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City Planners of Tomorrow—Make Your Own Play Mat!

Re-purpose materials to make a play mat the kids will love.

It's a world of possiblities.

Today, I'm bringing you an activity that exercises kids' problem solving skills while letting their imagination run wild: A DIY play mat!

One of my favorite things about this activity is that it has options. I love options, don't you? You can either give kids free reign with designing their play mat or set them up with a challenge. It's also a two-parter, much like the activity last week.

First kids make the mat, then they play with it. And here's the best part—we're re-purposing materials; the crayons and markers from last week and a large piece of muslin. If you don't have that left over and lying around, get an inexpensive drop cloth found at our local Lowes.

What about those challenges I mentioned? Well here are a few ideas:

-Create the ultimate town. What stores would it have in it? What favorite features would you include?
-Create a town of the future. How will people get around? What will the town center look like?
-Draw Catonsville or even much more specifically, your neighborhood. Where is the library? How about the post office? Make sure you include your favorite places to visit.

You'll need:
small canvas drop cloth
fabric markers and/or crayons

Step 1
Unfold drop cloth. I suggest lightly ironing it to make it easier to draw on.

Step 2
Plan. You can direct the kids to either start from the outside in or from the center out. If two or more kids are working together on a town, it's interesting to see how they differently they approach it. This can develop into a team building exercise. Of course, depending on the team you may end up just dividing the town in half—old west style. Another idea: have kids sketch out the town out on a small piece of paper. You can teach them about scale. Just like the real planners do!

Step 3
Draw. 

Step 4
Play.

Now the kids have a reuseable play mat that easily rolls up and travels. It's perfect for rainy days. Plus, the kids can add to it as they get inspired or have new ideas.

City Planners of tomorrow, we salute you. Now go play!

Cindy H February 23, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Nice, I love that this can be done inside AND rolled up and put away! One of my favorite activities as a kid was setting up a city in the back yard with dirt roads, twig telephone posts (and my matchbox/hotwheels cars, of course). I also liked building cities from wooden blocks inside on the living room rug for my cars. Bet you could build with blocks on top of this mat too...
Jennifer Cooper February 23, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Yes! You absolutely could, making it 2D with 3D capabilities built in. Brilliant idea!
Hillary Pennington February 23, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Great idea, Jen! I look forward to seeing more.

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