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DIY Small World Play Mats

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Create small world play mats for little ones by upcycling old cutting mats that are no longer usable. These mats are a great background for imaginative play and a fun way to spark creativity. 

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Old cutting mats with fun scrapbook paper attached to create small world playmats.

Hello Crafty Friends! With Earth Day coming up next week, I figured it was the perfect time to share another upcycled craft with you – this time using old Cricut cutting mats! If you craft with a Cricut, chances are you have some old, non-usable cutting mats laying around.

I had a bunch that were beyond repair, but I wasn’t ready to throw them out. I’m so happy I didn’t toss them because I came up with an awesome use for them – DIY small world play mats!

Small world play refers to kids using their imaginations to create different play scenes – little worlds like a farm, jungle, town, arctic landscape…pretty much anything. Small world scenes can be set up on mats like these, in tubs or sinks (especially if they use water or sensory materials) or outside. You can use toys, figurines, dolls, LEGOS – anything your child thinks of. Some of our favorite small world toys are the little figurines that come in TOOBs or the Wild Republic animal sets.

A farm small world play scene is set up using the DIY small world playmats.

Creating these play mats is a fun way to encourage imaginative play and a great way to use those old Cricut mats before tossing them! I found some great scrapbook papers at my local craft stores and made play mats for all sorts of scenes. We also use the mats I made that have different animal habitats – like ocean, farm, jungle, savannah, arctic and desert – for learning activities like sorting animals.

Check out the super easy tutorial below and let me know what you think? Would your kids enjoy using these play mats? Do you have old Cricut mats collecting dust? Happy Crafting!

DIY Small World Play Mats made from recycled Cricut cutting mats

DIY Small World Play Mats

Supplies Used

*You can find a list of the papers I used at the end of this post :)

Old Cricut cutting mats, scrapbook paper and double-sided tape.

How to Make the Play Mats

Step One: Cut your paper down to 12″ x 12″. Some scrapbook papers come with label edges that you will need to remove those so the paper measures exactly 12″ x 12″.

DIY Small World Play Mats made from recycled Cricut cutting mats

Step Two: Apply Scor-Tape, or any double-sided tape, to the edges of the old Cricut mats. Keep the double-sided tape within the sticky part of the mat – which should measure exactly 12″ x 12″. Once the scrapbook paper is placed on the mat, there won’t be any sticky parts showing. 

A Cricut cutting mat with double-sided tape around the edges of the sticky part.

Step Three: Lay down the sheet of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper over the double-sided tape.

A safari-themed sheet of paper is attached to the old Cricut mat.

I used my Cricut scraper to go over the paper to make sure there weren’t any air bubbles, but you can also use your hand or a Cricut brayer.

A sheet of paper with a baseball diamond is smoothed onto an old Cricut mat with a Cricut scraper.

That’s it! Easy peasy! The mat is ready to be played with.

A safari small world play scene is set up on the DIY play mat.

I added a clear mini Command hook to our play table so a mat could be hung. This made the perfect set up for playing.

A small world farm scene is set up using two DIY play mats.

A princess castle small world play scene is set up using two DIY play mats.

One of the most used mats so far has been the water one I created. It is perfect for some of our LEGO sets like this Ariel one. The sand mat (the mat we also use for “desert”) goes great with the water one.

I made my water mat before finding this old blue Cricut mat – I wish I had used it for the water paper! Oh well!

A child plays with LEGO on the DIY play mats that look like water and sand.

A LEGO Arial scene is set up on the water play mat.A close up of LEGO Arial in a boat on the water play mat.

These sports mats are fun for imaginary play :)

Sports themed play mats featuring a baseball diamond and basketball court.

Below you can see our setup for sorting animals by habitat. I purchased most of these animal cards from Karen Cox on Teachers Pay Teachers and created the ones for desert and rainforest. We have matching paper mats we use with these cards, but the Cricut mats are a new way to use the cards. The mats are also perfect for adding toy animals, too, in addition to the animal cards.

Animal flash cards are sorted onto the Cricut play mats by habitat.

The Cricut mats are perfect for easy storage since they have a little hole at the top. We hang our mats on a small Command hook when not in use. (Update: the small Command hook wasn’t strong enough, so I needed to get a larger one!)

Cricut small world play mats hang on a hook on the side of play table.

These have been so much fun and great for imaginative play!

Scrapbook Paper I Used

I found really fun scrapbook paper at my local craft stores. Here is a list of the papers I used :)

  • Castle & Unicorn paper: doodlebug design inc. Fairy Tales double-sided cardstock
  • Coblestone paper: doodlebug design inc. Dragon Tails double-sided cardstock
  • Baseball diamond paper: doodlebug design inc. Home Run double-sided cardstock
  • Basketball court paper: doodlebug design inc. Slam Dunk double-sided cardstock
  • Star paper: Echo Park Paper Co. Imagine That – Galaxy Quest Item #ITB147008
  • Jungle Safari paper: Echo Park Paper Co. Jungle Safari – Jungle Map Item #JS117012
  • Lakes and tepees: Photo Play Paper Co. Hidden Lakes Item #CL2518
  • Farm: Carta Bella Country Kitchen – Farm Land Item #CBCK76003
  • Grass: American Crafts
  • Water: American Crafts 341320

Happy Crafting! -Kim

Check out these other fun recycled crafts!

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DIY Safari BinocularsDIY Safari Binoculars

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    1. I also haven’t found any info on whether they can be recycled so I keep saving them. These play mats were a good way to use some of them up! I’ve also seen them cut up and used as templates/patterns so I may try that with the other few I have. :)

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