Tutorial: Toddler’s Travel Toy

My toddler is obsessed with buckles. At some stores, he is the easiest kid to take shopping because he will just sit forEVER, happily¬† playing with the buckle on the cart. Click, unclick, click, unclick. Occasionally I will get a cry for “howp meh!” if it’s stuck, but he’ll go back to playing with it until we’re done shopping. Best shopping buddy ever!

However…at certain stores, the buckles are either harder to buckle or they don’t have enough slack to allow him to be able to stretch it in front of him to work it with his hands. And then…he’s THAT kid in the store, screaming his lungs out because he’s just so mad at the damned buckle.

Once, a long time ago, I saw a tutorial for a toddler’s buckle toy. What a great idea!

We are about to travel on a plane for Thanksgiving, and I was trying to think of ideas that would keep him occupied so I don’t have to deal with him trying to get off my lap and run off the entire time, or that will bother our neighbors too much.

I started with the idea for the buckle toy above, but then thought how it’d be nice to also incorporate zippers into this travel toy. He is just starting to enjoy zipping his own coat so this would be great practice.

But then a zipper should lead to a pocket, to hold things, right? Things like…cars! He loves little cars. Well now he should have something to drive the cars ON, right? Otherwise he will be driving the cars up my neighbor’s arms the entire plane ride. This is another inspiration piece I found:

The idea formed quickly and I was all set to tackle my first complicated sewing project, which includes my first zipper. Yikes!

I spent about $20 on my materials, but could have spent less. I was erring on the side of “I’m probably going to mess this up so I need extra material.”

Supplies Needed
Blue felt – I bought a yard, which was much more than I needed.
Green and Black felt – more on this later
Single-sized felt pieces in various colors – depending what shapes you want to make
Ribbon – grossgrain works best
Hot glue gun
Stick-on velcro squares
Thread – I used red for a fun a contrast as well as black
Fabric markers

1) Cut two rectangular pieces of blue felt to the same size (mine was 10×14 inches). Set one aside.

Side A:

2) Cut out a green hill, guessing and testing how high you want it to be. I used two separate pieces of felt here but should have bought a longer piece. My original idea was that this would simply fold in half, therefore the center being cut didn’t bother me. Until later. Now it really bothers me (read ahead for a photo).

3. Sew your hill onto your blue felt background.

4) Cut out a “road”. Mine was 2 inches high. Again I would have used a longer piece of felt if I could re-do this part.

5) Sew down your road along the edges, on top of the hill.

 Side B

6) Sew in the zipper. I have never done one before so I made sure to do this part first so I could scrap the entire side B if I needed to. I watched a couple of zipper tutorials then realized with felt being thicker than the standard cotton in tutorials I was watching, I’d have to improvise. I cut out a rectangle first, putting the zipper behind to guess and test.

Then sewed it together…it looked awful…

So I removed the stitches and re-did it. And my re-do isn’t all that pretty, either. Oh well. My child won’t care!

7) I cut out 2 rectangles for car pockets – measuring around a car for a guide on how big to make it. These were pretty easy to sew on – just around the three sides and done!

8) I measured and cut 1″ slits for my buckle straps (ribbon). I was going to leave them alone, but thought I’d reinforce the slits by stitching around the edges. Again, not beautiful, but kind of cute.

9) Now that both sides were done, I sewed the edges with the 2 sides facing each other, then flipped it right-side-out again. I hot glued my opening together because I was lazy excited to be done.

10) I attached my ribbon to the buckle only to realize that the buckles I’d purchased were more for thick backpack straps. The ribbon just wasn’t thick enough to pull it tight, so I sewed the one side on. For now, the opposite side is tied on, which is fine by me because it still remains adjustable then – for example, if I want to stuff 7 coloring books inside the pocket, I probably could still clip it shut by adjusting the knot.

This is the completed back side:

11) The fun part was making little animals in felt. For multiple layers of felt, I just hot-glued them together. I used my fabric markers to make faces and draw limbs on animals, and stuck adhesive velcro squares to the backs so they would “stick” to the felt, but they are completely re-positionable.

This is the completed inside:

As you can see now, the line in the middle of the green felt didn’t get sewn together as tightly as it should have.I ended up coloring in that spot with a dark green fabric marker to help camouflage it a bit. If I were to re-do this piece I would buy my felt off the bolt instead of 8.5×11 sheets.

It also folds up nicely in 1/3rds, to keep the cars in their pockets.

I haven’t given this yet to my little man to try out, mostly because I fear the novelty will wear off before our trip and he will rather drive his cars on our neighbor’s arms…

I know he will love the buckles, and hopefully this will be a toy that can grow with him, as we can put anything in the pockets! Or of course, I can make him a new one, now that I know what not to do…and that I need some major help with zippers and sewing a straight line. :)

It’s certainly not perfect, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

Do you use any fun, tried-and-tested travel toys for toddlers?


**See some other great DIY travel toys in my previous I Love Friday post for kids of all ages here. **