I’ve always been a visual person. I’ve been an artist since I could hold a crayon and knew from a very young age that I would become an illustrator and graphic designer. All of my kids, although possessing various learning styles, have also been visual. In fact, while approximately 65-83% of learners tend to be visual, most learning styles utilize that very aspect as well. That said, there are certain resources I’ve come across in our nearly two decades of schooling our kids that cater to that need—and lap books are one of them! However, as we used more lap books in our studies, I discovered a few other gems about what else lap books teach… so, what’s the big deal about lap books?
What’s The Big Deal About Lap Books
What Exactly Is a “Lap Book”?
You may have heard of the term ‘lap book’ ( or ‘lapbook’), or perhaps you have even made one yourself! But if this is a new concept to you, let me explain just what it is. A lap book is a file folder that has been folded in another way, generally opening from the center and creating three panels. You can leave it at that or add in pages or flaps of various sizes to create a display of sorts.
The pages and panels are designed to hold various paper projects that contain brief bits of information, supporting an overall topic from any subject you are learning about. For example, you might be learning about insects in science and create a lap book that has projects showing the anatomy of an insect, classifications, eating habits, life cycles, how they communicate, vocabulary, and their home environments, just to name a few. Or, you could create one for the history of the Civil War era, and projects could include antebellum, famous leaders, a comparison of Union and Confederate soldiers, weaponry, battles, Appomattox, Abraham Lincoln, and the Reconstruction Era. You can do the same with art and music, inventors and their inventions, Biblical studies, health topics, even as a collection of books you’ve been reading—the list goes on.
By adhering each project into the lap book, your end result is what I liken to “an amusement park in a portfolio”!
The Lap Book Projects…
Most lap book projects are quite simple, such as a few flaps or a mini-booklet. Often that’s all you need! For insect anatomy, it might just be a three-flap booklet that shows the head, abdomen, and thorax. Each flap would lift with a description of the specific body part inside. Or, you could have a tall, thin row of flaps with vocabulary words on the outside and the definitions on the inside.
There are also projects that step it up a bit, creating unique folds such as a matchbook, brochure-style, “pie-book,” or a mini-booklet with multiple pages. The folds remind me a bit of making simplified origami paper folds. Things really can get fun, however, when you start incorporating action and interaction! This includes pop-ups, sliding panels, and wheels that turn.
By adding pockets, you can include projects that may need to be removed to view, or a place to collect several projects in one spot to save on room. A pocket could contain cards of inventors with a brief biography on the back or a list of their inventions. It could hold maps, a newspaper, or anything that can be made to lie flat. …and that is what ALL the projects need to do—lie flat! As long as it can do that, it can be included.
Projects can also be embellished with tangible items, like glitter glued to the gold capstone of a pyramid or spices adhered to a chart for a study of explorers. Other items might be cotton, string, ribbon, or yarn, fabric, sequins, acetate—even dirt or sand! I’ve actually used a thick coating of glue as a texture in various lap book projects. By adding in unique elements with some of the projects, you create an interesting piece of art to convey the sub-topic. It’s engaging to look at, interactive to participate with, and provides texture or movement.
Here Come the Bonus Lessons!
Lap book projects also provide lessons in particular skills that the child may not realize he is getting, but will definitely be able to use in his future!
With such a small place for information, a child is forced to accumulate information and pare it down to the nuts and bolts he is trying to convey. I’ve always said, it’s easy to puff up a piece with fluffery, but to whittle down the details to concise information—now, that is a skill in communication! This can be done with a definition, a brief paragraph, or a bulleted list.
By having the information brief, the child also isn’t overwhelmed with the aspect of a lot of writing. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t need the same amount of research or thought; it just means it’s not going to result in a lengthy research report or essay—a win in most children’s minds!
It also means that the information will be much easier for the child to remember! When there is a lot of extra verbiage, the main ideas can get lost. A concise list or succinct paragraph is much easier to recall again in the future.
Another benefit of paper activities such as this is that she will learn communication techniques through assembly. This isn’t always just cutting and pasting; some project folds and designs stretch the mind with how they are engineered. A child will have to think out of the box a bit to put together a turning wheel or a sliding bar. Even pop-ups can be simple or intricate, depending on how they are being used or what they include. Any child with an artistic bent or an eye on marketing or graphics in their future will develop an eye for design earlier in life, and will have practiced the skills to accomplish various forms of display.
Are My Kids Too Young or Old to Make a Lap Book?
Lap book projects can be tricky for little hands to manage, but as long as they can cut on a line, you can begin with them as early as you see fit. Simple projects can still carry quite an impact! And it doesn’t take many projects to fill a lap book if you do not add pages and just keep it to the basic folder. As the child grows and matures with his motor skills, the projects can become more complex.
As for older students, you can never grow too old! We’ve had adult Bible-study classes create our Old and New Testament lap books! In fact, when one of my sons was in college, he had to create a project showing his family tree. He kept it simple, using just a matchbook fold for each of the ancestors. He adhered a sepia-toned picture of each of them to each cover and wrote the required information on the inside. The matchbooks cascaded down the inside of the file folder, showing the lineage. When the projects were handed back, the professor hung on to Sam’s to show the class at the end, saying, “Now, THIS is how you get creative with a display! …and you, sir, get an A!”
A Final Thought…
You can choose to fill the lap book with your projects as you go, or collect them in a large zippered plastic bag and assemble the lap book when you are done. There is no right or wrong way! Just have a game plan on placement before you assemble to avoid issues of fit.
Lap books do require a bit of printing and sometimes unique supplies, but it is so worth it in the long run! When it comes to storing lap books, there are a couple of ways, such as an oversize poly envelope with a hook-and-loop closure. They also fit nicely in hanging files or in cardboard magazine holders.
I’ve found that most children are quite proud of their lap books when they are done, and will return to them to leaf through and view at future times. What they also may not realize is that by doing this, they are reminding themselves of the information they had learned before… Not always something children do with a workbook! One thing is for certain; lap books often become a special keepsake of memories of their school life. You may have a hard time deciding who gets to keep them—your child or yourself!
Amy Pak is an 18-year homeschool veteran to four and a “Maimy” to seven grandkids. She is also the co-owner, illustrator, and co-author at Home School in the Woods, a family-run history company known for its historical timeline figures and hands-on history studies. You can read more of Amy’s writing on her company’s blog.
Be sure to check out The Eclectic Method of Homeschooling