How to Make Your Own Play Mat

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Total Time 1 to 2 hours Ages all-ages

Let your family put the most important places in their lives on a fun-to-use play mat.

What you'll need

  • 2 yards of 60-inch-wide cotton duck canvas (we purchased ours for $7 a yard)
  • Scissors
  • Sheet of 8 1/2- by 11-inch paper
  • White chalk
  • Pencils
  • Styrofoam block (ours was 2 by 4 inches)
  • Plastic tablecloth
  • Fabric-paint markers
  • Sponges
  • Acrylic paints
  • Thin permanent markers
  • Paintbrush and sponge brush
  • Tacky glue
  • 7 yards of 1/2-inch-wide double-fold bias tape
  • White art eraser
Helpful Tip:

  • To limit smudges, place a clean piece of paper under your hand when drawing.

  • Let each paint color dry completely before applying an overlapping or adjoining color.

  • The white art eraser will remove most pencil marks. If you make a mistake with the paint, we found that Tulip brand fabric paint in Linen worked well to cover any mishaps.

  • Avoid using a lot of black in your designs, since you'll be using that color for the outlines. We used Marvy's School Spirit brand black fabric marker for outlining most buildings and features.

  • How to make it

    1. Play_mat_step1

      Trim the canvas with scissors to 60 by 60 inches square. To create a starting point for laying out the town, we placed an 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheet of paper on the mat at an angle and slightly off-center, then outlined it with chalk. Next, we chalked a line extending out from each corner of the paper as shown.

    2. Play_mat_step2

      If you want to include any large landmarks, such as a pond, park, barnyard, or field, use the chalk to outline those shapes now. To make our soccer field, we traced around an 11- by 17-inch sheet of paper.

    3. Play_mat_step3

      With the chalk, lightly sketch a centerline for each road. So you can easily draw roads that are a consistent width, push 2 pencils through a Styrofoam block, 2 1/2 inches apart. Then use this tool to outline the roads, straddling the chalk guidelines as shown. (The chalk will easily wear off later.)

    4. Play_mat_step4

      Have your child pencil in buildings and other details, such as a garden, animals, or a fence. Keep in mind that you'll be trimming the mat with bias tape, so anything too close to the edge will get covered.

    5. Play_mat_step5

      Before continuing, cover your work surface with a plastic tablecloth. Now, with the fabric-paint markers, let your child color in the buildings and other items he's drawn. Once the paint is dry, outline the buildings, roads, and other details with a black fabric-paint marker.

    6. Play_mat_step6

      Add grass by sponging on green acrylic paint. When the grass is dry, use a paintbrush or marker to add a few final touches, such as trees and flowers.

    7. Play_mat_step7

      Keep the mat from fraying by trimming the edges with bias tape. To do so, apply tacky glue to one side of the inside of a piece of bias tape, a small section at a time, and press the canvas onto the glue, as shown.

    8. Play_mat_step8

      Finish sealing the edge by applying glue to a small section of the top of the mat and then folding over and pressing the other side of the bias tape to it. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the other 3 edges of the play mat. Let it dry flat overnight.

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