We have been looking at "road rugs," those ubiquitous mats with aerial views of roads, buildings, and such for playing with toy cars, off and on for several months. We didn't really want a set of interlocking road pieces to kick around the house, so for a two- to three-year-old a fixed layout made the most sense to me.
But I have never liked the way most of these mats, like the one at left, cover non-road areas with buildings, trees, and other objects. I know they mean well, but the end result (if my own childhood memories serve) an environment where everything is predetermined for you gets old pretty fast. Kids can do better than this; just this morning Z carefully placed four blocks next to each other and happily informed me that it was a farm. As I examined the road rugs with their airports, variety stores, construction sites, churches and homes, I saw a line in the sand, and I wanted to stay on the side of the four-block farms for the time being.
My first epiphany was the realization that a ruglike character is only one way to make the map durable; another is to make a smaller model which could be used on a table, so someone like Z didn't have to crawl over it to reach its farthest reaches.
Jenni voiced some initial concerns that the product of my humble efforts might look a wee bit, ahem, trashy, especially when I blithely snagged a 30x40" piece of the cheapest posterboard the grocery store had to offer and declared my desire to "draw" Z a map. Now, my skills with pen and paper pretty much leveled off at the fifth grade, but for a fifth-grader I was pretty hot stuff, and besides, how much drawing skill did I really need to muster for a kid who can draw a circle and call it an octopus? But Jenni's point was well-taken; we had to look at it, too, and what might look okay on delivery day might get old fast.
Once I decided to go all-paper with my layout, things got very easy. At a local hobby store I picked up a nice heavy 20x30" piece of posterboard in a sensible background color (a sort of sagey green) for about $5 and a big piece of gray construction paper. Then I poked around in the scrapbooking section for some usable patterns on 8x8" sheets of light card stock at 50 cents apiece. After cutting out my roadway, I cut up some shapes from the other papers and pushed the pieces around until I came up with a layout I liked, then glued it all down with a glue stick. Here's what I came up with:
In the end, I was pretty satisfied with what I came up with. I think this is something Z can use her own imagination with, and it can adapt to fairly different emphases depending on her mood and the toys she wants to play with. Here's a model setup:
You can buy wooden cars on Amazon.com, but they are a little pricey for my taste; I bought the ones shown throughout this post at Target for $1 each.
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Monday, December 04, 2006
Posted by Jeremiah McNichols