In my son’s early years, it was difficult for me to keep him occupied when we were out and about. Of course I tried, I bought matchbox car sets and then Playmobil micro magnetic playsets for time spent sitting at a restaurant, during car trips, etc. They were all very fun for him, very entertaining. But with a new niece or nephew coming this summer, I have been inspired to create an on-the-go playset out of more natural materials, and painted by hand for the new little one to play with.
With some basic painting skills and a bit of imagination, you can make a travel playset sure to inspire many hours of play for your child.
Below you will find the tutorial. As always, use common sense when giving this toy to a young child, as the small objects could pose a choking hazard.
Small wooden play case box with a hinged back. They come in assorted shapes and sizes and are sold at most craft stores. You can find many different types here.
Assorted hardwood wooden shapes, hearts, geometric shapes, and round bead heads
Hardwood wooden discs for bases of the trees
Wooden needle cases or wooden dowels cut to 3 inches or less for tree trunks
Small wooden peg doll(s)
Two wooden beads approx 3/4 inch tall to keep the back of the playcase upright
Non-toxic acrylic paint
Glue (I prefer Aleene’s Tacky Glue, found at most craft stores)
Note: I got all of my supplies at various craft stores but you can be successful finding similar wooden supplies online by searching for “wooden craft parts”. One site I found that sells almost all of the supplies needed is The Wood & Shop.
Decorate the Play Case
Draw a scene on the unfinished interior of the wooden case with a pencil. Because I live in the mountains, I decided on these, but you can choose whichever type scene that you wish. Once you are done drawing the scene you can begin to paint.
I decided on a little running river and a winding path that climbed the mountain to a small house.
I painted the scene as I went. It seems to take on a life of its own as you go.
Paint the Accesories
Once the scene is painted and drying, it is time to paint and assemble the accessory pieces.
For the trees, you will paint the base wooden disc and the trunk of the tree brown. For the tree tops you can choose any shape you prefer in whichever color you wish.
Once the separate pieces are dry you can begin assembling them.
Glue the dowel or needle case to the back of the flat tree tops with tacky glue.
If you are using bead heads as the tree tops, you will apply the tacky glue to the inside of the bead and insert the glue covered top of the needle case or dowel into its center.
Let these dry for a few hours.
Once the tree tops are attached to the trunks, simply attach the trunks of the trees to the wooden painted discs to make sure that the trees don’t tip over.
For the mushroom stools, paint various shapes of wooden knobs. I left the bases unfinished, but I painted the tops red with white dots.
To make a little Red Riding Hood, you can make her as elaborate or plain as you wish. For simplicity’s sake I just drew a circle where I wanted the face to be and a front design on the peg doll with pencil.
Paint the doll, leaving the face plain wood.
Let the doll dry.
Lastly, paint and secure a little house on the hill with tacky glue.
Paint the outside of the case whatever color you choose and attach two beads to the back of the case as shown with tacky glue. This will prevent the top of the case from tipping over. I used the thinner part of the case as the bottom, to allow for a shelf of sorts to hold accessories when the case is open and in use.
I made several extra people, trees and mushrooms so that they can be swapped out to change the story or the scene.
Even though I was certain my son Eben had outgrown playing with little miniatures, I caught him sitting at the table playing with the little set that I had made.
I guess our little ones never quite outgrow the appeal of mama-made.
Julia Daby is a Registered Nurse who lives happily with her husband and little boy in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. She enjoys crafts of all kinds, eating good food, reading, and being outdoors. Most important of all….she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She has a small store on etsy and she writes about life, family and creativity at Happiness Comes and We Deserve This.