How to Make a Travel Game Mat
Gathering around a classic board game is a time-honored way to spend quality time with friends and family. Unfortunately, the bulky size of many traditional board games makes them difficult to travel with when entertaining outside the home. This easy-to-make travel game mat provides a simple solution to toting around three of your favorite games: Checkers, Mancala, and Tic-tac-toe!
Step 1 — Choose Games and Gather Materials
To get started, you will first need to choose three games for your mat. Mancala, Checkers, and Tic-Tac-Toe were chosen for this travel game mat. Once you have decided on the games you most prefer, you can gather your materials.
Step 2 — Section the Mat
Make a space on the mat for each game by sectioning off three even portions with tape. Use a pencil to draw the face of each game’s board on the mat.
For checkers, a simple way to create an even board is to map out the squares with tape. The tape will form straight lines and will cover the squares that you don’t want painted.
Step 3 — Paint the Mat
Once you have each game's board traced or taped on, it’s time to paint. After painting, set the mat aside to dry before removing the tape.
Step 4 — Begin Making a Game Piece Pouch
To make a pouch that can hold your game pieces, you will need two rectangular pieces of fabric. It is up to you whether to use two different patterns, or the same fabric for both the lining and the outside of the pouch. Either way, the fabric used for the lining should be cut roughly 2 inches narrower than the main fabric piece. Set aside extra scraps of fabric.
Lay the main piece of fabric down with its back side facing up. Place the lining, back side facing down, centered on top of the main fabric so that the back sides of each are touching. Connect the lining to the main piece by applying fabric glue along the top and bottom edges of the main fabric and press the lining down.
Step 5 — Glue the Fabric Edges
Apply a thin line of glue along the left and right edges of the lining, fold over the excess flaps of main fabric on each side, and press down to create smooth sides. Let the fabric dry for a few minutes, then add a line of glue along the fabric’s top and bottom edges and fold each edge over roughly 1 inch.
Step 6 — Form the Pocket
Starting at the bottom left corner, apply a line of glue about one-third of the way up the fabric’s left edge. Repeat on the right side. Fold the bottom third of fabric over and press down to create a pocket. You want to have at least 2 inches of fabric remaining above the pocket to use as the closure flap.
Step 7— Add Hook and Loop
Cut a strip of hook and loop that will fit along the top edge of the closure flap. Peel off the back side of the hook and loop adhesive and press down firmly so that it sticks to the inside of the flap. Next, peel off the other side of the hook and loop adhesive and fold the flap down over the pocket.
Step 8 — Finish the Game Piece Pouch
Allow the hook and loop adhesive to set for ten minutes, then pull the flap open. You should now have a functional pouch to stow your game pieces in.
Step 9 — Make a Handle
Using leftover scraps of fabric, cut out a long, narrow strip that can be used as a handle.
When the paint on the mat is dry, peel off the tape and flip the mat over so that the painted side is facing down. Choose one end of the mat to fasten the handle to with glue. It is important to make sure the handle is attached to the back side of the mat. Let the adhesive dry for several minutes.
Step 10 — Apply Hook and Loop to the Mat
Flip the mat back over so the painted side is facing up. Cut two small pieces of hook and loop and peel off the back adhesive side of each. On the same end of the mat as the handle, but on the side that is painted, secure one piece of hook and loop to each corner.
Roll up the mat, starting with the opposite end from the handle and hook and loop. When the mat is completely rolled, peel off the other side of the hook and loop adhesive pieces and affix them where the corners naturally fall. Allow the adhesive to set for ten minutes before opening the hook and loop.
Step 11 — Attach Pouch
Apply a line of glue along the top edge of the pouch’s backside and place it on the mat, directly under the handle. Firmly press the pouch down then let the glue dry.
Step 12 — Make or Gather Game Pieces
If you’re looking to make custom game pieces, feel free to let your creativity run wild! Give your mat a personalized touch by using items such as shells, rocks, beads, or other small objects as unique game pieces. The quantity and size of pieces you need will depend on the games painted on the mat. For example, you would need 24 pieces for Checkers, five “X” and five “O” pieces for Tic-tac-toe, and 49 small pieces for Mancala.
The game pieces shown in this article include 10 small blocks painted with “X” and “O” for Tic-tac-toe, painted slices of wine cork for Checkers, and glass beads for Mancala. To replicate the checkers, carefully cut six corks into fourths to form 24 pieces. Paint 12 of the cork slices with one color, and leave the remaining 12 natural or paint them with a different color to establish which game pieces belong to each player.
In fact, there are many ways in which you can make interchangeable game pieces. For example, cut 49 pieces of cork to be painted in two different colors. These pieces can be used for Mancala as well as can be used to represent opposing sides in Tic-tac-toe and Checkers.
Step 13 — Pack and Play
Roll up the mat, place the game pieces inside the pouch, and enjoy your new travel game mat on your next summer outing!