DIY Elves Village Playscape

Loulou Maya playing with the finished playscape

Loulou Maya playing with the finished playscape

Hi there!

This is a post about how bad I am with reusing and recycling. It all started when we got a dryer at the new house. As any dryer-owner knows, you are supposed to clean out the dryer lint filter after every use. That lint looks surprisingly like raw felting material. So I googled if you can actually do any crafts with it. Most results were about creating fire starters out of dryer lint but apparently there are people who use it to felt, provide material for bird nests or as a filler for cuddly toys. That last one sounded quite appealing, as I have fallen in love again with my hot glue gun and using some left-over poor quality acrylic “felt” sheets I made quite a few quirky beetle-like (the insect, not the band) stuffed toys for Loulou Maya.

So the obvious next step was to create something more elaborate. Now, Hillegom, where we currently live, doesn’t have much in terms of hip concept stores but it does have a big hobby store with a wide selection of supplies. So I left there with a bag full of FIMO (sort of clay that you can bake in the oven and it hardens) and good quality felt sheets. In other words, I bought approximately 647589324 times more new materials, in order to reuse just one clean-out worth of dryer lint. Go me!

I have been a FIMO lover since I can remember. I must have been five or six when my parents saw I was creating those very elaborate miniature furniture out of the wax that’s on the outside of snack cheeses and they got me the first set of polymer clay. And for that I am forever grateful, as playing with polymer clay is really a form of meditation for me and I am not the meditative type. Luckily for them, I have always been the miniature type though, which means that my creations would always fit nicely in small boxes and they didn’t require tons of material either. Which is a good thing ’cause good polymer clay isn’t particularly cheap. And that brings us to the one and only challenge of this project: explaining to LM that this is mama’s clay and she can only have tiny pieces and no matter how many times she tries to mix all the colors together, they will end up in a muddy gray.

I will soon stop with all the blabbing about the project and just present it to you via pictures, but first a couple of things to keep in mind, in case you decide to try and make one yourself:

  • I would say it is suited for kids 3,5-4 and up. Loulou Maya (who will be 3 in June) is luckily quite good with delicate movements and not the destructive type so far, so she does play gently with the pieces, but she still needs some encouragement from me to start with the role playing.
  • For the felt parts: If you have a toddler or young child that loves to test the strength of things, you might need to sew the bigger pieces together. I ‘ve gotten away with hot-gluing everything and three days later we had no damages, even though it has been played with a lot.
  • For the polymer clay parts: Try and think like a toddler, if you are making it for one. Very delicate elves/fairies/tiny animals etc are highly likely to suffer from limbs and wings that will soon snap off, intentionally or not. If you love detail, try to incorporate it through patterns and different colors, not through lace-like detailed structures. I dared to give my carrots some basic leaves and two are already gone. We don’t even know when it happened. It’s just clumsy little hands playing.
  • Try not to overload your playscape with details. Leave room for your kid’s imagination. Hiding places, moving parts, some different terrains are fun to have, but leave space for “events” to take place as well.

The dimensions of the playmat are approximately 40 by 35 cm with the tallest house being 20 cm including the smoke coming out of the chimney. The hand that is used to show scale in the detail pictures is mine while the person wearing the orange shirt, playing, is Loulou Maya (so you get a right idea about the scale of the whole thing).

felt parts and polymer clay parts separately

Felt parts and polymer clay parts separately

Detail of the stone-tree house. This was the first one I made and it's apparent from it's sloppy.. ehmm.. flowy form.

Detail of the stone-tree house. This was the first one I made and it’s apparent from it’s sloppy.. ehmm.. flowy form.

Detail of the stone tipi. I like the chimney of this one and the fact that it has smoke (some pillow stuffing) but LM keeps pushing the smoke into the chimney.

Detail of the stone tipi. I like the chimney of this one and the fact that it has smoke (some pillow stuffing) but LM keeps pushing the smoke into the chimney.

Detail of the tree stump house. If I re-did this one, I would put a double layer of felt, as it tends to lose it's shape, because the roof is a tad too heavy.

Detail of the tree stump house. If I re-did this one, I would put a double layer of felt, as it tends to lose it’s shape, because the roof is a tad too heavy.

Same tree stump house with the roof open.

Same tree stump house with the roof open.

This little felt boat is LM's favorite thing on the playscape. Could be because every time it crosses the river I am singing a funny tune. She loves to load and unload it with people and goods.

This little felt boat is LM’s favorite thing on the playscape. Could be because every time it crosses the river I am singing a funny tune. She loves to load and unload it with people and goods.

And a side view of the boat, bridge and the dune caves, that offer shadow that protects the elf babies when their parents go to the beach.

And a side view of the boat, bridge and the dune caves, that offer shadow that protects the elf babies when their parents go to the beach.

The small waterfall. I included this pic to show you that there is really no need to try and make it perfect, for your toddler to enjoy it. I mean, there is hot glue coming out of everywhere in this pic. Does LM care the slightest bit? Nope.

The small waterfall. I included this pic to show you that there is really no need to try and make it perfect, for your toddler to enjoy it. I mean, there is hot glue coming out of everywhere in this pic. Does LM care the slightest bit? Nope.

Now onto some close-ups. These are really easy to make, I swear. They might look tricky if you haven’t worked with polymer clay/ that scale before, but they are so easy and fun, they are really worth a try.

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Loulou Maya also made a bowl full of chocolates (poor kid.. deprivation at its finest..) and a pan to fry stuff. She is very proud of them and I am quite proud of her as well.
Following are some general pics I snapped during our play. It seems that what LM enjoys the most is to set up very specific scenes, that revolve A LOT around feasts. “Let’s do a picnic at the beach!”, “Let’s make a farmer’s market and then cook what they bought!”, “Let’s set up a party around the pond”. And it goes on and on…

Picnic on the beach

Picnic on the beach

One of the first gatherings, before all the elves were ready. Notice the purple bowl with the brown things inside, that's LM's huge chocolate bowl :)

One of the first gatherings, before all the elves were ready. Notice the purple bowl with the brown things inside, that’s LM’s huge chocolate bowl 🙂

Farmer's market

Farmer’s market

The baker at the farmer's market enjoying his croissant and tiny cappuccino.

The baker at the farmer’s market enjoying his croissant and tiny cappuccino.

Vegetable patch. See the rocks behind it? Those are filled with dryer lint! I told you I recycle!

Vegetable patch. See the rocks behind it? Those are filled with dryer lint! I told you I recycle!

Vegetable patch/Market/ Not sure what's going on here. I was just following instructions.

Vegetable patch/Market/ Not sure what’s going on here. I was just following instructions.

Feast around the pond. Look how thoughtfully LM instructed me to put all the kids together to sleep at the side, so the adults could enjoy some adult time. After that last feast of the day, believe it or not, the elves actually went home to sleep!

Feast around the pond. Look how thoughtfully LM instructed me to put all the kids together to sleep at the side, so the adults could enjoy some adult time. After that last feast of the day, believe it or not, the elves actually went home to sleep!

I think it took me around 10-12 hours to do the whole thing, including cutting, gluing, clay work. It was in small chunks though and I had LM “help” me out, so my time estimation might be off. Definitely doable in a weekend in any case, if you have any birthdays coming up and are looking for a special gift.

Let me know if you try it out 🙂

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