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“All of those cars were once just a dream in somebody's head.” Peter Gabriel, Mercy Street

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DIY

Build Your Own Toy Garage-Recycled, Eco, Sustainable and Free!

Make Your Own Toy Garage from Recycled Fruit Boxes

What’s better than a wooden toy garage? A totally free and completely environmentally friendly recycled fruit box garage.  No child slave labour was used in the production of this toy garage.  Just a little over time from mum.

Last night I took advantage of Yagga Yagga staying at his nanna’s overnight and made a toy garage out of a couple of fruit boxes that I’d tucked away in the garage just for this purpose.

They were perfect. Fitting together all snug and secure.  All I needed to do was cut out a few holes and a ramp then draw a few arrows and some road lines and I would have one very happy child and a great big chunk of guilt free time to get some work done.

It might look a bit simple and bare bones but the KISS principle is a good one when it comes to toys that stimulate imaginative play. It’ll become one of our projects over the next few weeks as well. We’ll probably paint it, put stickers on it, use wooden paddle pop sticks to make a barrier over one of the entrances and maybe glue some sand or glitter on it somewhere.  I’ll make sure I post an updated photo in a few weeks.

Yagga Yagga loves dramatic play and there is invariably a violent crash, mayhem and catastrophe as cars collide and building’s fly to pieces. Our free or cheap recycled play props are perfect for this as they can literally be destroyed, smashed and broken as part of imaginative play and no one becomes sad or angry.  It gives him an outlet for this kind of destructive play – he knows that destroying other toys and objects like books is not acceptable and this rule must be respected so I’m not worried that this encourages aggressive or destructive behaviour.  I think that it’s important to recognise that those feelings and urges to break and destroy are part of the normal spectrum of emotional expressions for a pre-schooler, or any aged child.  Having a “Yes” space where he can experiment with and learn to modify and control those urges appropriately is important.

It’s also great fun for me to do as well. It gives me a functional creative outlet.  He doesn’t care what it looks like so there’s no pressure on me to get it perfect like there would be if I was submitting it for judgement from another adult.

Since we’ve been home this afternoon he’s been desperate to play with his new toy garage. So after a swim and a rumble with the new kitten he’s now been playing happily for a couple of hours while I get some work done.  It was well worth the 15 minutes it took me to build this recycled fruit box toy garage.

For extended play value, tonight I added on another recycled fruit box car garage and connected them with a little drawbridge. Took me all of 2 minutes to cut out the doors, use sticky tape to make a connecting drawbridge and cut in the ramp to the top story.  I am blessed with a double garage that is not used for cars so I have plenty of room to store our boxes and other found objects that we use for building our car themed play probs.

And when the Car Crazy Kid tires of his recycled toy garage it can be repurposed as a multi-story play box for the cats.

photo 5 (007)

toy garage

What you’ll need to make your

  • 2 or more sturdy boxes that fit together snugly. Matching fruit boxes, like mango boxes are ideal.  Your local fruit and veg shop will be more than happy to save and give you a couple of boxes.
  • A sturdy knife for cutting out the doors and the ramp. I use our Friday 13th movie inspired knife.  I just push down on the handle and it cuts through easily.
  • A pen and/or pencil for drawing in road lines or mark out the areas you plan to cut out as access doors
  • Sticky tape

Instructions for building your recycled, eco toy garage

  • Fit the boxes together.
  • Mark and cut out the entrances and exits to the toy garage. I only cut out doors on 3 sides to keep the structure nice and strong and sturdy.
  • Cut out the ramp on the top box and use sticky tape to secure it to the bottom. You could also attach some rope to the ramp so your child can pull the ramp up with their cars on it.
  • Use a pen to mark in some road lines and car parking spaces.
  • Place your garage somewhere that your child likes to play and leave some toy cars close by then let their imagination run wild.
  • Now put your feet up and have a cup of tea or get some work done.
  • When they get bored with playing with cars, give them a box of crayons or texta pens and let them decorate their toy garage.

 

If you enjoy making your own car themed toys then you might find my post about DIY Car Play Mats useful and inspiring as well.  If you’re looking for ideas to inspire and excite your car obsessed child then stay tuned as I’ve got lots of ideas to share.

 

Car Crazy Kid

Resources, ideas and inspiration for parents and carers of kids who love cars

Education, Imagination, Stimulation

 

 

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Printable Roads: My Fave Free Car Games for Kids

Rainy day ideas for Car Crazy Kids

When I first discovered the world of free printables online, I admit I went a bit crazy myself.  There are so many amazing free car games for kids that you can simply print out at home for instant play and entertainment.  The toner in our laser printer copped a boot camp style workout and our  bargain laminator that we picked from Aldi recently has also been working overtime with all of these free printables.

When you have a Car Crazy Kid, roads in every form imaginable fill your waking and dreaming hours.  I’ve spent a fortune on various toys, roads and play mats to facilitate imaginative car play so it’s nice to come across some free car games for kids obsessed by wheels.

Here’s my Car Crazy Kid’s favourite top 3 printable roads

Picklebum’s Printable Roads

These are by far our favourite printable roads.  There are also some really cool printable street signs and traffic lights too.  There are so many things to love about these simple roads.  They can also be a great scissor practice exercise for older kids to cut out.

We printed ours on regular printer paper and then I laminated them as at the moment most of the Car Crazy Kids games end in total annihilation, destruction and spectacular road mangling car crashes.  The lamination saves our poor printer from working too much overtime. The downside with laminating them is that they slide around but this is easily fixed with a small piece of tape connecting each road together.

These printable roads worked for a while as stand alone road play props but their real beauty has been as highways joining other play roads around the house.  A little bit of effort to set up but we had several days straight play from these.  Like our car play mats, I rotate these type of roads to keep things fresh, so our Picklebum roads and road signs are currently on a rotation hiatus in the cupboard ready to re-excite in a few weeks time.   You’ll find Picklebum’s free printable roads here.

Highway numbers from Make Learning Fun

My Car Crazy Kid has become totally obsessed with numbers recently, almost to the point that we thought of changing his name to The Count.  He LOVED these number shaped roads.  I printed and then laminated for longevity.  They also have alphabet letters in upper and lower case which have also been printed and laminated.

As wonderfully educational as these roads look to adults, they didn’t spark the same level of open ended imaginary car play that plain roads and car play mats seem to stimulate.  Although the excitement level was super high, it wasn’t long lasting.  You can find the highway numbers and letters from Make Learning Fun here.

Disney’s Cars Radiator Springs Play Set

We have a set of mini plastic Car’s cars that I mistakenly bought off Ebay last year thinking that they were the normal diecast style and size.  They have been a firm favourite with the Car Crazy Kid ever since.  This free printable Radiator Springs play road works perfectly with these mini Cars.  Like the others, the road has been laminated for longevity and is the perfect size for travelling.  We haven’t printed off the mini paper car figurines that come as part of it but will do so the next time we have a long trip ahead of us.

Like the highway numbers, this printable road doesn’t inspire the marathon play sessions that other roads do, but when it’s been tucked away for a while it’ll easily give us an extra 30 minutes in bed on the weekend.  I simply leave it on the bedside table with his mini cars so it’s there ready for when the Car Crazy Kid comes in for his morning snuggle.  Dad’s feet at the end of the bed become Foot Mountain for some extended value added play time and extra snoozing.  You can find the free printable Radiator Springs play set here.

 

* this is not a sponsored post in any way.  I’ve downloaded and printed a LOT of free car games for kids and these free printable roads have been big hits in our house with the Car Crazy Kid so I’m simply sharing the love.  Oh, and they’re free!

 

DIY Car Play Mat

Create Your Own Car Play Mats at Home

Home drawn car play mat

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. 

A2 Giant floor drawing pad by ArtstarFor 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

Car play mat with water background

car play mat

car play matcar play matcar play mat

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