Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How I Put Together Tot Packs and Preschool Packs

I spend hours and hours researching and creating the best lesson plans possible for my children.  This year I have been encouraged to spend many more hours writing those lesson plans down and creating preschool and tot packs to share.  The August packs (coming soon, like maybe tomorrow...) will be a free download for one week.  After the week expires, all packs will have a small fee.  I'm talking super small - like $2 per month of packs.  Each month will have 8 Preschool Packs or 4 Tot Packs.  They will also be available individually for $1 each.  You can download everything at

Before you get your hands dirty diving into curriculum I wanted to give a little tutorial on how I put my packs together to use at our house.  You can feel free to copy me, or do things in a manner that works for you.

These materials are intended for a small preschool classroom, but can easily be tailored to homeschooling families with just one or two kids.  They could also be used in a playgroup setting of homeschooling preschoolers or toddlers. 

I like to print all the pages of my packs, cut and laminate as needed, and bind them into books with a comb binder.  I use a lot of Velcro to attach the loose pieces into the book.  This way I have most of what I need in a handy packet.  To see pictures of a bound pack, go {here} and scroll down to the photographs.

To find a list of materials and resources that I use in my home, go {here}.  Please do not be afraid when you see this list :) Materials accumulate over time.

Now, on to How I Put Together Tot Packs and Preschool Packs, A Tutorial

Step 1: Print all the pages in the pack.  I don't print the very first page.  You can choose to print the pages you'll use.

Step 2: Divide pages into to categories: pages to cut, pages not to cut.

Step 3: Grab a stack of laminating pouches.
 Step 4: Slide the first pages into the laminating pouch.
Step 4 Note: Pages that are not cut get placed in the laminating sheet back to back, make sure your pages are in order though.  If you are uncertain of the order, check the "Printables in this Pack" portion of the lesson plans.
 Step 4 Note: It is very difficult to see, but I put the pages in the laminating pouch slid all the way to the top and closer to the right side of the pouch.  Make sure the right side still has 1/4 inch of lamination around the outside of the pages though.  I do this because the binding machine cuts into the left hand side. (Just as a side note, the product used for this tutorial is a fantastic free download about teaching manners by Kathleen Pedersen.  Find the free download here.)
 Step 5: Grab your trusty thermal laminator. Turn the laminator on to medium heat or the 3mil setting.  Once it's hot...
 Step 6: ...Insert lamination packs into the feed end of the laminator, sealed end first.  Make sure you put them in straight or else the edges will get crinkled and ruined.
 Step 7: Let the laminator pull the paper through by itself.
 Step 8: Make sure the laminator is in a place where the lamination can come out and lay flat while it cools down.
 Step 9: Cut all pages that needed to be cut before laminating.  I cut, laminate, and cut again so that when kids put things in their mouths or when I wash off the wet erase marker the inside paper doesn't get ruined by the moisture.  It has a laminated seal around all edges.  Some items need to be cut out like playing cards.  Other items need to be cut around the picture.  When cutting around a picture I aim for leaving 1/8-1/4 inch of white around the object.
Step 10: Once the pieces are cut, put them inside laminating sheets.  Cut pieces don't go back to back unless specified.  Make sure to leave enough space between items that you can cut each item out with about a 1/4 inch of lamination around it.  Laminate, just like above.
 Note: When picking up sheets to laminate they tend to stick together.  Rub the top edge and separate it from any extra lamination sheets.
 Step 11: Grab your handy dandy comb binding machine.
 Step 12: Grab 1/2 inch binding combs and put it on the binding machine.
 Step 13: Organize your laminated full sheets of paper into the order you would like them.
 Step 14: Slide 2 laminated pouches in at a time (left hand side of the book goes in, face down).  Press them firmly against the back of the machine, there is very little room for error if the pages aren't touching the back.
 Step 15: Pull down the binding machine lever to cut the pages.
 Note: The binder will only cut the small rectangular holes in the lamination if you put the papers inside closer to the right side of the pouch.  This is ideal because the paper inside still maintains a seal around the perimeter.
 Step 16: Thread the pages onto the comb.  Repeat until all pages of the book are threaded on.
 Step 17: Your book is now bound, remove it from the binding machine.
 Step 18: Cut out all the pieces that go inside the book, being certain to leave 1/4 inch of lamination around all edges. Pages that don't go into the book can go in a plastic bag.  There will be some mini books.  Just hole punch the top left corner and bind them into books with binder rings.
 Step 19: Attach Velcro dots (or cut Velcro strips) to the book.  I like to stay consistent and put the hook side of Velcro (rough side) on the pages and the loop side of Velcro (soft side) on the pieces. I put the Velcro on the book first and then pull of the backing, exposing the sticky side of the loop Velcro.  Then I line the pieces up and press them down onto the paper.  That way the Velcro lines up when kids match the picture.
 Step 20: Pages like the "Stop and Go Dancing" page have pieces that I like to attach craft sticks to.  I simply attach the Velcro at the top of the picture so that the craft stick can be attached and left in the book.
 Step 21: Grab a pack of wet erase markers to color and write on the pack.  Wet erase cleans off easily with a damp rag or baby wipe.  Dry erase works too, but it doesn't wipe off as cleanly and will stain your lamination.
 Step 22: Drop the packs and extra pieces into a hanging file labeled with the month or theme.  I also like to store books that I own that go along with the theme in the folders as well.
All done!
You certainly don't have to do all this work, but if you intend to use them for multiple years with multiple children I'd highly suggest it.

Watch for the release of all the August packs in the next day or two and get ready to start having fun!

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