Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
Do your students enjoy interactive books? Do they prefer hands-on activities when learning about history and other topics? Would they feel a sense of accomplishment if they could easily show off their guided creativity to family and friends?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then lap books may be a great addition to your homeschool or classroom.
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What is a Lap Book?
A lap book is a creative way to represent many related topics in one “book” that folds open. Lap books are made from simple materials like a tabbed folder for the cover/base and cardstock for additional pages.
The inside of the lap book is filled with mini projects that are typically interactive in some form or fashion. Booklets, flaps, pop-up designs, spinners, and other movable features are just some of the highlights. Add in the attention to detail and quality artwork from a master lap book designer like Amy Pak of Home School in the Woods, and it’s little wonder that lap books are so popular.
Popular Lap Books
Lap Book Kits from Sonlight (Published by InquisiKids)
We first took the plunge into the world of lap books with the American History II Lap Book Kit from Sonlight which features project designs created by Home School in the Woods. The kit made it easy to try out a lap book since the hard work of printing and gathering materials was already done. We have since completed several of their lap book kits.
1. American History I Lap Book Kit
2. American History II Lap Book Kit
3. World History I Lap Book Kit
4. U.S. Elections Lap Book Kit
The lap book kits from Sonlight have been a great addition to our homeschool. However, buying additional kits for younger siblings has quickly become an expensive endeavor. For this reason, I’ve begun trying some of the digital lap book resources available directly from Home School in the Woods.
Lap Books from Home School in the Woods
Were it not for Sonlight’s inclusion of materials from Amy Pak of Home School in the Woods, I might have missed the discovery of this goldmine of activities that makes studying history more memorable. The following are just some of lap booking resources available directly from Home School in the Woods. We have purchased these for use in our homeschool.
Home School in the Woods names many of their lap booking projects Activity-Paks or Lap-Paks. “Pak” is purposely spelled to match their creators’ last name, and you will quickly recognize Amy Pak’s artistic style throughout.
Hands-on-History Activity-Paks (Lap Books)
Activity-Paks are best suited to accompany existing curriculum or be used for independent study.
In our homeschool, we’ve used the Make-A-State Activity-Pak for Ohio as well as The Old Testament and The New Testament Activity-Paks. Learn about all the available Activity-Paks from Home School in the Woods.
1. Make-A-State Activity-Pak (Ohio)
2. The Old Testament Activity-Pak
3. The New Testament Activity-Pak
Hands-on-History Lap-Paks (Lap Books)
Although similar to Activity-Paks, Lap-Paks offer a complete topic of study as they include a text booklet that provides historical information. Discover all the Lap-Paks available from Home School in the Woods including some for grades K-2.
I plan to incorporate the 20th Century in America Lap-Pak into our homeschool for my two middle children this year in addition to several history studies from the Time Travelers series. This will be in lieu of the American History II Lap Book Kit that our oldest son had previously used.
Although we haven’t bought the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak yet, I did use this Lap-Pak with my homeschool co-op one year and can confirm that it is nearly identical to the U.S. Elections lap book kit we had previously purchased from Sonlight. I will likely buy this Lap-Pak for my younger children to experience when we study elections in the future.
Time Travelers U.S. History Studies
The Time Travelers series from Home School in the Woods is truly an in-depth experience. I’ve only recently purchased this series to make lap booking more affordable for our family, but it is clear that the wealth and breadth of potential projects is immense. While we won’t be able to do every activity, I’m looking forward to discovering additional lap booking projects that didn’t make it into the kits from Sonlight.
For our second time through American History II, we will use the following Time Travelers resources: The Civil War, The Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression, and World War II. In addition to these, we’ll also complete the 20th Century in America Lap-Pak.
General Lap Book Supplies
While every lap book is different, you’ll find that many require the same subset of supplies with a few extra odds and ends here and there. These supplies do add to the cost of creating lap books, so factor that in when deciding if lap books are right for you. If you purchase a lap book kit, most consumable items are provided.
- packing tape (to attach lap book pages to base)
- glue sticks (preferred to liquid tape to avoid ripples when working with paper)
- permanent double-sided sticky tape (I prefer 1/2-inch width as 3/4-inch is often too wide)
- transparent tape
- liquid glue (used sparingly, usually for attaching objects other than paper)
- craft knife (for detailed cutting)
- single-hole punch
- paper cutter (optional but may speed up cutting straight borders; I usually still use scissors)
- colored pencils (we’re trying out these erasable colored pencils)
- pens (these erasable pens are a family favorite)
- permanent markers (as needed for writing on Dura-Lar/acetate sheets)
- Dura-Lar/acetate sheets (as needed for some projects)
- sheet protectors (not required for the lap book itself but great for organizing projects before and after completion)
- cost-effective printers (A black and white printer will suffice for most projects, but you may need a color printer now and again.)
Tips for Preparing a Lap Book
Whether you buy a pre-made lap book kit or print everything yourself, I highly recommend preparing your lap book materials ahead of time.
Use sheet protectors to organize the materials.
I’ve found that sheet protectors are a great way to sort the materials for so many activities. They are easy to add to a three-ring binder or stack in the boxes that come with lap book kits. I also store completed activities in sheet protectors until I’m ready to add them to a lap book.
Complete tedious tasks in advance.
Lap books are designed for a wide range of ages and abilities. Some activities require intricate cutting with a craft knife. Others need to be measured accurately and cut neatly. As the teacher, you can determine just how much help to give your students. I like to complete these specialized tasks ahead of time so that my children aren’t waiting on me when they are working on an activity.
For younger children, you may choose to do much more of the cutting for them. My children have had plenty of practice with scissors over the years, but projects with lots of cutting can quickly become tiresome. I’d rather they enjoy the content of the project than lose their focus with secondary tasks. As my children mature in their abilities, they can take on more.
Lap Book Kits Vs. Digital Downloads
When it comes to lap books, both open-and-go kits and digital downloads have their pros and cons. The three main factors to consider are content, cost, and ease of preparation.
Perhaps the most important consideration belongs to the content of the lap book. The initial format of the lap book, whether physical or digital, is only an option to be weighed if the content meets your quality standards and fits your budget.
Lap books sold as digital downloads have a cheaper point-of-sale cost. However, the cost of materials adds to this price. If you plan to use the same lap book for multiple students, then the digital download may be most cost effective.
Ease of Preparation
Lap book kits simplify preparation. Everything has been preprinted on the correct color and type of paper. Most supplies come with the kit, so there are few if any additional costs.
Trade-offs: Time and Money
Buying a lap book via digital download is often cheaper, particularly when making multiple copies of the lap book. Having the digital files also makes it easy to reprint a page if a mistake occurs. However, the digital nature of these lap books requires more upfront work between gathering materials and printing the projects.
Lap book kits can be more expensive, especially if kits are repurchased for multiple students. Mistakes can also be more costly as pages cannot be reprinted. However, these kits greatly reduce the work required to gather and prepare the lap book materials.
Lap books are an extraordinary learning tool. Although they require time and effort to complete, the result is a project worth revisiting time and again. If you have any further questions about the lap books we use in our homeschool, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you and help provide answers.