considerations of minibook size. Instead, I prefer to add more extensions to our lapbook if our books are too large or too many to fit on the base.

Minibook Guide

When you start lapbooking, you need some sort of list of the minibooks. You can use my Minibook Gallery as a reference, but you'll probably need something printed out as you plan.

You can make your own list to reference. But one problem with that is that it's easy to forget the names of the books. A solution is to create a reference lapbook with a blank template of each type. Label each book with the name you prefer to use for it. Then when you plan, you can visually see the various options.

If you would prefer, you can just put the labeled mini-book templates into a ziplock bag. As you learn to make more mini-books, your reference kit can grow.

TIP: Snip off one bottom corner so that your bag will not fill with air and be puffy. The hole allows the air to escape so your zip bag will lie flat.

Here are more helps for making a Minibook Guide.

Lapbook Planning Dos and Don'ts

  • don't overplan in too much detail.
  • if you know that you tend to overplan and simply can't resist, then allow yourself freedom NOT to complete a few of the minibooks you've planned. (no guilt allowed!)
  • be prepared to revamp your plan partway through the process as you discover your children's particular fascinations.
  • be willing to explore tangents and bunny trails -- that's where some real learning can happen!
  • allow the children to take ownership; don't require perfection; let them do it their way.

Other Planning Helps for Lapbooks and Unit Studies

Want to hear it said a different way? Visit some of these links about lapbook and unit study planning.

More by this Author


Guestbook 29 comments

evelynsaenz1 profile image

evelynsaenz1 8 years ago from Royalton

Lapbooks are a wonderful way to organize your homeschooling unit studies when you want to share your learning with friends and family.

Thank you for more insight into the Lapbook Process.


LilliputStation profile image

LilliputStation 8 years ago

Jimmie, don't forget to add this to the Notebook and Lapbook Group! Great info.


SoniaC 8 years ago

Jimmie...

Great ideas. You've done a great job making the planning process less "scary." :-) ha ha I always love your pages.


eclecticeducati1 profile image

eclecticeducati1 8 years ago

This is great Jimmie!


eclecticeducati1 profile image

eclecticeducati1 8 years ago

This is great Jimmie!


anonymous 8 years ago

Thank you so much for this guide! This simplifies it for me, and I need all the help I can get as I figure out what the heck I'm doing!


anonymous 8 years ago

Thank you so much for doing this! What a valuable resource!! I have linked to it on my blog and will refer to it again and again.


MarniR 8 years ago

lots of good information, but I never did find the temples and directions as indicated under the topic "Reference Lapbook to Show the Various Minibooks "


jimmielanley profile image

jimmielanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA Author

Hey, Marni! Thanks for commenting. Maybe my intro to that section was misleading. I simply meant that when this mom made her reference lapbook, she included templates and directions for herself. She did not make them available for others online at Flickr. Those are just photos of her work.


anonymous 8 years ago

THANKYOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


anonymous 7 years ago

Hey if anyone has a chance and can email me, I was wondering how you keep you lapbooks closed when you are done creating. I am a teacher and just love doing these with my class, I did not know this was something that was a big thing in the homeschooling world, I just started doing them on my own and I have never mastered keeping them closed. I loved the magnet idea in the video, but I cannot tell how it was done. Please explain if possible via email. cynthia.jackson@mapleschools.com. Thank you!!


anonymous 7 years ago

Hi, Jimmie! Just wanted to say "Thanks!" for the great, valuable info on lapbooking! To show my appreciation, just wanted to let you know that this link (http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/CindyRushton/3776... is dead. I'm sure you can update the link so others can also benefit from your sharing! Thanks again! =)


jimmielanley profile image

jimmielanley 7 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA Author

[in reply to The Homeschool Nanay]

Thank you so very much for pointing that out! I've replaced that link with a PDF ebook Cindy Rushton offers for free! It's even better than the previous link.


anonymous 7 years ago

My 9yo daughter is starting her first lapbook (on cats - a favorite subject). I was able to download a variety of templates for the minibooks, but I haven't been able to locate ideas in how to 'fold the folder(s)'. I would appreciate any info on a source for this. Thanks!


jimmielanley profile image

jimmielanley 7 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA Author

[in reply to Kimmer] Kimmer, look here at the original lapbooking lens. This will help you.


anonymous 7 years ago

i was wondering what type of colored paper can go into a computer printer. or whenusing colored paper, do you sometimes just write and not worry about typing?

also, where to go to get good free clipart.. i have found a few good places

thanks so much for all the info already on your website! i am new to this and can't wait to get proficient in it.

my kids are artsy and my son (5 1/2) came up with an idea to put a stem on my daughter's petal book for part of her cinderella lapbook. he even got the green paper out for her! she is 4yr.


Summerm 7 years ago

Thanks so much for this! We're going to try lapbooking today, so I've got this bookmarked. :)


anonymous 6 years ago

I have been teaching for 26 years and I simply LOVE the idea of lapbooking!!! I am so glad that I found the websites on lapbooking! I look forward to learning more.


Airinka profile image

Airinka 6 years ago

:))) We made such lapbooks at university for tests!


MayaVirtual profile image

MayaVirtual 6 years ago

this is Brilliant and so helpful :) thanks for sharing those Info. LOVE it!


anonymous 6 years ago

Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this. I am so grateful that people like you go to such lengths to help when you're unlikely to hear from most of the people that benefit from your time and effort. I can't tell you how helpful this was to me! Thanks!!


julieannbrady 6 years ago

Ah, you are the queen of lapbooks! Have you organized all these helpful guides in an ebook yet? Hugs. And, Merry Christmas my dear.


anonymous 5 years ago

Thank you so much for this site!

My son just told me that he thinks homeschool is boring so I went in search of a way to make it more exciting. Your site has given me the jolt of energy I needed!


ecogranny profile image

ecogranny 5 years ago from San Francisco

We're always looking for ways to be prepared when our inquisitive grandchildren visit. Having a few of these lapbooks on hand could be just the ticket when we need to be in the kitchen preparing lunch for the little ones. Thanks for the cool ideas.


anonymous 5 years ago

I cannot wait to try these in the classroom!!!!


franstan lm profile image

franstan lm 5 years ago

This is such a great idea


RobinDM 4 years ago

Thanks for the great advice!


WordChipper profile image

WordChipper 3 years ago

I'll have to try this on a rainy day with my girls.


LouisaDembul profile image

LouisaDembul 3 years ago

I will do it with my children!

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