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how to make board books

How to Make Board Books from Start to Finish (Step-By-Step)

I’m willing to bet creating board books wasn’t on your radar until you had kids of your own. But once you have tiny humans running around the house, board books become one of the best tools in your parenting arsenal.

And here’s the thing…

You don’t have to wait for the new Jan Brett board book to make it to the library or your favorite indie bookstore. You can make board books yourself at home!

As a professional board book printing manufacturer, I’ll show you exactly how in this step-by-step guide to making board books.

The best part?

You don’t need fancy art skills or book binding equipment to DIY board books. All you need are a few simple supplies and a little bit of patience.

how to make board books

Why Make Your Own Board Books?

Before we dive into how to make board books, let’s talk about why you would want to make them in the first place.

Here are some of the key reasons to consider making DIY board books:

1. Save Money

Board books aren’t cheap. The average cost is around $5-7 per book. And if you have more than one kid, costs add up quickly.

By contrast, making your own board books only costs a few bucks per book.

Over the long term, making board books yourself is WAY cheaper. My youngest loved books featuring photos of himself and family members. By creating these books myself, I saved hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars over his toddler years.

And don’t feel bad if your homemade board books get ripped or destroyed. Just make another! You can’t beat the price.

2. Personalize Them

Who says board books have to feature puppies, trucks, or random kids?

By making DIY board books, you can create hyper-personalized books for your children featuring:

  • Photos of themselves, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.
  • Inside jokes or household items that are special to your family
  • Your child’s name, hometown, favorite foods, animals, or toys

This personal touch makes homemade board books extra special. My son loved being the “star” of his own books. And he got a huge kick out seeing household favorites (like our dogs or his toy cars) featured inside.

3. Go At Their Pace

Creating board books yourself lets you make books that fit your child’s unique interests and development level.

Got a baby that’s obsessed with a specific animal or food? Make a book around that!

Does your 1 year old love practicing animal sounds? Then create a book that builds that skill.

Does your toddler enjoy lifting flaps, touching different textures, or pushing buttons? A homemade book lets you customize those sensory elements.

4. Encourage Early Literacy Skills

The first few years of a child’s life plays a crucial role in developing early literacy skills. These fundamental skills pave the way for future reading success.

As an involved parent, you’re uniquely positioned to support the development of early literacy skills like:

  • Print motivation – An interest in and enjoyment of books
  • Vocabulary – Knowing the names of things (animals, foods, etc.)
  • Print awareness – Noticing print everywhere and knowing how to handle books
  • Letter knowledge – Becoming familiar with letters and the sounds they make

Creating tailored board books gives you a platform to encourage the growth of early reading skills in a way that feels natural and fun for your kiddos.

For example, you can make letter books featuring their name, foods they like, favorite animals, etc. Books like these build familiarity with letters and letter sounds.

Anyway, those are some of the reasons to consider making board books yourself. Ready to get started? Keep reading!

How to Make Board Books: Step-By-Step

Making board books from scratch is easier than you think thanks to a few key tools and materials.

Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:

  • Heavyweight paper or cardstock for pages
  • Book binding tape, adhesive, stapler, sewing kit, etc. to bind pages
  • Decorating supplies like markers, paint, glitter, stickers, etc.
  • Clear contact paper, laminate sheets, or glue to reinforce pages (optional)

Let’s look at the step-by-step process:

1. Plan Out Your Book

Start by deciding on key elements of the board book such as:

  • Cover images/theme
  • Number of Pages
  • Content for each page
  • Size (standard size is around 6 inches square but can be smaller or larger)

A couple pro tips as you plan:

  • For babies and toddlers learning body parts, animals, etc. opt for 1-2 images per page.
  • Pre-readers will enjoy simple stories with 2-4 pictures or elements per page.
  • Variety keeps things interesting! Some pages can be photos, others drawings. Mix up colors, textures, flaps, etc.

Once you’ve decided what you want to create, gather reference materials.

For example, I like to gather:

  • Relevant photos to potentially use
  • Favorite books for inspiration on layouts and content

Spend time looking through board book examples to spark content ideas and get a feel for standard layouts.

2. Create Your Pages

Now you’re ready to start creating individual pages!

There are lots of ways to make board book pages:

  • Draw pictures directly onto card stock pages with markers
  • Print out photos and glue to pages
  • Use sticker sheets to quickly create image pages
  • Collage materials onto pages; paint, glitter, fabric, etc.

I prefer printing images onto full sheet label stickers. These stick directly to cardstock and create a nice glossy book page finish.

As you decorate pages, keep these tips in mind:

  • Create pages out of order. Do backgrounds or images first, then add text last. This makes editing easier!
  • Allow images and texts to run to the very edge of pages. It will get trimmed off.
  • Skip lines between text or use very large spacing appropriate for your child’s age/ability
  • Make sure inks/paints are permanent and waterproof once dry

Play around with different materials and decide what method works best for your skill level and vision.

I like to storyboard out a draft of each page before creating finished copies. This lets me work out content and layout options before pulling out the glue!

3. Assemble Your Book

Once individual pages are done, you’re ready to assemble everything into a book.

Start by creating a cover out of cardstock or fabric. Place your finished pages in order inside the cover.

Then, choose a binding method:

Staple Binding

  • Place pages inside cover
  • Line up folded edge of pages
  • Use a stapler to staple along the crease 1-2 times. The staple prongs will be inside the book.

Tape Binding

  • Lay tape stick side up lined up just inside where page crease will be
  • Place pages inside cover with edges lined up
  • Fold over tape to reinforce the pages together

I prefer double-sided book tape for durability but regular tape or glue works too. Reinforce the spine with extra tape if needed.

For quick books, one strip of binding is fine. But you can sew pages together too using a needle and embroidery floss.

Once your book is assembled, trim off any overhanging edges of the cover or pages using a paper trimmer for clean edges.

Ta-da you just made a board book! How cool is that?

4. Laminate (Optional)

For extra reinforcement and durability:

  • Cover entire book with adhesive laminate sheets and run through a laminator
  • OR brush clear glue onto finished pages and cover with clear contact paper

Lamination creates a nice glossy finish and helps homemade books withstand a bit more wear and tear!

And that’s it – you officially know how to make a board book from start to finish. Nice work!

Now I’d like to cover some extra tips for taking your homemade board books to the next level.

Level Up: Make Professional Quality Board Books

Looking to make heirloom-quality board books? Or want to explore selling board books you create?

DIY board books can absolutely look and feel professionally published with some special equipment and techniques.

Here’s an overview:

Use Heavy Chipboard for Pages

Craft chipboard gives pages extra durability so books hold up better over time. Accordion fold cardstock doesn’t have the same heft.

Order chipboard sheets online or check your local craft store in various weights. 65lb/250gsm and higher works great.

Own a Paper Trimmer

A sturdy paper trimmer creates perfectly straight edges for a clean finish. Rotary paper cutters work wonderfully for chipboard.

You can find affordable options under $50 on Amazon. This takes the hassle out of using rulers and box cutters to cut pages.

Inkjet printers can only go so far in print resolution. For photography-quality prints, use a professional photo lab.

Services like MimeoPhotos, Persnickety Prints, or WHCC Prints do high quality, affordable photo printing. There are also local print shops in most cities.

Order color prints on matte or glossy photo paper and adhere to chipboard pages just like stickers.

Use Perfect Binding

To permanently bind chipboard pages, perfect binding adheres pages together with a flexible glue backing. This process keeps pages securely fixed and allows books to lay flat when open.

Online book printing services like Blurb or Nationwide Printing let you professionally bind board books starting under $10. Simply upload your print-ready files and pick from finishing options like binding.

If selling board books, professional binding is 100% worth the investment! But tape and staples work for homemade books too.

In Conclusion

Let’s recap the key steps:

  1. Plan your book theme, number of pages, target age range
  2. Create individual pages with cardstock, artwork, photos
  3. Assemble your book using tape, staples or sewing
  4. Laminate or Bind (optional steps for durability)

Making board books from scratch is a rewarding, creative endeavor. Plus you get to watch the faces of tiny humans you adore light up when you place a custom book made just for them into their hands!

If you have any other questions about how to make board books yourself please drop them below in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. I can’t wait to see your finished creations!

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