Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Calico Critters Play Mat & Storage

When I was little, I had a rabbit family made by Sylvanian Families as well as a bear family made by Mapletown. I loved playing with them because they were miniature and I love everything small! I have been buying my girls the Lil' Woodzeez brand from Target for a few years now because their price is so much more affordable than Calico Critters, but something triggered in my brain before Christmas this year and set me off on a critter craze.  I was in bed for a couple of weeks after surgery and I went a little overboard on eBay purchases.  Now I am hooked!  They are just so darn cute.  I'm telling you, it's American Girl all over again!

Remember watching commercials when you were a kid and they had such extravagant backgrounds that the dolls and toys were playing in? Beautiful roads, trees, mountains, lakes, you name it. I wanted to create somewhere for my girls to play with their critters and set up their buildings like a little town, so I commissioned my husband to paint a play mat. Although I would love to have an elaborate play space with turf, real stone walkways, etc. it just isn't realistic.  We don't have the space for it and I probably wouldn't want to spend the money to create it.  A mat seemed like a good idea because when it is not being used, it can be rolled up and stored in the closet, and it only cost about $22 to make. 

I purchased 2-1/2 yards of canvas cloth from Wal-Mart.  The width of the fabric was about 60".  I serged all the edges and then folded under the serged edge and hemmed it.  Next, we spread the fabric out with a couple of the buildings so that we could get an idea of scale and size and I let my husband go crazy with a pencil drawing things out.  I just told him that I wanted it to be half town and half country, and he did the rest.

Over the next week we spent a couple hours each night painting the mat.  We used regular old craft paint from the bottle.  It soaks up quite a bit of paint so we used about 12 oz of green paint and 3 oz of brown, gray & blue.  The paint does leak through the canvas, so be sure to have some cardboard or something underneath while you work.  We did two coats of the green, gray and brown, but left the blue at one coat so that it was kind of streaky looking.  After we painted, my husband went around it all with a black Sharpie marker to give it definition and detail.  I heard somewhere that if you wash the fabric first it won't wrinkle up so much when painted.  I did not do that to ours.

 On our mat we included a fountain to serve as the center of town
 A cobblestone road, which is all hand drawn with the marker
 A bridge over a river
 A dirt road in the country along with a lake and pier
 A little garden plot, and several trees and bushes scattered throughout

Here it is all set up with buildings and critters:


While the mat is super cute and fun to play on, it does have one serious flaw-- it folds up like crazy when it is stepped on or sat on.  My hubby and I are trying to devise some kind of frame to hook it to to keep it nice and flat while in use.  I'll be sure to make another post if we end up doing that.

While we are on the subject of Calico Critters, I thought I'd share how we store them at our house.  They all get stacked up in the closet of our bonus room.  Of course they have to share the space with American Girl ;)

I made a Ziploc bag labeled with each building's name along with a two-sided, laminated print of what comes in the set.  This way we keep all the set pieces together and my kids can see what belongs in each set. 
As for the critters, I just recently bought this ornament storage case and it works great.

There are 32 compartments and they are big enough to stand the critters up, with the exception of my Mapletown bears which are a bit too big.  I'm hoping that storing them this way will cause a little less damage to the flocking on the critters.  Back when we just had the Lil' Woodzeez, we packed them all in one tote together and some of them were losing quite a bit of fur.
I may need to buy another one of these totes soon to support my shopping addiction!  I've already bought three other families and several more play sets that are stashed away for Easter and birthdays.
If you love Calico Critters at your house like we do, I hope this post was helpful to you.  Thanks for stopping by!


  1. This is amazing! I bet your girls are in love!

  2. Wow, so cool! It's so big too! You are awesome and super organized!