An African Savannah - small world play

 I recently created a wet felted play mat inspired by an African province called Kwa-zulu Natal for a friend of mine and her two lovely boys.  When I looked up the area on the internet I saw a variety of beautiful images.  As the design of this play mat brewed in my mind, I was reminded of a favorite story from our toddler room called Lazy Lion by Mwenye Hadithi and Adrienne Kennaway.  This story sparked creative inspiration for me as I wanted the play mat to be interactive for a 3 and 5 year old.  I felt that having this story as a basis would begin the imaginative play and more play could arise from it.

As you can see from these pictures, the terrain is gold, green, brown, bronze, blue.  I also went with color from the story as I love the illustrations. 

I didn't want to make the water all brown as in the pic above but at the same time wanted to honor the fact that not all water is blue.  So I mixed colors depicted in the story and also from the images I saw on the internet.  I added in just a bit of blue so the water could be distinguished from the land.

Once I had designed the play mat, the wet felting begins.

One of my favorite parts is cutting the openings in the caves.  I have found this method of making caves very effective.

I love using scarves and doilies to embellish the play scene.  You could also add in something behind the scene to create another dimension.  That could be a mirror, a picture or poster, or fabric.

I added in some flat stones and some unique stones I had in my collection (thank-you Ken) that I thought were a  perfect match for this African scene.

And welcome to the cast of characters.  First off, The King of the Beasts, the Lion.

Isn't this guy just awesome?  I found him in a thrift store, one of my favorite places to forage for play mat accessories.  He's definitely bigger than all of the other animals but he is the King afterall.

He orders the other animals to build him a house to shelter him from the the Big Rains.  They all do their best but nothing seems to work.

The White Ants.  Yes, painted on stone.  

Weaver Birds


I needle felted the thorn tree with an armature so that it could bend and so the children could move it around the scene. 

Aardvarks.  Aren't they funny creatures? Kind of like bunny pigs that like to live underground.

The Honey Badger

And the crocodile.

In the end, none of these houses will do and the Lion is left to wander the African plain no matter the weather and even in the Big Rains.

Add in more animals from your collection.  I even have some wooden African animal napkin rings that I would make available to the children.

And that is the end of this story.  If you don't know it, check it out, it's fun.  There are other titles in the same genre from this author.  

I hope you enjoyed this safari through Kwa-zulu Natal.  I wish the little boys who play with this mat, many hours of creative fun and also a chance to learn more about a land far away that is different than the land where we live.


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