You've downloaded your files and are ready to turn a digital resource into physical materials for your little sparks. Looking for some resource preparation tips and tricks? You've come to the right place!
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Printing Your Files
This step is perhaps the most important and the one I get the most questions about from customers. Let's make sure this process is efficient by following these steps:
Review the file and choose which pages you want to print. Ensure they are all in the same orientation (portrait vs. landscape). Take note of any special printing instructions such as printing double-sided. Looking for home printer recommendations? Click here.
Always use Adobe PDF Reader when opening, viewing and printing your digital files. Other PDF Readers or printing via the web browser can sometimes result in distortion of images, including placing black boxes around images. You can download the most current version of Adobe Reader free here.
If you use a Mac, it is important to bypass Preview and use Adobe as your default PDF viewer.
Select the right paper for the job. If you are printing cards, I recommend using a bright white cardstock. If you are printing worksheets, you will likely prefer paper. I've included a few product recommendations below.
Organize Your Work Space
It sounds simple, but a clear work surface with all supplies on hand will help you maximize your efficiency. If you have the space to set things up assembly line style, it does help to move things along.
recycle bin and garbage can
binding machine with coils (optional for workbook assembly)
Because we are often asked to share product recommendations for these supplies, we've included a few below.
A word about lamination:
While lamination can extend the life of your resources, it also creates a lot of plastic waste, and adds time to the preparation of your materials. Because of this, we only recommend lamination for high use resources (think multiple children). For homeschool use, you likely will find using a sturdy cardstock is sufficient for most uses.
Let the Cutting Begin
Having the right tools can help make the often tedious task of cutting cards more efficient. The best investment I ever made in terms of efficiency was this paper trimmer. It has ruled guides and a blade that never dulls meaning crisp cuts every time.
Where possible, reduce the number of cuts necessary by using the ruler guidelines on your paper trimmer. Avoid trying to cut too many pages at a time as this can result in uneven edges.
Finish of your cards with a corner rounder to remove sharp corners.
To extend the life of your materials, you may choose to laminate them. Not only does this protect them from getting bent or torn, but it also allows for wiping clean should they become dirty.
While some prefer to laminate entire sheets before cutting, this can lead to undesirable peeling down the road. It does takes longer to cut your cards both prior to and after lamination, but leaving a margin of laminate around each piece will provide for a stronger final product.
Lamination sheets come in various sizes and thicknesses. Be sure to check which thickness your laminator accepts and stick with that for best results. Most accept 3 or 5 mil sheets. I like these ones.
An alternative to lamination for worksheets is page protectors. For repeated practice, pair a wet-erase marker and a good quality page protector like this.
To Bind or Not to Bind
If you have printed a workbook, you may find binding offers an easy way to keep pages together and is easier for a child to work with than a bulkier binder or folder. If this is something you see yourself doing A LOT, investing in a home binding machine will be worthwhile. I wouldn't invest for occasional use.
You've asked us time and again for our recommendations for everything from cardstock to printers, so we've put all our top recommendations in one place to make it easy for you.
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We've considered cost, ink use, print quality and customer satisfaction when selecting the following recommendations:
Printer Paper and Cardstock
Heavier weight best for non-laminated use
Lighter weight best for laminated use
Best for worksheets and scissor strips
Paper Trimmers and Punches
Investing in a good quality paper trimmer is SO worthwhile. And if you find yourself cutting out circles and rounding corners, you'll find these tools make the job easier:
My paper trimmer
Not my first trimmer, but definitely my favourite!
An inexpensive option for removing sharp edges
Single Hole Punch
I use this one to punch holes in lacing cards
Great for quickly cutting out counters and other small pieces
If you do decide that lamination is right for your situation, you'll want to have a reliable machine that provides a strong seal.
Like the paper trimmer above, I went through a few laminators before finding this gem. With a built-in trimmer, this one makes lamination a breeze! Provides a great seal too.
Binding machines come in two main varieties - those that bind with combs and those that bind with coils (spiral). Honestly this one comes down to personal preference.
Other Useful Products for Materials Prep
Here are a few other useful products for materials prep:
Wet Erase Markers
Hook and Loop Dots
Great for handwriting sheets and primer cards
Use on laminated materials or page protectors
Love these for our shapes puzzles
Great for symmetry and skip counting puzzles
These are handy for for mounting math counters and the 2" discs work well to mount the detail sections of our "I Spy" Art Cards.