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


Play Roads

Orchard Toys: Giant Road Jigsaw

Orchard Toys: Giant Road Jigsaw extra large floor puzzle

* This is a real review – I spent my own hard earned money to purchase this product.  This is not a sponsored or paid promotional post in any way.

Today my order from Modern Teaching Aids turned up.  When Yagga Yagga heard the dog barking at the courier he was desperate to see what was inside all of the boxes.  His eyes lit up when he saw the rather big box for the Orchard Toys Giant Road Jigsaw and couldn’t wait to test it out.  I’d been planning on putting it away in the cupboard to save for a rainy day or when I had some work deadlines to power through, thankfully he was so excited he forgot to ask what was in the other boxes!

So I made him sit on the couch and inspect the box while I gave the floors a quick sweep and then it was game on.  The box was open quick smart and the giant puzzle pieces were in a heap upon the floor.

photo 1 (00D)

Orchard Toys – Giant Road Jigsaw 20pce
Big and chunky puzzle pieces are easy for little hands to join the road sections together
Orchard Toys – Giant Road Jigsaw 20pce
The first hastily constructed puzzle road. The beautiful and colourful details and illustrations on the puzzle sections of road are gorgeous and eye catching.


We have several games from Orchard Toys and love them.  Monster Catcher and Spotty Dog.  All of the game pieces are made from hard wearing, thick and heavy duty cardboard finished with a gloss laminate or coating that makes it easy to wipe grubby bits of goodness-knows-what off of them.  And these giant puzzle pieces looked to be the same high quality.

Each puzzle section of road fits into any other puzzle section in any direction so there is no right or wrong way to put the puzzle road together.  Yagga Yagga had a bit of a crazy and frenetic free for all just adding random sections of road together.  He was busy muttering to himself and exclaiming at all the delightful little details on each section of puzzle road.  A man on a red scooter, a cyclist, cats, dogs, workmen drilling, people with shopping bags and even a fox slinking near an overflowing bin.

Once he’d used up all the puzzle pieces he noticed that on the box there were a couple pictures with suggested ways to assemble the puzzle that resulted in a closed road loop so we had to pull his road to pieces and then put it back to together following the picture on the box.  When his dad got back tonight they reassembled the road again before dinner – not before he demonstrated to us how his cars drive on the roads.

Once the puzzle was assembled into a giant road, the cars came out and play began in earnest.  More and more cars joined the road and he was lost for several hours.

There are 20 individual pieces that are big and easy for little hands to interlock into other pieces.  They come in a large and very sturdy storage box.

Orchard Toys Giant Road Jigsaw

This really is a giant road as you can see in this picture.  The fact that it pulls apart and connects easily will make it great for travelling and storage.

Like any play road, the excitement and shine will wear off after a period of time, so the key to keeping it fresh is to have several different play roads and bring one out at a time. 

I find that the excitement level when a favourite play road is brought out from storage can actually be even higher than when it was brand new.

And I can tell that our new Orchard Toys Giant Road Jigsaw is going to be a firm favourite in the play road department.

Expect to pay about $45 to $60 for the giant jigsaw floor puzzle – which is on the pricey side but if it’s as hard wearing as our other Orchard Toys games then it’s money well spent.

It’s a happy talent to know how to play – Emerson

Orchard Toys – Giant Road Jigsaw 20pce
Even Jandal the cat thinks the new road is a bit awesome!

Play roads and car play mats form a big part of Yagga Yagga’s most imagination filled and fuelled play sessions.  We have strict limits on TV and don’t do other technology like iPads and iPhones with him – but with a favourite play road or play mat he can literally become completely engrossed in fully independent play for several hours at a time.  Each car has it’s own distinct personality and even different voices that he creates for them.  I know he’s fully engrossed in his play world when I can hear the shouted conversations his cars have with each other.  If I spend too long watching him while he plays like this, he’ll often look up at me and say in no uncertain terms “you can go now mummy”!

My next few post’s will be about finding cheap and quirky play roads in the most unlikely of places.  So stay tuned!

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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