How-To: Dinosaur Play Mat
By Holly Ramer
My 4-year-old son likes to play a game he calls “Dinosaur Party Truck.” It’s as adorable as it is involved (apparently Ankylosaurus, and only Anklyosaurus, has the necessary license to drive a backhoe loader).
He also likes to leave the dinosaurs scattered across the floor when he’s done, which is not so adorable. And as someone who has stumbled over Stegosaurus and tripped over Triceratops more than once, I can assure you that even tiny herbivores are capable of attack. So in hopes of saving my insteps from further injury, I created this portable Dinosaur Play Mat.
Folded up, it’s a lava-spewing volcano. Spread flat, it’s a miniature landscape, perfect for a Tyrannosaurus rex tooling around in his tractor or a dump truck-driving Diplodocus.
1 yard brown fabric
Scraps of blue, brown, gray, green, and red fabric
Thread to match above fabric
Transparent nylon thread
2-sided fusible web
22″ square fusible batting also called fusible fleece
24″ of ¾”-wide fusible hook-and-loop tape
Square template: 7½” square cut out of paper or cardstock
Download 2 triangle templates: 1 triangle with 2 sides measuring 11½” and the third 7½”, and a second triangle with sides measuring 3¾”, 10¼” and 11½”.
9″ x 12″ piece of brown felt
9″ x 12″ piece of red felt
Scraps of red and orange felt
Download the volcano template (PDF).
Two 9″ x 12″ pieces of tan felt
Two 9″ x 12″ pieces of brown felt
Two cave templates Download cave template 1 and cave template 2 (PDFs).
Scraps of brown and green felt
Scraps of green fabric
Poker chips or similarly sized rounds of stiff cardboard
Plastic drinking straws
Make the Mat
1. Cut two 22″ squares out of brown fabric.
2. Create appliqué shapes (blue pond, green forest, gray boulders, etc.), following the directions on the fusible web.
Iron shapes onto 1 brown background square.
3. Sew each appliqué to the background fabric, using either a narrow satin stitch or straight stitch close to the edge of the appliqué.
4. Create a “quilt sandwich.” Start with the unadorned brown square, right side down. Add a layer of batting, then top it with the decorated brown square, right side up. Baste as desired. Fusible batting is easy to baste by ironing, and results in a stiffer mat, but regular batting would work as well.
5. Make a 7½” square template out of paper or cardstock and pin it to the center of the mat, rotated 45° clockwise from the side of the mat. With transparent thread in the needle and brown thread in the bobbin, stitch around the square, using the edge of the template as a guide.
6. Pin the first triangle template to the mat, lining up the 7½” bottom edge with 1 side of the square. Sew along the 2 long sides of the triangle. Repeat for remaining 4 corners.
7. Pin the second triangle template to the mat, lining up the longest edge with one of the triangles sewn in previous step. Sew along the other 2 sides of the triangle. Flip the template over and repeat for the remaining sides.
8. Trim around the outside of the mat, about ¼” from the stitching line.
9. Using a plate or bowl as a template, cut off the 4 corners in a curved shape, so that when the mat is folded up, the top is rounded like the opening of a volcano.
10. Make the binding. Cut 2 strips of brown fabric, 2½” wide by 44″ long. Sew the 2 strips together end to end, then fold in half, wrong sides together, and iron.
11. Apply the binding. Line up the cut edges of the binding with the edge of the mat. Pin and sew, using a ¼” seam allowance.
12. Fold the binding around the edge to the back of the mat and stitch by hand.
13. Make “lava” ties. Cut 4 strips of red fabric, 2″ wide by 10″ long. Fold each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together. Sew along the open long side and one short side, creating an angled tip at the short end. Turn right side out and press, folding under the raw edges of the open end.
14. Sew one tie to each of the mat’s corners.
15. Add hook-and-loop tape. Cut the tape into four 6″ strips. Following manufacturers’ directions, adhere to the back of play mat, lining up the long edge along the sewn lines, so the sides of mat will be held together when folded up. Then sew the hook-and-loop on to the back.
Note: The volcano, cave, and tree are not attached to the mat and can be moved.
Make the Mini Volcano:
1. Download and print the template.
2. Fold the fabric in half and pin the template to it.
3. Cut one of each color felt: brown and red.
4. Align the long straight edges of felt and sew to make a cone shape.
5. Insert the brown cone into the red one, right sides together. Pin along the round bottom of cones.
6. Sew along the round bottom of the cone.
7. Turn right side out, tucking the red cone into the brown cone.
8. Cut scraps of red and orange felt into strips of “lava.”
9. Bunch the lava strips together and stitch by hand.
10. Stitch the lava bundle to the top of the volcano.
Make the Cave:
1. Download and print the templates.
2. Cut 2 of long narrow pieces from both the brown and tan felt.
3. Cut 1 of the rounded cave opening pieces from each of the brown and tan felt.
4. Sew the 2 long narrow tan pieces together.
5. Pin the cave opening piece to one of the long narrow edges, right sides together, and sew together. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 with brown felt.
6. Insert one cave into the other, right sides together, and pin along the edges.
7. Sew around the entire edge, leaving an opening along the long, back edge for turning.
8. Turn right side out. Slip stitch the opening closed.
Make the Tree:
1. Cut the drinking straw to the desired tree length.
2. Cut a scrap of brown felt into a rectangle as long as the straw and wide enough to wrap around it.
3. Wrap brown felt around the straw and stitch by hand to secure.
4. Cut leaf shapes out of green felt. Stitch to the top of the felt-covered straw.
5. Cut a circle of green fabric about twice as big as the poker chip. Sew a running stitch around the edge of the fabric.
6. Insert the poker chip into the center of the fabric circle and pull the thread to gather it around the poker chip.
7. Hold the end of the felt-covered straw in the center of the poker chip, tightening the green fabric around it. Stitch to secure.
About the Author:
Holly Ramer is a reporter for The Associated Press in New Hampshire, where she lives with her husband and son. She writes about her adventures in crafting at Stitch / Craft.