Since we’re going to be home ALOT to recover from Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) and wait till the spots on Gwen’s body scab and dry up (the PD told us that’s the sign that she’ll no longer be contagious), Le Husband and I created a playtown for some open-ended car play using recycled materials.
DIY Cardboard Car Playtown for Toddler Play!
It took 2 days for us to complete this playtown because we were both down with adult-version HFMD and could only work on it during the very short-lived lucid periods when Tylenol pain-relieving magic was at its strongest 😂
The Cardboard Car Play Town Setup
- Playtown base — I chose a flat piece of cardboard from one of IKEA’s furniture packaging which happened to have sides that stick up. Those “wall edges” turn out to be useful in preventing cars from rolling off the playtown, very useful when a toddler’s very enthusiastic about car play
- Slopes — I used toilet paper rolls and cut off just a small strip vertically so the rolls still curl up at the side. If you cut too big a strip the curls don’t hold up and it’s easier for cars to go off-course when sliding down. Try to fashion a “wall edge” some distance from the slopes in the trajectory of the car going down the slopes so cars don’t fly off all the time
- Garage — I used a small carton box and cut off one side of it to make an open garage that cars could be parked in easily
- Tunnel — I combined 3 cut toilet paper rolls and taped them securely to make a stable arch
- Ramp — I used 2 mini but long toothbrush box cartons. Cut and fold the ends in to make slopes so cars can go up and down the ramp at both sides
- Black roads with white markings — I used black painters tape and drew little lines on it with white crayon. You can also find free road printables online - a good one is from PickleBums, paint the roads with black acrylic paint, or colour the conventional cream masking tape black with black marker pens
- Parking lots — I drew them on the cardboard with a black permanent marker
- Felt trees — This idea originated from @play_at_home_mummy!
- Books about small towns and vehicles — I used the books "Playtown: A Lift-the-Flap Book" by Roger Priddy and '我的第一本认知书100词语" by 北京小红花图书工作室
- Vehicle toys — I used toys from "Melissa & Doug Nesting and Sorting Blocks 6 Buildings 6 Wooden Vehicles"
Feel free to add any people or animal figurines to make it a thriving playtown!
Our Play Experience
Because Gwen (16 months) can’t nap independently when she’s ill, Le Husband and I made the car playtown when she was awake. She was very curious about what we were doing and kept coming over to explore the craft materials and I didn’t want to dismiss or send her away with a toy. So I decided to involve her in the making of the car playtown. I got her to help me peel and extend the painters tape, which is in fact a great fine motor workout 👍🏻
At 16 months, Gwen’s also less destructive and more deliberate in her actions. She’s getting aware of how things work and I could see that in the way she explored the play town. I expected her to smash the tunnel or pull out the tape or any of the structures but she did none of those! I was really surprised and proud!
This car playtown was played with much enthusiasm because Gwen loves putting anything on a slide. She slid her cars down with a “wee!” and tried to put her dog figurine down too but it met with too much friction and she had to manually push it along. I like how she’s learning about textures and basic physics in her use of the playtown.
This playtown world is also great because I can already envision how it’ll grow up with her. These are optimizations what I intend to make to the playtown car world when she’s older:
- Add numbers to the parking lots to teach her numbers
- Add colours to the parking lots so she can park vehicles accordingly to their colours
- Extend her learning of vehicles from land to air by adding a helipad (and maybe runways) for helicopters and planes
- Enlarge the playtown base to include more buildings like schools, hospitals, fire stations and police stations so she could get busy with driving the cars to their destinations. This would teach her about occupations
- Build a multi-storey carpark so she could navigate cars down to hone fine motor skills
- Add road signs like STOP to teach her road traffic rules
The play and learning possibilities are endless with an open-ended DIY toy like this!
A Simpler Setup for Younger Babies
Also sharing a no-prep setup for younger babies who have developed an interest in anything on wheels but are still taking everything apart (therefore risky to introduce them to a car playtown unless you can bear the heartache of seeing wreckage).
Take an empty shoebox, open up the lid and place it against the floor like so. Let your little one slide cars down the slope!
This was Gwen at 13 months. The ROI was super high for this setup!
To follow Gwen's play adventures, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram) or A Toddler Activity A Day Facebook Group.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.