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How I Made a Train Play Mat Out Of A Recycled Bag

Sep 27, 2022

Ask many parents, and they'll tell you that their kid has a thing for trains.

Maybe it's because they like shows like Mighty Express or Thomas the Tank Engine. Or perhaps they are just budding mechanical engineers. At any rate, they have that za za zoo for things that go choo choo choo

A lot of wooden train sets are made for specific kinds of trains. And they can get expensive! So I wanted to make a train play mat that was easy on the wallet, but no less fun. And I made it by recycling a leaf bag! 

Ready to get started? Well, all aboard! Let's go. 

What You'll Need

  • Leaf bag
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Paint
  • Mini-roller
  • Brushes
  • Plate
  • Water container
  • Coloured paper
  • Glue
  • Tablecloth or newsprint to protect your work surface

How It's Made

Use a pair of scissors to cut the bottom from your leaf bag. You’ll be left with a paper “tube.”

Cut down one seam of your tube, then spread open to reveal your giant play mat!

Lay out your tablecloth or newsprint. Squeeze out a bit of paint on your plate and get your roller ready.

Have run rolling tracks all around the mat. Try tracks that run in loops, circles, zig-zags and wavy lines. NOTE: If you’re not in the mood for a paint project, you can have just as much fun making tracks with markers or cut paper.

Our track started out as a giant loop. 

Then we added lots of diagonal and curving connecting lines.

Decide how you’d like to fill the space between your train tracks. We were inspired by the rolling green hills in Mighty Express!

We even added a pond.


Set your mat aside to dry.

In the meantime, you can use cut paper to create things like bridges and tunnels. Cut strips of paper and fold tabs on each end. A bit of white glue on each tab will help to stick your tunnels and bridges in place on your mat.

You can also make your favourite stations! Ours is Farm Station. We made a simple red barn, and folded a tab along the bottom to attach it to the mat.

Check to see that your mat is dry. Before adding your cut paper creations, use marker to add detail. We added train tracks and some waves in our pond. 

Ta-da!

Here’s our bridge that goes over the pond.

And here’s Farm Station.

Dress up your mat with fun things from inside your toy box — train sets, animals, blocks and whichever bits and pieces you like!

Add some play tools to create a Mission Station, boats to make a Port Station or maybe some dinosaurs and other curiosities to make a Museum Station! Ready for today’s Mega Mission? Let’s get the trains on the move!

Article Author Mara Shaughnessy
Mara Shaughnessy

Mara is a children’s book author and illustrator who’s big into scissors and glue, making cake from the box, wrestling with her dogs and doodling with felt tip pens. You can check out her latest work at The Little Monster or craft along with her at Craft University.