Friday, February 11, 2011

Making Books for Baby

I have some lovely books with cute stories for toddlers and preschoolers, but I wanted some language books for this 6-12 month age.  The problem was that all the books I could find in the shops were either filled with pictures of things that she wouldn't know (like European farm animals, bottles etc.) or were so cartoony that I could barely work out what the objects were.

Also, from what I've read of linguistic theory, I understand that we learn words not just by repetition and association, but also by contrast.  That is to say, we can't just be shown what a 'cat' is - we have to be shown what it is not.

So, if you show a baby a picture of a red car and say 'red car', a baby doesn't know that 'car' means the kind of object and 'red' refers to the colour.  As far as they're concerned, that particular object is a 'redcar'.  But if you were to show them a series of red objects and say 'red car' 'red flower' 'red block' - they should eventually start to connect that it is the second part of the sound that describes the kind of object.  Then you might go one step further and help them understand what 'red' is and is not - by showing them a red car, a blue car, a green car etc.  They then see the first part of the word changes with the colour.

Maybe there are baby books out there that are written using this principle, but I couldn't find them in the shops in Darwin.  Eventually I figured I was after something so specific that I decided to make it myself:

I did this through the program iPhoto on my Mac, which was really easy, cause you just drag and drop your photos, type the text, and then click a button to order online.  But there are other ways to do it.  One of the mothers in my mothers group made a book through Big W Online and the quality was beautiful.  Her book was a collection of baby photos to give to grandparents as a present, rather than a book for the baby, but the idea was essentially the same.  That is, you get to print your own book where the pictures are your photos and you have customised the text.  Pricing depends on the size of the book and whether you have hard or soft cover.

In the book I have pictures of me and her dad, with the words 'Mum' and 'Dad' underneath, as well as other close family members.  Then I found brightly coloured pictures online to illustrate some other words I thought we might learn, such as:

Not really sure about the colour on the passionfruit there, but had a bit of trouble finding a purple fruit.  Probably should have gone with a plum.  Also, strictly speaking, I probably should have aimed to find nearly identical images and just changed the colours, but I thought this would probably do to start with.

Anyway, about 10 days later my book was delivered and I was pleased to find Bethany loves it.  She particularly loves looking at the pictures of her dad and I.  When I say 'dad' and point at him, she often says 'dad' - although at this stage I think she is just imitating me, not connecting the concept.  But by the smiles his picture gets, I think she does recognise his photo.

We also did a few other concepts, such as day and night, and wet season and dry season (we live in the tropics and do not have summer, autumn, winter, spring).  Mind you, this picture was probably a bit of wishful thinking!

Unfortunately, the book is an ordinary soft cover picture book, and I have to be careful not to let her grab it, or she'd quickly destroy it.

I wished I could get a board book, but that wasn't an option with the software I had.  So I decided to look online, and lo and behold, there is an American company which lets you design and order your own custom board book online, called My Custom Story.  Once you create an account with them, you upload all your photos into an album, then create a project to design a 10 page board book.  You design it on a screen that looks like this:

The software was a little frustrating at first, because I couldn't seem to get it to work.  But then I realised that there was just a long delay from when you dragged a layout or picture onto the book template, and when it appeared there.  Once I realised that, and stopped clicking different things to try and get something to work, it was fine.

I then went round the house and snapped a couple of familiar items on my mobile phone and added those:

And I liked that I could do 'eating' and include breastfeeding - something you never find in the baby books off the shelf, where it's all bottles.  (And for bottle-feeding mums, wouldn't it be nicer to have a picture of you feeding your baby a bottle, not some generic cartoon with a generic baby?)

Once you factor in postage, it is about $40 for one of these board books, but I reckon it will be more valuable than 10 books about crap that means nothing to her.  And I'll be able to give it to her and let her play with it, and leave it with her when I go away to work.

When I was searching online, I did find an idea for a budget way to make a baby book , which is simply buying a cheap photo album and then printing off the photos and text and sticking them in there.  Also, a friend of mine has bought a laminator, and we were going to try creating one by printing and laminating pages, then hole punching them and using key rings to connect them.

However, I haven't tried either of those yet, because I thought it would be too much fun to design and have printed a professional looking board book!


  1. I have been wondering where I could get a board book for DD done too - we've got a PhotoBook but she already ripped one page out of it - but she loves looking at the pictures of us in it!! Thanks for this tip, I wonder if I can part with $40 for a board book! LOL... (Do they do combined post? Maybe a co-op sort of thing could be in order?)

  2. I just stumbled on your page after googling how to crest a baby board book!
    A great money saving tip I saw on another page was to buy a board book from a thrift shop and just stick your pics over top of the pages with spray adhesive