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Easy enough that kids can make it on their own and leaves them with a feeling of pride that they made something that could have been made by an adult.
I’m a mama to three boys. Around here, we take playing cars seriously. We’ve accumulated what feels like a zillion vehicles, and lots of playsets to go with them. And while I’ve looked at a number of activity rugs, none of them have been a fit for our house. They’re either too expensive, too cheap, or clash with our décor. I finally decided to design an activity quilt that they can take out and use with their existing car sets, but be folded up and put away when they’re done.
The construction of this quilt is really simple, but it is a bit time consuming due to the size. When I was planning it I opted to make it do double duty - one side is our 'city' complete with little plots of land surrounded by roads, and the opposite is the 'country' side with wide open grass and a little stream on one end.
I started the quilt by piecing together the 'city' side. I cut six panels of natural canvas using my Comfort Grip Rotary trimmer and my cutting mat to 13 inches x 13 inches and pieced them into two rows of three divided by two panels of 5 inch x 13 inch gray fabric. Once I’d pieced together both rows, I joined them using a strip of 5 inch x 45.5 inch gray fabric. I then bordered the rows with 5 inch x 45.5 inch gray strips at the top and bottom, and 5 inch x 38 inch strips of fabric along either side. Sew all of your seams with a .25 inch allowance.
When you’re finished, you’ll have a grid of streets perfect for driving cars. This design is simple and easy to piece together - if you have an older child who’s interested in sewing, this would be a good project to let them help with!
Our 'country' side is even simpler - it’s just three strips of fabric joined together. Our blue 'stream' is made with a 7.5 inch x 38 inch strip, our 'sand' is 2.5 inches x 38 inches, and the 'grass' is 45.5 inches x 38 inches. Sew all three strips together to complete your quilt back. This side of the quilt is perfect for spreading out train tracks or a farm set.
Now that you’ve pieced both the top and bottom of your quilt, you’ll need to quilt it together. I used flannel instead of batting, since I figured the quilt would get a fair amount of abuse! Pin or baste your layers together, and then stitch around each of your canvas squares, using a walking foot. Once I was finished with the quilting, I squared off my layers and cut 5 strips of brown fabric 2.75 inches x 44 inches for my binding. I always peek at this article by Susan Weinroth when it comes time to bind a quilt - she does a wonderful job explaining the process! I struggle with the corners on a binding, but I think I finally got it right this time, thanks to Susan’s great tips!
Once the quilt was finished, we collected some cars and buildings and got to work playing! My youngest loved driving his cars from place to place, but I decided to supplement our buildings with a little help from my older boys. We created two buildings using boxes that were bound for the recycling bin - a pizza shop and a school.
Our first step was to cover the boxes with butcher paper - you could also use grocery bags, or any other plain paper that you have on hand. We used squeeze punches and Ultra ShapeXpress™ templates to create doors and windows, and even made a sign for the pizza shop using our Ultra ShapeXpress Bracket and Journal template. We decorated the sign with a mini pizza made from two circles punched with Round N Round Squeeze punches and covered with 1/8in circle punched pepperoni. We used our MicroTip scissors to cut out a slice and then attached it with foam adhesive for extra dimension. We finished our pizza shop by planting some flowers out front courtesy of our small Flower Lever punch.
Our school has a bit of a simpler design - rows of windows punched using our Large Block Party punch and two doors made using a Ultra ShapeXpress rectangle template. We finished the school by topping it with a flag - we used an XL Tag You’re It punch and punched out two tags, then attached them together with the toothpick in the middle. We then cut a 'v' out of the back using our MicroTip Scissors.
My kids really got into making these buildings - and you could make so many more! You could add houses, a high rise office building - or maybe even a strip mall made up of different boxes in a row. Ask your kids for ideas, I know mine were a great help in designing these two buildings.
They have also loved seeing their little brother get so much enjoyment out of something that they made. I can already tell that this activity mat and buildings are going to get a lot of use - I’m so glad that we took the time to make them.