I love a good craft, and even more so when it can build into the kids' play! This DIY Playmat is a project that we come back to over and over because it's SO fun to make and always supports a ton of play too. The kids love having control over what items and obstacles will be put onto the map. I really like drawing and crafting, so I do a lot of the initial "landscaping" but you can determine what level of involvement works best for you.
It's fun to be able to switch things up to support your child's interests. Add whatever is exciting for your crew! This post isn't meant to be prescriptive at all, but just a bit of inspiration. Our play mats generally always involve some kind of fire to put out, water, bridges or tunnels, and a shop or hospital. For extended play, it's nice to include some problems and solutions that they can experiment with.
Some of our favourite ideas include:
- Fire and water for "putting it out"
- Mud on the road and a puddle for washing wheels
- "Dangerous" obstacles and a repair shop or hospital
- A pen for animals and a field full of veggies to feed them
- A treasure hunt of hidden shapes, letters, or numbers for the toys to "find"
- A race track and a gas station
- Houses or a parking lot for tired characters
- Bridges and tunnels
- Roll of craft paper (I buy mine at Ikea) or a poster board
- Masking tape
- Permanent marker, for more defined lines
- Your favourite craft supplies
- Raid the recycle bin!
Our mats are different every time, but I always start by taping a large piece paper to the floor all the way around. I also always use a permanent marker to make the roads and outlines of buildings and shapes that the kids request.
Determine a theme by telling your child they get to build a world for their toys today! Which toys would they like to play with? What do those toys like to do? Roll with it! Depending on the age of your kids, they might need some help coming up with ideas at first. Point out problems ("Oh no, that looks like a messy spot for your car! Where should he go to get clean?" Or "Your animals look so happy there. I wonder what they'll do when they get hungry? Or tired?")
Once all of our loose parts are glued on, we decorate with crayons, markers and stickers and then get to work playing!