What scrapbooking is teaching me about my two-year-old son

June 30 2011 | Guest post by Ruth Dawkins
Photo by Ruth Dawkins.

My two-year-old son Tom follows me around the house, chanting "Cut, stick, glue! Cut, stick, glue! Cut, stick, glue!" until I finally give in and sit down with him at the table, a tower of magazines in front of us. We are currently working our way through one large Pritt Stick a week. It seems that scrapbooking is the activity of the moment.

I suspect it may be in his genes, as I spent ridiculous amounts of time and money doing the same thing as a teenager. But while I filled my scrapbooks up with pictures of boybands, carefully cut out from Just Seventeen, Tom's tastes are a little more highbrow.

So far he has shredded the entire collection of Lonely Planet magazines that were my birthday present last year. We have to hide the Saturday and Sunday supplements until we've read them; otherwise they end up in pieces across the living room floor. Last week I even found myself buying a copy of Top Gear magazine, because I knew it'd have enough pictures of cars to keep DorkySon happy for a whole afternoon. The only publications he won't cut up are his own Peppa Pig and Bob the Builder magazines… funny that.

When I started my blog, I considered calling it "Seven Cars and a Kitten" because the first time Tom ever made a collage, that's what it contained. I loved the odd juxtaposition of things he liked. Several months later, the pictures that he chooses to cut out and stick in his scrapbook remain a lovely insight into what makes him tick.

There are some surprising inclusions though: a wheelbarrow, the entrance hall to the British Museum, and a picture of Barack Obama.

Some of it is very predictable. There are an awful lot of cars… not to mention buses, lorries, motorbikes, aeroplanes and trains. He doesn't seem too fussed about boats, perhaps because he hasn't yet been in one. There are also a lot of foodie pictures. They're mainly adverts for chocolate bars, cakes and ice cream, but he's also stuck in a couple of stir-frys and roasts from the pages of the Observer Food Monthly.

There are some surprising inclusions though: an odd collection of pictures, which for one reason or another seem to have appealed to him. There's a wheelbarrow, the entrance hall to the British Museum, and a picture of Barack Obama. A banner from an Anti-Cuts demo has been Pritt-Sticked in right beside a pink Jimmy Choo and an old Roberts radio. I'm pleased to see there is only one woman in a bikini, and a Shetland pony has covered up her lower half anyway.

Irritating though it can be to have the floor littered with tiny scraps of paper, and the newspaper ripped in half before I've read it, I'm thrilled that Tom is having fun with his scrapbook. His first book is now completely full, so we are working our way through it and writing labels on the pictures to explain what they are. It is doing amazing things for his vocabulary (we are no longer allowed to talk about "diggers" — he insists that we differentiate between excavators and back-hoe loaders…) and it is a pretty cheap and easy form of entertainment.

Now we just need to find something suitable for starting Tom's Scrapbook Volume 2, and I need to persuade him that it's okay to cut up his own magazines, as well as mine. Peppa Pig, your days are numbered.

  1. I'm a collage artist (no, really! I have an actual degree in cutting things up and gluing them to other things!) and this article couldn't possibly make me any happier. Hooray for glue sticks!!!

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  2. This is great! What a beautiful way to engage with your child and his perspective and expression.

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  3. I don't know why but this just became one of my lightbulb moments. I scrapbook, my son loves to do stuff with me (we already paint a ton of things) but why I didn't think to put my son and scrapbooking together….I have no idea. Genius! Thanks for the post and inspiration!

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  4. When I read the title of that post I thought it was going to open up to be something much less imaginative.

    I love the "Cut, stick glue!" chant.

    😀

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  5. Have you ever heard of Dan Eldon?

    Check out the collection of his scrapbooking/journalism – "The Journey is the Destination"… pretty amazing stuff, and Dan started going it when he was VERY young. Cheers!

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  6. wow wow wow! this floored me, I don't know why… Your son sounds awesome! I must now insist that everyone around me start to scrapbook!

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  7. Thank you all so much for your comments! It's definitely one of the most fun things I do with my son – although I'm quite looking forward to him being able to do more of the actual cutting and sticking himself. And if you do collages on paper or card, they make great personal greetings cards for family and friends…

    Thanks for the Dan Eldon link – I hadn't heard of him but will definitely check it out.

    Just Seventeen – I know!! Doesn't it bring back memories!? I was so sad when they stopped publishing.

  8. That's a really good point, Jessica. He also has a scrapbook that I keep for him with postcards, coins from holidays, little anecdotes etc – which I hope he enjoys looking at when he's older – but I'm so aware that he's getting 'my' version of his childhood rather than his own. I can't wait until he's old enough to select his own souvenirs and mementos.

  9. Love this. I never was a scrapbooker, so we've been getting the wee one stickers. Now I'm sitting here feeling like a chump! Next stop poundland for lots of cheap prit-stick!
    Also, waves from fellow OBHomie Edinburger with a (nearly) 2 year old 🙂

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