This Christmas I made several gifts for the little ones in my family. One of the things I made was a felt dinosaur play mat. I kept track of the process so I could share some tips with you, and a PDF set of templates. There are multiple posts for dinosaur play mats out there, but most of the ones with templates are for little ones. I must say mine is nice and big, and the templates make it easy to crank it out. This is how I did my DIY dinosaur felt play mat.
Skip to the template download
*This post was featured on BlogHer!*
The first thing you do when making a gift like this is to go on Pinterest and get some ideas. Then get distracted by Pinterest for an entire day. Then get back on track, and get some actual ideas.
Make a sketch of what you want. Plan what colors you need and gather your materials. If you have any important props, like little dinosaurs, you need those so you can make sure you have the right scale. I got mine from the dollar store.
I knew I wanted a volcano, cave, hill, tar pit, lake, stream, beach, palm trees, rocks, and ferns.
Use brown kraft paper, which you can get at the dollar store, to make a full-size mock up.
I vaguely traced the lines from my kraft paper to make samples of my 3D elements, using another piece of kraft paper.
I knew sewing would take forever so I used hot glue for my project.
I used newspaper to stuff the paper hill.
I made darts in the rounded items to help the curves come together.
Use your little dinosaurs/figures to make sure things fit right. I made sure the dinosaurs fit in the cave and the tar pit.
I used white chalk to trace my pattern pieces onto the felt. I also neglected to take a single photo during this process. I may have been delirious from sleep deprivation at that point. I may have procrastinated until the literal 11th hour, thus the dark nighttime photos, except for the ones that are in glaring morning sun. Sorry!
In this photo the strap is laid out on the bottom of the mat.
For the mat I got one yard of 72″ width green felt (off of eBay for under $10, actually I bought more so I could make one of those wall Christmas tree thingies). I cut a strap about 3 inches wide off of the short side, to use as a tie for the mat. There are lots of solutions for keeping these play mats together. I was going to make a bag to attach to the strap, but then I realized how big the volcano was going to be and decided there was no need.
I cut the remainder of the felt in half and then used (lots of) school glue in between the layers to give the mat a little structure. I may suck at cutting stuff, there was a little trimming to be done to neaten it up. You can also glue some cardboard to the bottom so the mat does not stick so much to a carpeted floor, but I knew this wasn’t an issue for the house it was going to. This dried overnight but I didn’t do anything else to it so I could do this the same night. I left the mat plain on purpose so later I could make different felt sets and it would be open to the child’s imagination.
I bought paint pens ($1 each, black, white, and glitter) to add detail to our felt features. You can also try fabric markers but I’m not sure how well that would show up on the felt.
The tar pit is two circles, one slightly larger so there is a little bit of a pouf. There is a slit in the larger circle for the dinosaurs to fit through. Kid #2 painted some tar swirlies and glitter on it.
The volcano is three conical pieces and a circle for the bottom. The sides are about the height of a regular piece of felt. If I was going to use primary colors I would have made this purple. I put in darts for the curve. I put the sides on so that one piece was “on top” so I’d have a pretty side, but I think it looks ok regardless. The 4 year old who is getting this totally doesn’t care. This was the hardest one to put together, do an easier one first to get the hang of it.
For the lava we free-handed based on our kraft paper templates. We cut red, yellow, and white and made each color smaller. Apparently I lost these pieces at some point, so there is no template for the lava. I think next time I would layer some larger red pieces, and then smaller yellow pieces with different lines, so it looks like it’s flowing rather than lined up and layered. I put glitter on some of the lava.
The cave is two circles, one much larger. I cut the edge off of the larger one. I used darts for the curve. Kid #2 drew stones on it.
For the hill it is two circles, one much larger. I had scraps from making a felt Christmas tree so I used the same color as the mat. I cannibalized a dollar store stuffed animal for stuffing. I think you could get away with using kraft paper or newspaper for stuffing. I put darts in the sides to make it fit the curve. On my sketch there were two hills, but I thought the mat was too busy so I only made one.
For the strap we just left the felt as is. Kid #2 used the paint pens to write the recipient’s name on it.
For the lake we cut blue felt in a circle, following our template so the beach would match. Maybe it should have been a kidney. We painted squiggly lines on it.
For the beach we followed our moon-shape template from the kraft paper so it would fit on the lake. I traced the side of the lake to get that touching edge right. I do not have a template for the beach. We added glitter so it would look like sand. If I had sandpaper on hand I would have cut some of that and glued it on top.
For the stream I cut the whole thing from kraft paper first. We painted wavy lines on it, you could make more waves for rapids, or widen and narrow it. I cut the stream into thirds so the little can turn them and change the stream (don’t cross the streams!!). The template seems like a waste of felt, I might make it more narrow so I could get more pieces.
For the palm tree trunk I wrapped brown felt around a pipe cleaner cut in half. For the base you can use a layer of hard cardboard like the back of a legal pad, a poker chip or quarter, and a layer of felt that matches the mat. It has three large leaves and three small ones, with small notches cut in them. You could try using two layers of four leaves each. The leaves were pretty floppy so I ran a line of hot glue like a vein down the middle of the leaf underneath. You could also glue pieces of pipe cleaner underneath.
The ferns were scraps cut in a shape like a hill, with notches cut out. If you use scraps from the base this won’t stand out as much on the dark background. But you can use lots of colors to make different ferns. I may have procrastinated my way out of a pretty forest of different-colored ferns.
I was going to make little bushes like short palm trees, but apparently totally spaced on this part. If you want to make bushes just make a much shorter palm tree.
For the rocks once I had the scale I just free-handed them. Kid #3 helped to decorate them. There are babies in the recipient’s home so I didn’t make any little ones. You can use scraps to make a bunch of different colored rocks.
All of the pieces except the mat fit in the volcano. You can pack it all away in there, roll the mat up and tie it with the strap, fold it over and stick the bottom of that in the volcano. Then the whole thing can be tucked away.
These are not strict templates. I saved the kraft paper mock ups from my freehanded sketch and scanned them. They may need adjustment and I invite you to customize them.
Download dinosaur felt play mat templates, black and white 16 page PDF
More Dinosaur Play Mats On the Web
Dino Play Mat from the Romantic Seamstress sewing, folds up
Dinosaur Play Mat from Serving Pink Lemonade small, fusible web, printable templates
How-To: Dinosaur Play Mat from Make: Craft Magazine sew and fusible web, templates for parts
No Sew Dinosaur World Playmat from Fun at Home with Kids big, glue
DIY Handmade Gifts For Kids
DIY Handmade Gifts (Not Food)
DIY Felt Gifts
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*This post was featured on BlogHer!*
Photo credits: Mat photos by me, The More With Less Mom
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