My daughter and I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with creative mommy and bookmaker Sushmita Mazumdar of Handmade Storybooks in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend. When she is not creating handmade multicultural books, she is teaching others how to create their own stories in workshops across the country. For our group of mostly small children and a few tweens, we were able to easily make our own special journals from scratch. We later went home to fill our journals with reminders of a budding spring season. The following is a step by step guide which will enable you to create handmade nature books with your child as an ode to the spring season!

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Create Your Book from Scratch and Fill it With Unique Treasures

There are many ways to make quick and easy books with your child. The easiest one would be to use sheets of paper stacked and folded in half. Here’s how we made our Nature/Spring Walk Journal.

1. Pick 3 sheets of paper all of the same size, but in different colors and stack them one on top of the other.

2. Now slide the top sheet left so you see a strip of the second sheet on the right. Pull the second sheet left too, holding the 2 sheets together so you see a strip of the third sheet on the right and the sheets are staggered. (You can see an example of this staggering effect here, and in the lead image of this post.)

3. Use a paper clip to hold the sheets together and then fold the sheets. Left edge over to the right, almost in half but stopping short to show more strips of color.

4. Let your child press down on the fold using a closed glue stick or their thumb.

5. On the folded edge, punch 2 holes at equal distance from the top and bottom edge of the book. Keep them 3 inches apart. We will use these to bind the book together.

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6. Take a big rubber band and put one end of it through the hole on top and the other end through the bottom hole. Or thread ribbon into the holes.

7. Slide a 6” long twig into the rubber band loops so the top of the twig goes in the top loop and the bottom of the twig goes through the bottom loop. Or instead of a rubber band, tie down your twig book spine with ribbon.

8. Your book is ready! On the exposed strips of colored paper, write the days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, etc. and use the journal to record what you see on your nature walks each day as spring returns!

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Use Your Imagination and Your Environment

Found objects like twigs, leaves and flowers bring life to your project. A treasure hunt in the back yard might yield amazing finds for the spring journal. For objects that cannot be glued in, create little envelope packets to glue or tape into your book to hold those treasures.

On hard stock paper, we glued our found grass and leaves. Help your child label the book’s additions, and encourage storytelling of your found treasures. Remember to let pages filled with glued found objects to air dry before closing the pages.

Eco-loving Ingredients and Ideas for Your Bookmaking

“I encourage using things we find around the house to get kids’ creative juices flowing,” says Ms. Mazumdar.

– Use handmade paper made by you or found at a local art supply store.
– For beginning writers and readers, create dot-line words for them to trace over.
– Create a home for stickers.
– Cut out images, shapes and words from old magazines for collage books.
– For a “Favorite foods” journal, use chopsticks or a fork for the book spine instead of the twig.
– Adults can make memory books of phrases and words children use that amuse us like: Skapetti, Aminals, or I cweam. One favorite phrase that came up recently, “Mommy, my toe hurts because you wouldn’t give me gum.”
– Vacation journals recording the thoughts and pictures of young minds seeing new things.

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We Fill Books With Stories of Ourselves to Share with the World

Visit Handmade Storybooks for your own custom-designed, unique books, designed, printed and hand-bound by —one or multiple copies. “My books are about sharing real-life stories with our children, friends, and even parents and strangers. I also custom-design bookmaking activities to go with birthday parties, events at schools, and even parent-child workshops. My whole idea is to encourage inter-generational exchange while getting our kids to love and get creative with books. So let’s make books and fill them with stories about ourselves and share them with the world,” says Ms. Mazumdar.

For more tips, get inspired by Peter Thomas’ book More Making Books by Hand: Exploring Miniature Books, Alternative Structures, and Found Objects.