It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My frugal heart

I bought these for the older kids. An excellent activity for those who no longer need naps, but who are NOT allowed to disturb Mary during that precious afternoon quiet time.

The problem is, they’re a use-once, throw-away sort of book. It’s not the expense of this that bothers me most — though that does bother me! It’s the WASTE. Hate that. I am an eco-friendly sort primarily because I loathe waste. Buy an entire book so that your kid can roar through it in half an hour and toss it? I think not.

Besides, in your average family, you have toddlers around for what? Four or five years, depending on the number of children and their spacing? I have had toddlers around for twenty-two years now… I can’t conceive of the heap of paper I’d have tossed, buying individual books for that many children over that many years.


But these are useful books, Educational, even. Parents love to see them scattered about, and heck, they may even teach the children the odd skill.


You slice out each page with a craft knife, and then slip each one into a page-protector. (I’m not normally a big fan of those things, either, but in this case I’ll make an exception. In the balancing of relative evils, plastic, used once for a long time, trumps paper used once and tossed, to be replaced by more, and then more, and then more paper, all to be used once then tossed. Perhaps I’m deluding myself, but such is my reasoning.)

You put your page protectors into a small binder, and provide the child with a dry-erase marker and a tissue. (For dry-erasing.) You would be wise to peek in at said child once in a while, lest you be requiring cleansing doses of Purell after too long a period of suspiciously quiet play. (Though why should I be suspicious of quiet play when quiet play was precisely what they were instructed to do? One of the conundrums of my profession…)

Ta-dah! Hours of fun. Emily has completed the entire tracing book every single day for a week. When she tires of it, William will have a go. A few years back, Darcy and George loved these books to bits, and maybe next year it’ll be Tyler and Noah. These two books are now six years old. SIX YEARS OF CONSTANT USE from what was designed to be a throw-away book.

Aaahhh… Warms my frugal heart, it does.

November 25, 2009 - Posted by | books, crafts | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. You. Are. Brilliant. Brilliant!!

    Why, thank you.

    Comment by Bridgett | November 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. And when they get tired of those you could let them draw their own pictures to trace.

    They do that all the time. This is new and exciting!!!

    Comment by jwg | November 25, 2009 | Reply

  3. PS So brave of you to let them use the dry-erase markers. Have you found some without the smell? I don’t mind the odor but it drives some people nuts.

    It doesn’t bother me, either, so no bravery involved.

    Comment by jwg | November 25, 2009 | Reply

  4. Cool idea! And in my experience, they love the erasing part just about as much as the drawing.

    Yes, they do. Draw an inch, rub it off. Draw three inches, remove one. It’s like MAGIC!

    Comment by Tammy | November 25, 2009 | Reply

  5. I love it. It seems being offended is doing the rounds.

    I like your idea, too, but I would like to play advocate of the devil, if I may. I hope this doesn’t offend you. 😉

    I am always worried about dry-erase pens. Are they even safe? It always goes all over their fingers. And then you have the pens that run out and have to be thrown away, as well as the tissues.

    After reading “Risk: the Science and Politics of Fear“, and discovering how things are determined to be carcinogenic (etc), I worry about this sort of stuff a whole lot less. We live in the safest ever period of human history, and yet we WORRY so. The possibility of a infinitesmically small amount of a possibly, could-be, maybe toxic substance in a marking pen? Meh.

    I’d almost rather photocopy the activities, and then give each new one with a pencil. Then afterwards all the paper can be recycled, so it doesn’t really get wasted.

    Photocopying results in the same number of pages being wasted, plus the wear and tear on my printer. I don’t see an advantage in that strategy. And we all know that “Reduce” is superior to “Recycle”: Reducing the amount of stuff you consume in the first place is far more energy- and resource-efficient than recycling it.

    My only question would be the energy and resource consumption of the pen (as you point out) and the plastic page-protectors. Even so: over six years, I’d have had to purchase at least 30 of those books to provide the kids one each, never mind that some children (Darcy, George, Emily) would go through that many book in a month, if they were using new pages each time!

    So I still believe that, all in all, the reusable pages, even with consumable pen and evil plastic sleeves, trump the pounds and pounds of wasted paper.

    Comment by Mwa | November 25, 2009 | Reply

    • Ah! But you forgot the tissues! Surely you don’t reuse them.

      Nope! But as Ms. Huis reminded me, I have a basket of clean cloths in my kitchen which I use in place of paper towels, that I could be using. (And have, now that I think about it, in the past. Why did I use tissue this week? Dunno. I have options — and I know better!

      Comment by Mwa | November 25, 2009 | Reply

      • I’ll let you off on that one then. 😉

        Comment by Mwa | November 26, 2009

  6. Great idea! And if you happen to have extra kids around, you could unclip some of the pages from the binder & share them that day. Hmmm…

    We happen to use holey socks for our erasers. Works great for the boards, haven’t tried with sheet protectors.

    Love the idea about the socks! I have a basket of clean rags under the kitchen sink at all times. Today, Emily will be using one of those!

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | November 25, 2009 | Reply

  7. Fantastic idea! A friend of mine who homeschools her children get similar pass-down use of workbooks by clipping a sheet of acetate onto the current day’s page. But this is even better!

    If your friend is using only one sheet, versus my 50+ page protectors, I think that’s the less wasteful way to go. There are advantages to me of how I’ve done it (the pages stay in book form; it requires less monitoring by me), but there is no arguing it’s more wasteful than a single plastic sheet, used over and over again!

    Comment by Rosie_Kate | November 25, 2009 | Reply

  8. I bought some books like this that were already plastic! we used them over and over again and I’ve just passed them onto a friend!

    Comment by jenny | November 26, 2009 | Reply

  9. I LOVE this idea so much that I actually purchased similiar books for my almost 5yo – disassembled the books & made copies before putting the pages into the sheet protectors. I now have 2 books – 1 of which I will keep in the car for when we go out to dinner, etc. She is a big fan as well!

    Comment by Kristen | December 29, 2009 | Reply

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