diy | playful painted kids mat

Here's the final pictures of the painted mat that I made for my niece Alice's nursery.  It came out wonderfully, brightly coloured and a bold addition to the already very colourful nursery.  The only hitch, a missed heat register meant it was a little too big, so we had to remove the last two pieces for it to fit, but it can always be transported to a larger space later on.

The How-To:

I purchased the standard primary coloured foam matting at Canadian tire.  I bought two packages of foam tiles that resulted in a 4'x8' mat.  I primed the SMOOTH side of the foam matting - the rough side is treated and doesn't grip any paint.  Two coats of primer did the job and then two coats of the base colour.  For the graphics I used regular acryllic paints. Much like my other rug, I freehanded the painting, but you could always sketch it out beforehand.  I used a random floral print with no repeating pattern to make things easier for me.  I then sealed the painting with two coats of satin polyurethane which allows for spills and messes to be cleaned up.  TIP:  keep the tiles separated when painting on the primer, the base coat and the polyurethane, but keep the tiles attached when painting the overall graphic.  This ensures the tiles won't be painted stuck and make it difficult to disassemble.

** Update:  Since the feature this morning on Design*Sponge I've received a few inquiries about how the mat is holding up.  The mat has been in the nursery for about a month now, and had been on my floor in the apartment for about 3 weeks prior to that.  It's holding up perfectly.  No chips and no cracking.  With that said though, I fully anticipate that down the road there will be some small hairline cracks, due simply to the flexibility of the foam itself.   In my experience with paints, I'm confident there will be no peeling or chipping of the paint, but the cracking is likely and I think will add to the charm and age of the mat.  It will not alter the durability of it though since the substrate is good.


  1. Fabulous!!! You have some serious talent with a paintbrush!

  2. Just fantastic, Sarah! How do you have such a steady hand? The work you do is so beautiful.

  3. Absolutely adorable - love it!! Whimsical, colourful and just gorgeous!!

  4. This is incredible! Amazing, beautiful work. I'm going to share a link to this on my blog....so, so great!

  5. How durable is this? LOVE!

  6. Oh my goodness!! First of all, great idea, and secondly - AMAZING talent!! That's a gorgeous rug. Ditto on Maria's comment, has it stood up okay?

  7. omg screaming now on how perfect this idea is

  8. Gorgeous!!!! Love this idea and am amazed by your freehand painting skills!

  9. Love it! Such a great idea.:)
    Bookmarking for later.

  10. I really want to make something like this for the kids play area in our living room...do you mind sharing what kind of product the foam squares exactly are? Since I live in the States, we don't have a Canadian Tire. Would this item be found in the automotive section?

  11. What an excellent idea- you could make this work as a product I think- as those mats for kids are soo boring and this is fantastic looking.
    Look foward to your ideas- I am your latest follower ( via Design Sponge by the way).

  12. I don't know I missed this- AMAZING!!!!!

  13. Hi Sarah!
    I love your rug! You are so talented! I would like to be able to do that...
    Nevertheless, I am wondering if the paints are healthy for the kids? I imagine that they will play on the rug sometimes and I wonder if all the products don't give some toxic smells off.
    Thank you!

  14. wow. stunning.

    I'm so glad I found your blog, too. I can't wait to read more!!

    btw, I found you via Ohdeeoh via Design*Sponge

  15. you. are. BRILLIANT!....and i am stealing that idea for my kitchen

  16. Wow, this is beautiful!

  17. jennifer - the mat was found in the flooring section and I know they sell similar ones at Home Depot and Lowes. The tiles are about 24"x24" and come as a pack of 4 and are usually red, green, yellow and blue.

    charlotte - the primer and base colour for the paint are done with a low VOC paint. All the decorative painting was actually with kid's non-toxic acryllic paint that I picked up at the craft store. The poly is waterbased so doesn't have the same level of fumes as the oil based. The mat however was left to air out for about a two weeks prior to putting into the room. There is no smell that any of us can detect, and we're pretty sensitive.

    Thanks to everyone else for the comments. Greatly appreciated.

  18. Anonymous21.1.11

    What a wonderful, wonderful thing! Any kind of latex primer, and the little acrylic paint bottles from the craft store, really?

  19. Gorgeous!!

    But how did you get the edges so smooth? Did the mats you bought already come that way, or did you cut them? Usually, it's the puzzle piece looking edge!

    Totally awesome. :)

  20. GENIUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. This is awesome! I am definitely going to make this. We have a 4 month old and hardwood floors so this will be the perfect rug.

  22. It's lovely... and inspiring. I'm 20 weeks pregnant and just getting into designing the nursery. A painted foam rug would make a wonderful addition.

  23. Just found you (thanks to TheKitchn) and wow. You have some talent. This is a great idea and it's gorgeous. Nice job!

  24. Emily S24.1.11

    Came over from Ohdeedoh.com when I saw this and I am in awe! You've solved my dilemna for what rug to get for our little's girl nursery. Thanks so much! You have serious talent.

  25. Wow that's gorgeous! And such a great idea. It really looks great in the room!

  26. What a great idea! It definitely looks a lot better than the primary color mats!

  27. What an amazing piece of art!

  28. Hi! Thank you so much for the idea. I thought I would share my humble version of your idea.


  29. Anonymous4.2.11

    This is amazing! I am going to attempt this for the my play room.

  30. Hey thanks for sharing your experience. We just had a teacher call us at www.foamtiles.com to ask us if our products were able to be painted by her students and we had no idea. After searching "how to paint foam tiles" we found you and thus this article and were able to pass along the link and your experiences to help the lady out. Thanks for writing this.

  31. Wow. Another knockout project.

  32. Anonymous21.2.11

    Hi, I have a question...did the topcoat/sealer make the mat super hard? My dad said it would be rock hard, and my baby needs to crawl on it, hence why I am even buying the mat...I already decided to use a non-toxic eco sealer, but am worried about the hard factor...what do you think? Thanks!

  33. Anonymous - the topcoat does not make the mat HARD. It still stays quite flexible and soft, in fact, I really didn't notice any difference between an unpainted foam tile and a painted foam tile.

    Hope that helps.

  34. Gorgeous! I just purchased a bunch of this foam matting at Costco. Got a great deal. It's multicolored and I hate it in my room. But the cost was there. So this is going to be a wonderful fix. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  35. Anonymous10.5.11

    Wow. I mean, wow. this is absolutely beautiful. You are so talented. I've been looking for a floor covering for my kids' playroom but can't afford a fancy rug. I will have to try this!

  36. Anonymous11.6.11

    Hello, Sarah. I was thinking of painting my (boring fawn) sisal carpeted stairway. If I used primer / acrylic paint / polyurethene, do you think it would be durable enough for a heavily trafficked area like a stairwell? Would be most grateful for your opinion. Really love your blog - I think you are so clever. Steph

  37. So now that it's been several months, has it chipped and faded? I feel like it would not last very long but I'm hoping that I'm wrong

  38. Anonymous3.1.12

    I could not find any mention of whether you used an oil based primer or a water based primer and base coat...I read the low VOC part....could you advise?

  39. I am amazed at your talent in freehanding that design--it's beautiful! But I'm wondering, how did you cut off the jigsaw/postage stamp-esque edges to make it so nice and even around the outside? I noticed the "Before" picture had them, but I couldn't find mention of that step. I'm looking for a DIY memory foam kitchen rug option, so it would be very helpful. Thanks!

  40. Helene3.2.12

    What kind of primer did you use? I'm not even sure where to start I'd love to know the product names and brands you used. Thanks!

  41. Can you tell me what sort of primer you used? I see you used a water-based poly and acrylics to design... This is such a great idea and can be used in so many applications! I can't wait to try it myself!

  42. Anonymous15.3.12

    what type of paint did you use. I want to do the same with for inside my booth at craft shows and I was told I need a plastic paint

  43. I'm being completely serious. If I paid, would you make that exact same rug for me? same colors, same design exactly???? I LOVE IT, but I'm not that good of an artist;(

    you can email me at

    katie dot kubler at yahoo dot com

  44. Anonymous3.4.12

    I love this idea but I don't need a rug that large in my kitchen. What about using the one-piece foam rugs that Walmart sells. They are about 18"x24". Do you think I could use the same materials to do a make-over on them?

  45. I love this idea
    . We just too the carpet out of our house and need to rug the rooms. My son loves to play with army men and matchbox cars. How will this painted mat stand up to that kind of abuse. I don't want to do all that work if it will get gouges and scratches. I so hope this will work. I love it!

  46. Sarah, I am wondering if you would be willing to paint one of these for my classroom? I would pay for the mat and the actual painting! Please let me know! I am a first year teacher that will be teaching about 28 first graders and would LOVE this addition to my classroom. You did a beautiful job!!

    Thank You!
    Brooke Thomas

  47. I love your rug, it turned out beautiful! I have this linked to my rugs post as well today, such a clever idea (and yeah, I have those foam play mats too!)

  48. Anonymous13.10.12

    Sarah, this is an amazing idea! I have a dog and have to keep buying rugs for the door front because they get so dirty, full of hair and sand that he drags in. Especially when it rains! I can make my own design and it would be so much easier to keep clean! I may give mine a few more coats of poly for added protection. Thanks for posting.

  49. By getting them this variety with cut out shapes and, say, barn animals like cows and horses, you can easily teach him a thing or two despite the early age. These things may just be their very way to differentiate shapes and animals altogether, giving them an edge for their age group.

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  53. What a fantastic project! I'll be linking to it on our Flooring pinboard. Check it out next week at pinterest.com/homedepot.

    - Chante LaGon for The Home Depot

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  64. question!! the straight edges how do we keep them from separating from mats, or mats separating at all? Glue them together or will they stick together when they get paintedc?

  65. This comment has been removed by the author.

  66. Hi ,
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  67. Anonymous15.3.14

    I am looking into doing a similar project and wonder how this beautiful mat has held up over time. Any insight would be much appreciated. Wondering if it is worth the time/effort, etc. Looks awesome!! Thanks!!


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