Create Your Own Car Play Mats at Home
Car play mats are super awesome. We own several of them. But there are a couple of downsides as well. Firstly they can be made from some pretty questionable materials. Cheap synthetic carpets can off gas some nasty stuff such as PFC’s and VOC’s. Then there’s the concern over gender bending chemicals in PVC. I mean, seriously FFS, what’s this stuff doing in a kids play rug when they’re getting down and dirty crawling all over it?
Secondly, you spend your hard earned cash on a car play mat for your Car Crazy Kid and the overwhelming squee of delight that ensues when you fold it out for the first time lasts just long enough to get dinner on the boil or clear your emails. If you have dreams of that expensive car play mat carpet you bought online for your kids bedroom floor keeping them happily occupied for years to come, you might need to rethink your plan. You’ve got days at the most.
Car play mats are a work-from-home-mum’s friend
I work from home and my Car Crazy Kid is now home full time with me so I’ve developed some pretty effective diversional strategies to keep him happy and occupied for several hours while I power through phone calls and work. We’ve taken a pretty low tech approach to parenting so we don’t use the iPad or our phones as a tool of distraction and we allow very little TV at his current age. So I’ve had to get creative to find ways to keep him happy and occupied in meaningful ways.
Rotation, rotation, rotation
Rotate your car play mats. Leave them out for a few days at the most and then stash them somewhere safe, but not too safe, you need to remember where you’ve hidden them. The longer you can leave between rotating the mats the more excited they’ll be when you pull them out again. We rotate cars as well, with the exception of a few favourites. A box of cars, or any toys that have been hidden in a cupboard for a few months equals Christmas level excitement when they’re pulled out on a rainy day or when you have a stack of work to do.
DIY car mats
This is the fun part. You don’t need to be an artist or even particularly creative to create your own car play mats. In fact, I’ve found since I’ve start drawing these for my Car Crazy Kid that it has actually rekindled an interest in doing all kinds of creative stuff for myself.
I find that drawing roads and colouring them in is a kind of art therapy – which I guess is why colouring in books for grown ups are so hugely popular right now.
For most of our DIY car play mats I use a giant A2 floor drawing pad by Artstar that I picked up from Riot Art and Craft. I pencil in the roads then trace over them with a permanent marker and colour in with crayons. Sometimes we cut out houses, trees and animals from magazines or print them and stick them on the roads.
We also have a couple of A1 sized home drawn car play mats that have been laminated at Office Works that form part of the play road rotation.
You don’t need anything fancy, in fact if you really want to stimulate imaginative play, the plainer and more basic your drawing the better.
I don’t draw my Car Crazy Kid’s roads while he’s around, I usually do them while he’s asleep at night and listen to an audiobook at the same time. As he becomes more interested in drawing his own roads I don’t want his imagination limited by watching and comparing his creations to what he see’s me doing.
When he wakes in the morning to a brand new car play mat I know I’ve got a good couple of hours to work while he loses himself in his imaginative car play.
How to draw your own car play mats
All you need is:
- A2 drawing pad from any art supply store (two A2 pages opened out gives you a generous A1 size to create your roadscape)
- OR an A1 sized sheet of paper from any art supply store
- Pencil to draw the outline of the roads
- Black marker to draw in the roads once you’re happy
- Eraser to rub out the pencil lines (completely optional)
- Crayons to colour in once you’ve done drawing
And that’s it, all you need to create your own DIY car play mat to keep your Car Crazy Kid playing happily.
Some examples of our DIY car play mats