Monday, 4 July 2016

Diy dry erase book - travelling with kids part 2

Time for another thing that is handy when travelling with kids, dry erase book! There are some to be bought of course but the selection in here isn't that great and the idea of the few available is quite educational. Not that it only matters, the kids usually like those kind of things but the books I found were the kind where the kids need someone to read the tasks and explain them. Something that doesn't work very well for kids on the backseat of the car. Also, it would be great to use the activity books we already have and select the pages the kids like. Then things got a little bit out of hand and this turned out.

I tried to explain to everyone that making something like this is pretty normal thing to do before going for a car trip, nothing weird in it, right?

In case you are wondering the same thing... I did it because:

  • usual paper activity books can't be opened properly by kids without normal table, they won't stay open
  • paper activity books don't have hard covers, something that would be needed especially when there is no table
  • once a maze is done, it is done, no re-doing it even though the kids would like to solve them again
  • markers aren't great to use in the car as there are always caps missing and chalks or wooden colours are too light if you can't press them enough, again you need table for this
  • chalks or wooden colours can't be erased, something very important in the car as there are pumps and turns in the road making drawing more difficult
So I needed an activity book that is A5 (approximately), opens easily, has hard covers, activities can be done again and again, uses markers that don't lose their caps and can be erased easily. After a brainstorm and surfing in the Pinterest I thought I had everything covered. Of course, it should be something that I could make out of the materials I had on hand, great project for upcycling!

I knew the principles; use some plastic pockets and marker that can be erased easily. Plastic pockets I knew I could get anywhere, the ones used in folders would work just fine but the marker? There are no actual dry erase markers sold in Finland. The ones sold are made to be used with their own brand of books and might get messy working with other surfaces. Thank you for the great tips by a group of crafters in Facebook! Someone actually tried those dry erase markers on other surfaces so I knew if they would work or not! I found some on eBay (of course) but didn't have time to order them there. The tips included water soluble overhead projector and white board markers. I though white board markers would be too thick for this purpose so I decided on overhead projector markers. But... there are hardly any overhead projectors nowadays so there was nothing under that name. So, if you are looking for the markers I used, look for cd/dvd markers, they are the same, just under different name.

So I had the pens for my dry erase book but then I had another problem. The folder pockets were only A4's and I needed A5. A4 is way too big for the kids to use in the car. I could have cut them half but then the book would have been positioned wrong as the A5 activity pages I have are all vertical. I also wanted the book to open horizontally rather than vertically, again the problem with small space. It would have been frustrating for the kids to use something that they have to twist and turn to turn a page. A5 and vertical pages to make it open horizontally were the things I didn't want to compromise with. I'm sure there are the right size plastic pockets available in the depth of the internet but I still didn't have that time to wait for them. Yes, I could have cut the A4 pockets to A5's by simply making them smaller but simply couldn't bring myself up doing it. Imagine the amount of plastic that would go to waste just because of dry erase books for kids to be entertained during car trip?

Then I needed the covers and I didn't have any suitable ready folders either and first I thought I would use cardboard for them. But while looking for cardboard I I found couple old kids books that were just right! And what a great idea to upcycle old books that weren't used anymore.

I torn out the pages (and left for future crafting) and added ribbons to tie the pages. I found a necklace that I don't use, never have and most likely never will, that had just perfect ribbon! It is narrow enough and sturdy enough, the ribbon is some kind of fake leather.

The other parts I kept, of course for other upcycle projects. The ribbons I glued with hot glue.

Then I had to cover the activities with plastic. I found some overhead projector sheets that I have had way over 10 years. I once bought a package of them to make stencils but only used couple back then and still had 18 left. It wouldn't be enough for two books though so I bought a roll of sticky plastic (the one used to cover school books) and used that for the rest. I don't very much like to cover paper with plastic as it isn't possible to recycle the paper anymore but I thought I would use sticky plastic to the pages that would be used again and again. The sheets would be used for the pages that would get boring after couple trips and would need to be changed.

Of course, folding overhead projector sheet half isn't that easy but luckily I had solution right on hand, Wonderclips! Just match the edges, add Wonderclips (or clothespins) and once you are sure it will stay, press.

The pages with sticky plastic I added piece of normal paper on the place where I was going to make the holes to make it last better. For the plastic sheets I used first eyelets but decided after couple pages that I don't need them and made just the holes with the hole making tool that came with the eyelets.

With the sheets I used brads to keep the paper inside still. I attached the brads right next to the paper to pin it on its place, worked very well. Loosening the brads will make it possible to change the activities easily.

I attached the brads on different places for every page so the book wouldn't become too thick. Still, using the brads for the whole book would have been impossible because of the thickness so it was actually good thing I didn't have more overhead projector sheets, using sticky plastic for some worked just fine. Don't tie the ribbons too tight, the pages won't turn if you do that.

I could have left it here, right? Leaving the covers like that when there are so many ideas out there to try? Not likely. When I saw quiet books first time my first thought was "oh wow, that must have taken ages to make!". The second time "they would be great to make but I will never have the time". The third time "they would be great to make". The fourth "my kids would love them" and small voice in my head only whispered "I will never have the time". The fifth (I have been seeing them a lot lately because once you look something in Pinterest twice you get to see it much more often) "what would I make if had time?" At this point I was saving couple pages, you know, just in case. The sixth thought "what if I had the time, what if I made time for it?" added with a loud sound in my head "don't go there!" I knew that once I started looking them with that thought in my head I would have lost the game and I would be making them some day. The seventh thought "what does it matter if it takes time, you like doing it, just one page?" and a whisper in my head "you could be doing something more sensible like sewing new clothes for the kids!".

The other voice in my head lost. Of course it did as I knew it would from the moment I saw the quiet books for the first time. Does this ever happen to you? I wanted to make something nice for the cover and while doing it, I could make it one more activity. The problem was that most quiet book pages are meant to be used together, most of them won't keep kids busy for more than a minute, at least at the age of 4 and 5. The kids around 1-2 usually like closing and opening a clip for a longer period of time, the older kids not so much. First I thought I would make a clock with turning hands, then I saw some mazes that I considered as the mazes are my kids' favourite activity pages. But then I found a page with little mouse with cheese and home from I don't understand a word of the blog post itself but all I needed was the picture.

I tried to sew the mouse but didn't have felt, like she seemed to use so I made my mouse out of Fimo clay and hot glued the ribbon-tail.

I draw the face with black permanent marker.

It can go under the cheese, come out from the holes and go back to its home:

As you can see, I have sewn around the holes, this is to prevent stretching. The nest's top has also framilon-elastic band to make it, well, elastic, and to keep the mouse inside when not played.

And I was right, the kids liked this idea very much! They like small figures, especially animals and usually figure out their own play around them and this one quiet book page entertained them alone for few kilometers. It also didn't take that long to make actually, of course figuring out where to find all the materials took more time than the making itself. But that's usually the case with my projects. The cover itself is from my old jeans and I matched the inside seam to the back of the book. Here I also attached the marker with elastic band.

The idea here is that the marker's cap will stay put under the elastic band so it wouldn't get lost in the car. I thought of adding a ribbon to the marker as well but then decided against it, it would just annoy the kids. Of course with smaller kids I would advice to tie the marker too. As the marker is water soluble I cut few fabric scraps, wet them and packed them in self-sealing plastic bag as erasers. Of course the fabric scraps I have are mainly from the fabrics I have used to make clothes for them so they were interesting itself and nicely colourful.

I sew folds to the cover so it stays put but can be removed when I want to change it so it isn
't glued. Overall, this dry erase book was great success for the kids and I could upcycle so many things here! Here is a list what you need:

  • old book
  • overhead projector sheets/plastic folds/sticky plastic
  • activity books or print activity pages, there are loads available
  • cd/dvd marker, water soluble!
  • fabric scraps
  • self-sealing plastic bag
  • old jeans
  • yellow felt
  • elastic band (couple centimeters)
  • ribbon for tail
  • fabric scrap for the nest
  • framilon-elastic band for the nest's top
  • Fimo clay or similar
  • hot glue gun
Very fun project to do, something that I liked to make and the kids liked to use! Proved again that I should never throw anything away! And what is more, the books did keep the kids occupied quite long. I'm happy.


  1. Again, you surprise me with you ingenuity! My sons are too old for that kind of books but I'm thinking that the same method can be used for crochet of knitting charts. Hmmmm... You got me thinking.
    Thank you for participating to my Fabric, Thread and Yarn link party. Have a good week!

    1. That would be great idea! Thank you for commenting. :)

  2. I really love this great idea! Thanks for sharing!

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