Friday, August 14, 2015

Solving the Great Mat Dilemma

When I moved from middle school to 4th and 5th grade, I quickly realized that these kids are young enough that "carpet time" would be a really good thing to use in my French classroom.  However, carpets + 500 students = DISGUSTING, so I went with foam mats.

This seemed like a great idea before school started but when I put them all together, I realized that I had basically made one large carpet that was going to get just as disgusting as a carpet would.  My afternoon classes come in with dirt on their shoes from being out at recess or gym, so my floors are often nasty in the afternoon.  Walking all over these mats and then sitting on them would be yucky and is the very reason I didn't get a carpet.

I quickly decided to leave them separated.  That way, each child would also have a mat of their own which would mean they had an "area" in which to sit and not.touch.each.other.

What a shock when I learned that you can do any number of naughty things when you are supposed to getting, putting away or simply sitting upon the mats.  They are great "swords", "fans", "frisbees", etc.

On simply 24 inches of foam, a child can sit, curl up, break dance, lounge, etc.  

For the most part, they became an essential part of my day and at the end of the year, each class said they like what we do when we come together on the mats.

What they didn't like is that the mats are "kind of gross".  They get dirty, even though we agreed there is a floor side and an up side.

They get very staticy in the winter and kids get zapped all the time.  AND they are hair magnets.  I had a few kids refuse to sit on them when the hair started collecting.  And I didn't blame them.  I don't even want to touch them.  I'm like "can you please move that mat over there?" and don't touch them.

So, rather than throw them out and use nothing or abandon our carpet time altogether, I made covers.

And because I can do nothing simply, I made covers like this.  24 of them, in case you're wondering.

My plan from the beginning was to somehow get French speaking places written on the mats, but even with the Cricut, I couldn't come up with a way that worked for me.

Stickers would be peeled off.

Paint would probably be scraped or wear off.

I'm not good with a Sharpie.

When I decided washable covers would be the way to go this year, I wanted to keep with the same color theme.  I have kids sit 4 to a table and I call out a color in French that each table has to get, so it helps reinforce colors and listening skills.

I bought the rainbow, and because I am a mathematical idiot, I bought one yard per mat.  The mats are 24 inches square.  I figured a yard per mat would be too much and I'd have a lot leftover.

This took a lot more material than I expected, even though I cut off all of the interlocking nubs.  That took about an inch off of the entire thing so they are about 23 inches square now.  This meant I had to cut the fabric several ways to get all of the pieces I needed, so I don't have as much leftover as I had hoped.

I was pleasantly pleased that scissors cut the nubs right off without breaking my hand.

Once I knew I was going to use fabric, I decided to use the Cricut to make a stencil for each place.  Then I'd use fabric paint to gets the names on there.  I couldn't think of a paint color that would work for all of the colors and I didn't want to buy a lot of different paints, so I went with a 4.5 inch banner in white.

I cut white  strips from what I had in my stash and turned them over and used the wrong side.  I did this on purpose!   I was afraid the paint wouldn't adhere properly to the print on the white fabrics.

The bottle of paint said to wait 72 hours but I did 2 coats and waited about 30 hours.  I set each one with an iron and then washed and dried them and they seem totally fine.  Who can wait 72 hours for anything???

Most came out really precise like this.  I wasn't sure with the vinyl I was using if paint would leak underneath.  I used a sponge brush and sort of blotted the paint on.

A few times I went a little nuts with the brush and went off the template.  In this case, the vinyl wasn't sticking well and as I was painting, it lifted and shifted and really ruined the whole thing.

I used it anyway but it will always taunt me.

I cut one solid piece on the back, 25.5 inches and the for the front, I cut two 11.25 inch pieces and sewed them to the strips.

I wanted them to close with velcro, so I serged the top edge for each side and then folded it over and sewed on the velcro.  I debated just doing a few pieces of velcro, but the whole width is a better choice for a lot of reasons.  Kids are really destructive and pick at things no matter how much I tell them to stop.  That's also why I sewed it in rather than using stick on velcro.

When I went to buy the velcro, I planned to get 14 yards (sometimes I am not such a mathematical moron) so I brought up the spool for them to cut.  The woman said it's much cheaper to buy it precut like this.

Shocking.  I always thought it was cheaper to get it off the roll.  So, I bought a bunch of these instead.  It meant I couldn't use my 50% off one thing coupon, but even with that, the one piece of 14 yards was going to cost way more, so it was definitely cheaper like this.

My favorite is the red and white polka dots.

I could do my whole room in red and white polka dots and be tickled.

So, I plan to wash these covers occasionally and hope that the static won't happen.  I serged everything in the hopes that they will be a little more durable and last a few years.

Making them took forever.  For.EVER.

But I love seeing all of the French speaking places and I can't wait to hear them say them!

Linking here:


  1. Oh myyyyyyyyyy. That is A LOT of mats. A lot. As in, "whoa, I would never have the patience to do that and you are SUCH a dedicated teacher" kind of a lot. Hats off to you!!

  2. Great idea, and they came out so cute! And kudos to you school district for teaching foreign language at such young ages!

  3. You sound like such a wonderful teacher and I'm sure your mats were appreciated by the children and parents alike. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  4. Wow! You are obviously a good, caring teacher to make all of those for your students and with such nice touches! I couldn't wait 72 hours either! Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday.


I love comments almost as much as I love summer. I reply to all comments except those ridiculous anonymous comments offering me dirty deeds and real estate. When you leave your comment, please make sure your own settings will allow me to reply to you. Nothing makes me sadder than replying to your comments and then realizing it’s going to the no-reply@blogger address!