My boys are really creative gift givers on their own. They always have ideas. While at the craft store, they were smitten with these historical toy figures. Something I have learned with having three boys is their love of little stuff. Pocket size toys. Anyone know what I am talking about? As many of you may know, I am not a huge fan of plastic anything, but they did look like hours of imaginative play and were great for travel. The historical themes of Alexander the Great and Romans were the added bonus. The next aisle had miniature trees and landscapes. My boys were basically ready to build their own diorama, until I reminded them that this was a gift. So, we came up with the idea to make a travel scenery that could be carried alongside these figures. Perfect addition to our Summer Hostess Gift Basket for the kids to enjoy.


1 bag of historical toy figures, 1 mason jar (wide mouth), 1 8.5×11 piece of freezer paper, 1 8.5×11 piece of muslin fabric, scenery created on an 8.5×11 piece of paper, 1 10.5×13 piece of cotton canvas fabric, thread, scanner/printer, sewing machine and small scrap of decorative fabric. oh and coffee for mom.


I had the boys set up their figures how they would on a table when we got home. They arranged them neatly and with purpose. Then I asked them what the scenery would look like surrounding them. They instantly came up with ideas. My 6.5yo said that they would be crossing a stone bridge with lots of rocks and a river with a sword in it. My 9yo said they would be dueling on two boats. I sent them to the art table to sketch their ideas. Then I let them choose their art medium. One chose paint, the other colored pencils and pen.  Off they went.

While they were working, I assembled the waxy side of freezer paper face down on the muslin fabric and with a hot iron applied quick dry pressure to adhere them together. It is best not to use water/steam. These will be the sheets that you can feed through your printer. Once the artwork was complete (and dry) I scanned them onto my computer. Then we put the ironed fabric/freezer paper sheets through the printer and the artwork was printed directly on them. What makes this easy, is keeping everything scaled within the classic 8.5×11 letter size. After being printed, I gently peeled away the freezer paper.

Here is a look at the original art next to a printed fabric copy:


Then we assembled the art with their cotton canvas backing. All we did is double fold each side (the reason for the extra inch on each side), pressing with an iron to create a framed border around the playmat.


After sewing the border with my sewing machine, they were ready for a test play!


All the figures were stacked back into the mason jars. We added a square of summer gingham fabric (trimmed with pinking shears) to the top, rolled the playmats up and tied them to the side of the jar. The boys added the horse out of the set to adorn the top. Ready to add to our Summer Gift Basket.

I heard from our friends that these were a hit! And if you are looking to add an educational component to your DIY art projects with the kids, then I think this could open up a good discussion on geography, history, architecture and art landscapes.