A lapbook engages your child in a series of small activities on a specific topic. Lapbooks are typically created from manila file folders, which makes them an inexpensive learning tool for homeschool families. The folds may look intimidating, but the lapbook technique is quite simple and versatile for any subject and topic.

Folder Preparation

The manila file folder serves as the base of the lapbook. All of the activities related to the main topic go onto the folder. Use the folder as is, or fold it to create smaller sections. Open the folder on a flat surface so the crease is vertical. Fold each flap of the folder in half vertically so the outer edges meet in the middle. The folded flaps are similar to window shutters. Your child can lift open the flaps to reveal the inside work area or close them like shutters to cover the inner sections.

To use the lapbook, lift open the two flaps so the file folder is unfolded and flat on the table. Glue, staple or tape the individual learning activities to the folder in this open position. Use brads to attach work to the folder. Attach an additional piece of a second file folder along the top edge if you need more space. Tape it along the edge. When not in use, fold this extra flap in toward the middle before closing the folded front flaps.

Topic Selection

Homeschooling lapbooks focus on one central topic. Your child will do several small activities in the lapbook that relate to that central topic. Science topics work well with the lapbook format. You might focus on life cycles, the solar system or a particular type of plant or animal. For reading, the lapbook can focus on a specific book you read. Use the lapbook to explore the setting, characters, conflict, resolution and other relevant details in the book. In social studies, focus on a geographic region, historical event or historical figure. Even math topics fit into the lapbook format. Dig deeper into adding fractions, identifying geometric shapes or memorizing math facts.

Learning Materials

Once the book is folded, you're ready to attach the learning materials to the folder. Attach activities all over the folder to maximize the space. The specific learning activities you include on the lapbook depend on what you're studying. Mini-books are often used in lapbooks. Fold small pieces of paper and staple them into a small book, or fold a paper accordion style. Glue the back page to the folder. Your child can fill in the book with relevant information. Other options include images with factual captions, labeled diagrams, charts, matching activities, maps, vocabulary lists and real objects related to the topic, such as leaves. Make little flaps on the page with a question, word or image on the front and related information underneath.

Lapbook Uses

The activities you use in the lapbook provide learning opportunities for your child. Have her complete all of the activities or create her own drawings and contributions. Keep the lapbook as you continue learning about the topic. It becomes a reference for your child. She can look back if she forgets information related to the topic or browse the lapbook as a review. Lapbooks also work well in homeschooling portfolios as evidence of what your child learns.