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Lap Books: A Fun Educational Activity

Updated on October 6, 2014
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Lapbooks - What are they?

A lap book is an educational tool that helps children learn. This is something children can do for a classroom project, for a homeschooling unit, or as a supplementary educational pursuit with parents. They can especially be a great way to keep kids learning in the summer during vacation time.

A lap book is a sort of booklet made with a folder or a piece of cardboard. Inside the lap book you place even smaller elements, such as miniature booklets, maps, notes, pockets with flash cards, charts and other items. The lap book would be created around a chosen topic. Each of the elements inside are designed to present bits of information about the topic and display them attractively.

Whether you've never heard of lap books, or have made dozens of them, I hope you will find the information here useful and inspiring in your next creation.

Lap Books are Great!

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Lap books are great for a number of reasons. Let us count the ways:

1. They require reading and research, but the overall goal isn't just sitting down to read and take notes. The activity is not quite as tedious as the reading and research are just part of the bigger project. This keeps the child from getting bored and distracted.

2. Lap books make learning about a subject less daunting because it breaks it into smaller pieces. Each little element within a lap book focuses on a specific concept, so children can focus on one concept at a time as they build the lap book. For example, if the lap book were about rabbits, one element might focus on identifying rodents. Another may contain information about different species. Yet another element would focus on anatomy. This helps the child digest the information in small, manageable bites.

3. Lap books are visual organizers of information. They help teach children to sort, categorize and organize information when studying a topic. This will help them later when writing lengthy papers in college.

4. Lap books are a creative and engaging way that to learn, organize and store information. Kids who like crafts or hands-on activities will benefit from the lap book process.

5. Lap books are suitable for all ages. You can require easy, basic information and use a lot of pictures for preschoolers. On the other hand, for high schoolers you can require a lot of details, notes, facts, graphic organizers and writing.

6. Lap books are suitable for all subject areas- reading, writing, math, history, language arts, science, foreign language, art, music or whatever your child may be studying. Even better, lap books can be interdisciplinary; they are an excellent project for a unit study.

7. Lap books make a great study aid and are more fun than just studying plain notes. As a child puts together a lap book-and even after putting one together-- he continuously go over and reviews his information.

8. Lap books are convenient and practical. If your child wants to tote it around to school or the library, it fits in a book bag or binder. If your child is in the middle of working on it and needs to put it away for the day, it folds up to the size of a magazine and can be set aside. When your child finishes his project, you can easily keep it in a filing cabinet or large envelope. You can't do that with a project board display!

9. The finished product is something in which your child can take a lot of pride. They are visually stimulating and quite impressive ways to compile information on a subject. Your child will be delighted to show it to teachers, fellow students or anyone who will look.

How to Fold a Simple Stand-Alone Lapbook

The most common way to make a lap book is with a file folder.

For a self-contained Lapbook, open the folder. Bring the left side inward to the half-way mark and fold. Then bring the right side in to the half-way mark and fold. The finished product has a 'double door' style cover. When you open it, you have one large, flat area and two side panels to which you can glue your elements.

You can really take this concept and fly with it. Try gluing or stapling two lap books folded as described above together to create a double lap book.

If it's still unclear, check out the how-to video below.

Look how easy it is to make that lap book...

Binder-Ready Lapbooks

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If you would like to be able to keep your lap book in a binder, this is a great way to do it.

Layer as many file folders as you want. Remember, the first file folder will give you a cover and three pages. Add another, and you have a cover and seven pages! That would be a pretty long lap book and you are unlikely to need more than that, but you can add a third folder for a whopping 11 page lap book plus cover!

Staple the folders together about an inch from the folded edge as shown above. Then punch holes for a binder between the staple and the folded edge.

As you can see below, your lap book now fits conveniently into a binder. What a great way to store them!

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Types of Elements in a Lapbook

Building Your Lapbook - Piece By Piece

There are a lot of different elements you can put into a lap book that make displaying information fun. Here are some of your options:

Mini-Books: Just as they sound, mini books are like tiny books. Several small rectangular papers are layered, folded and stapled together. What would be the 'back cover' of the book gets glued to the inside of the lap book. Then you can fill each page with details. These are good for just about any information you want to display, such as sequential ordering of a story or step-by-step instructions.

Flip Books: flip books are made of small sheets of paper or index cards that are layered. They have tabs or are staggered so you can flip to the particular page you want. They're idea for showing a series of related information. For example, if your topic is the solar system you can make a flip book that shows specific details on each of the planets.

Flap Books: A flap book is a folded piece of paper with the cover divided into strips. When you turn over one strip it reveals a piece of information below. These books are good for quick answers or correlations. For example, if the child is learning Spanish you might make a flip book and number each strip from one to ten; underneath each strip of paper write the Spanish name for the number. It's like a hide and reveal book.

Match Books: Match books are paper that are folded just like a matchbook cover. Inside, instead of matches, you find information. A matchbook is good for quick facts. For example, you might write a vocabulary word on the cover of the matchbook and write the definition on the inside.

Accordion-fold Books: Just as the name indicates, you accordion-fold a long strip of paper and glue it in the matchbook. These are great for when you're showing a series of images, or a time line, or something to that effect.

Petal folds: Petal folds are unusual ways to fold paper to display information. When fully open they look like a flower with petals, but the petals fold inward on themselves to close up in the center. These are good for organizing and listing. If you were making a lap book on the five senses, a petal book can list a sense on each petal.

Pockets: pockets are not books. They are pieces of paper folded and glued into the lap book so it is like a little pocket. They can hold even smaller cards and bits of paper. A pocket can hold flash cards, little bits of paper for a game, some small cut out images, puzzle game pieces, or even a book report folded up.

Fan: A fan is when you cut out several strips of paper the exact same size. You layer them and fasten them together on one side so they "fan out" like when you hold cards in your hand. This comes in handy for small bits of information. For example, if you were doing a lapbook on rainbows you might write the colors of the spectrum in order in a fan book.

Wheel: a wheel is just that-- it is a circular piece of paper with information printed in sections around it. You use a page fastener so that you can spin it freely when attached to the lap book. You can put another piece of paper on top of it that's stable and doesn't turn; cut a notch or a window in that paper so when you turn the wheel, it displays the relevant information. Wheels are great for anything featuring cycles, like the life cycle of a butterfly or the water cycle.

Example of a Finished Lapbook

No Limits to Lap Booking

But your own imagination...

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You can really include information in any way that you imagine. You can find free printables of blank lapbook templates by clicking this link.

Show a little love here... do you like lapbooking?

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