Play Mats and Ponies
Horses are Sara’s favorite animal these days, better yet if they have wings (the Breyer Wind Dancer ponies are at the top of her Christmas list) or unicorn horns. Her passion for ponies inspired this homemade play mat as a gift for a preschool girlfriend turning 5 but we also ended up making one for her to keep, then William joined in on the fun and made one for his cars.
All you need is a large sheet of paper, good quality markers (if you’re willing to let them use permanent markers, they really do work better–my kids love Sharpies), and a plan.
We started out by making our plan on a smaller sheet of paper so Sara could decide where her roads should go. Then we moved on to our large paper and I helped draw the roads while she filled in all the other spots. Sara insisted on a meadow full of magical flowers, a river, a bridge, a house, a rainbow, a playground complete with swings and a slide, and of course, a trampoline and dance floor. For an extra special touch on the gift play mat, she painted blue glitter glue onto the water and green on the magic grass. These features were essential to complement the Pegasus and Unicorn figures we also purchased for this friend (items which have now also made their way to the top of Sara’s Christmas list).
Schleich figurines are especially nice with lots of detail and they come in almost every animal. Toob Toys by Safari Ltd. are also great if you want many figures from a certain theme and don’t mind the figures being smaller (on a completely different topic, these Toob Toys also come in incredibly handy for decorating birthday cakes).
Even if it’s just a card, we try to add at least one handmade element to every gift. Not only does it add a nice personal touch, it’s also a great lesson in creativity, eco-friendliness, and confidence-building.
Extra note: If you don’t have time to make a play mat but like this idea, the My Busy Books line of products is fantastic (and probably what sparked this idea in the first place–guess which one is Sara’s favorite… My Little Pony of course). Available in a variety of themes, they come with a story that names all the characters, at least a dozen little figurines, and a laminated play mat for endless hours of pretend play.