Ask Design Mom: Matchbox Car Mats

August 30, 2010

Ask Design Mom Question:
My little boy is turning two and I’m looking for a darling village rug with scenes of roads and tracks to drive his little cars on. I’m sure you’ve seen them and wondered if there are some great places to find them that I haven’t thought of. Do you have any tips? I am into both classic or modern designs. I just don’t want to give up an arm and a leg for it. I appreciate any ideas you or your readers may have for me! Thank you. — Marta

p.s. I know about train tables, but really want a rug instead. They are just so charming and would fit much better in our little apartment!

Design Mom Answer:
I know just what you’re thinking of, Marta! Two years ago, the kind, elderly widow down the street made a playmat for Oscar. He still plays with it all. the. time. Because it was a gift, I don’t have any great sources to recommend, but I’m betting my readers do.

What say you, Clever Readers? Any great sources for matchbox car mats? Maybe some cute fabric you’ve seen? Or a readymade version? How about something hand-painted from etsy? Please share.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda Conley August 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm
2 Erin September 7, 2010 at 10:57 am

My son has this one – he likes it, but the surface is very slippery. If he is wearing only socks it almost guarantees he’ll slip. But this one does fold up into a little portable “box” so it’s perfect for trips. And the slippery surface is easily washable, so I use it outside as well.


3 Adriana August 30, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Ikea has a really cute one for $14.99. My kids love it.

I just noticed a new one for $9.99. This one looks really cute too.


4 Andrea -- August 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Thanks, Adriana! I hadn’t seen the new Ikea one yet!


5 Marisa August 30, 2010 at 3:46 pm

We just got the new IKEA one. My 3yo LOVES it and has been playing on it constantly for the last week. And only $10!!


6 Jessica August 31, 2010 at 11:16 am

My kids have the older ikea one and they love it. I heart Ikea!


7 nikki August 30, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I’m not sure how ambitious you are but while in my local fabric store, hanging on their wall was a handmade playmat using a large piece of green fabric. They had sewn on trees and glued down black felt roads. Added a few “rocks” and houses and it was so darling! I’m partial to those handmade gifts though.


8 Deb August 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I was looking for one for my daughter the other day and found a few on Etsy.
I am not a great seamstress (I glue my daughter’s Halloween costumes together!)
This was one of the better ones, but it’s $25.
Definitely check on Etsy!


9 Michelle August 30, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I too have the one from IKEA and it looks great after 3 years and many washes.


10 Anne August 30, 2010 at 3:17 pm

(piling on the Ikea love here) I have also had the IKEA one for 3+ years. It has taken a beating and looks much better than anything else on our floors. It’s one of those things that the kids have never stopped playing with/on. We don’t store it, it’s just part of the boy’s bedroom.


11 mandi August 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Yes! We have the IKEA one too. I like the soft colors of the rug- not so ‘primary’ like they usually are. And my kids like the added scenes- like the volcano! It’s cheap and cute. And used everyday.


12 Sue at nobaddays August 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm

What a beautiful mat! I would love to make one too and am hoping a reader knows where you can find fabric for this. I like the IKEA ones but don’t have the extra storage space … need something in fabric that I can fold and keep in the toy car box. Did a bit of a search and found this delightful mat:
Am also considering making a similar mat for all the Lego Star Wars sets my son plays with.


13 Cari August 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm

It’s on my “to do” to make for Christmas and then I went to IKEA and found a huge darling one for $14. I also noticed recently at my local JoAnns store a piece of fabric that had a mat printed and just needed to be sewn together. I’ve seen people get ambitious and make their local church/library/school/diner and adore them, but for $14 at IKEA with a rubber back and super big, I just couldn’t justify the time and money.


14 Mel August 30, 2010 at 3:09 pm

This is the one we got for my son:

He really likes it!


15 barchbo August 30, 2010 at 3:37 pm

My son isn’t due for another month, but I now want to plan ahead and get him a playmat!!!


16 M. Peterson August 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm
17 Marian August 30, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I have on my list of projects to do one day (if there really is a day!)

So if you’re the crafty type, with lots of time, go at it! And let us know how it goes!


18 Julie August 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm

nice! :D


19 Christina August 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Yep, that’s on my “one day that really won’t ever come” list. Very nice.


20 Katie August 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I often see these at TJMaxx/ Marshalls…. might be worth checking your local stores. Good luck!


21 Robin August 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I love these rugs I saw on lmnop by DanishByDesign:
I am not sure if you can get them in the U.S. (I just emailed them to ask.)

If you are interested you could probably find an online shop through the DanishByDesign website that would ship to you.
Much more expensive than the others listed here though!


22 mandy August 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

If you don’t mind that it’s not an heirloom-quality piece, I have a good (and free) DIY strategy:
When I was a small child, my mom helped my brothers and me save empty Jello boxes, oatmeal canisters, cereal cartons, etc. We would cover them with construction paper and turn them into buildings by drawing windows, doors, signs, etc. After a few days or weeks of this, she would put down a huge piece of butcher paper (sometimes several pieces taped together to make them wider), and we would draw streets, parks, etc., then tape or glue our buildings down accordingly.
This might be ambitious for a child your son’s age, but perhaps you can keep it in your hip pocket for when he’s a little older. We made and remade these little 3-D towns ALL the time and spent hours driving our Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars through them. (Once we even let our hamster run through the streets, terrorizing our Muscle Men and C.U.T.I.E.S., who were standing in as citizens!)


23 Christy August 31, 2010 at 6:21 am

I love ideas like these! The “buildings” could also be used on a playmat.


24 tawnya August 30, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I absolutely recommend the ones from IKEA. My son (4) is currently sprawled on his behind me as I type this!


25 AmyHug August 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Our son (now 5) and then our daughter (now 3) absolutely adore the car mat we purchased when our son was about 18mo or so. It was the right shape for his bedroom at the time, which was really small. Since then we’ve so enjoyed the fact that it fits in lots of different spaces due to its elongated shape. FABULOUS in hallways!! And the love to stick stuff underneath it to create hills and valleys. Looks brand new to this day. Highly recommend.

“Giant Road Play Mat” @ One Step Ahead


26 Whitney August 30, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Another vote for the IKEA one! It’s a great price and it’s perfect.


27 Eve August 30, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Well, it was slightly more expensive and labor intensive than the Ikea one, but here is my version:


28 Julie August 30, 2010 at 7:01 pm

sweet idea!


29 Kathryn November 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I love your road quilt! So creative and endless possibilities…


30 Christina August 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Here’s the 20th? 30th vote? for the Ikea rug. It matches the nursery perfectly, has fun graphics and puts up with two boys playing hard. Best $14 we spent at Ikea.


31 Stacey H August 30, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I used that exact same fabric for the one I made for my boys. I found it at walmart and just used a pre-quilted backing. I am not a great seamstress and I had the mat done in about 30 minutes. I hope they still have it!


32 Erica August 30, 2010 at 8:50 pm

In the meantime, you can try what we did and my son LOVES it. I took a big piece of brown butcher block paper and cut some 1.5″ strips of black cardstock and glued on them on to form a city pattern. We use assorted wooden blocks to make houses, restaurants, a grocery store, gas station, etc. and the matchbox cars to “vroom” all over and knock the buildings down. When we are done, it tucks behind the bookshelf (or I could roll it up). It isn’t a play rug, but it was free and we have had hours of entertainment. Here is a link to a photo:


33 RC August 31, 2010 at 8:56 am

Oh Erica, that is adorable!


34 tvmom August 31, 2010 at 12:38 am

oh, i like all the links, i think i may have to pick up the ikea one some time.

in the meantime, i’ve just been using painter’s tape to make a customized track from my son.
super cheap and it can be as big or as little as you like:


35 Katie August 31, 2010 at 5:42 am

I was definitely going to mention the IKEA one. If you’re handy, my friend just made her own for a plane trip…4 small mats for a lap that can be combined for a large one on the floor. They are very cute and just made with felt and glue.

see here:


36 Larissa August 31, 2010 at 7:43 am

When I read this I ALSO immediately thought of the ikea one. I love it’s color palette and you can’t beat the price.


37 Michelle August 31, 2010 at 8:43 am

Giant Road Carpet from I got this for my nephew and he loves it.


38 Kayt August 31, 2010 at 10:49 am

I had one as a kid and loved it! My guy isn’t into trucks just yet, but I actually love this one from Home Depot:

It’s $20 and is a dead ringer for the one I had growing up. Not the most fashion forward, but I have such fond memories of it!

Home Depot also sells this one from Tonka:

but it’s more spendy.


39 Katherine August 31, 2010 at 2:52 pm

We have the $20 one from Home Depot. Picked it up on a whim and it has been a fantastic purchase for both my boys!


40 bdaiss August 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm

*sigh* Great, another project to add to my list. Scratch that – 3 projects! Because I love that playmat your son has (if I can find similar material). And the Lisa Storms On the Go one is a must for as much as we travel. And the Roadmap Quilt at Little Red Wren is stinking cute how can I NOT make one?!?

Looks like Santa better get busy!


41 Nicky from Canada August 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Wow – some great options here – and I’ve had them all. I bought some great fabric at Walmart with the roads and train tracks – it was amazingly reasonable – add some batting, any fabric for your backing – made it tye up with a rope that it is easily usable anywhere in your apartment or to travel with for out and about. Our grandson loves it.

Also bought one a printed rug at Costco several years ago for our son, have often seen them there.


42 evelyse August 31, 2010 at 5:45 pm

love that! my boys would, too!


43 Clean Mama September 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I did a tutorial here (super easy) on a felt vehicle mat:


44 Erin @ Letter Soup September 1, 2010 at 11:05 pm

If you end up going the homemade route, my mom made one for my son, which I posted about here:
It’s especially wonderful because it’s based on a map of our actual neighborhood, so my kids make their cars “drive” to local parks and friends’ houses, etc.


45 Kendra @ My Insanity September 3, 2010 at 10:14 am

I just blogged about the one my mom and I made for my son several years ago. It’s funny because we used some of the same fabric you have in your mat. But I also painted some of it, and printed off buildings that were important on the computer on fabric and added them. It’s a mix of lots of techniques, but huge, and tons of fun to play with (and easy to store!).

See the 2nd half of this post:


46 Melissa Edwards September 3, 2010 at 11:02 am

I just picked one up this week at Garden Ridge. My son is only 13 months and doesn’t really play with it yet but it as only ten dollars so I had to get it!


47 marta September 9, 2010 at 10:06 pm

thank you, thank you. i can’t wait to check out all the links and perhaps attempt making one of my own. loving all the car mat diy excitement. i appreciate it, gabby.


48 Synapse Engineering September 11, 2010 at 6:02 am

I really like this post and have change my decision making process. I agree with the post. Are there something that should be considered before designing car in general? Do you any other Professional that can do like what Synapse Engineers are doing?
Please let me know. I would like to read more tips here in your site. Please provide us more important info.


49 George November 11, 2010 at 8:15 am
50 Becky Capps June 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I’m making one for my grandsons 3rd birthday and it is truly a gift of love. I bought a 5×5 heavy fabric drop cloth and am painting it with durable acrylics. adding textile medium to the paint. There are roads, stores, houses, a church, a school, ponds, the ocean, restaurants, post office, zoo etc. I bought little cars and animals to go with it. I have personalized it with his name, birth date, parents names and lots more to make it his alone.

I’m an artist and would paint them for others but they would be expensive because of all the time and personalizing I am adding. I’m keeping track of my time so I know what to charge.


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