In Praise of Play Cloths

Playing with silk cloths

Since writing about crafts and DIY projects last week, and reading the posts from two Blog to Inspire entrants—Jill Amery’s ideas for at home activities and Gwen Floyd’s dress-up box—I decided to write about the longest and most used toys in my family.

I write in praise of play cloths.

You know, play silks, squares of cloth, multi-colored canvases that become anything from a cape to a blanket to a wig to wings to the broadest reaches of a child’s imagination.

By far, the most used toys in my family have been the play cloths I made 10 years ago and the play cloths we have acquired since. If I had to recommend one and only one toy to parents of toddlers, it would be play cloths.

Make Your Own Play Cloths

Looking at the price tag of $10-15 each for play silks, I decided to make my own. I bought one yard each of 36″ wide cotton fabric in a dozen colors. I paid about $3/yard for the fabric. I also bought 48 2″ rings.

Because I bought fabric already 36″ wide, I didn’t have cut the fabric or hem the sides. I just hemmed each end, then sewed a ring at each corner.

The idea behind the rings came from watching my children play butterfly. They would wrap the corners around their fingers to be able to flap their hands open and shut. With the rings, they slip them over fingers and don’t have to hang on. The rings also made clean up a lot easier. Just hang them on hooks. We had 12 hooks hidden on the underside of our fireplace mantle, and the play cloths were often put away in rainbow order there, hanging by their rings.

NOTE: To be safe, use rings at least 2″ wide. Don’t use rings at all with children under 3 years old.

A Play Cloth Is Anything You Want It to Be

Costume. For young children, a play cloth is often a costume—a cape, wings, a hat, a skirt.

Blanket. When my daughter is not feeling well, she often covers herself with a play cloth. I think it’s a kind of comfort blanket for her.

Landscaping. In doll world, playcloths are grass, rivers, sky, and anything else.

Holiday Wrapping. We use play cloths to wrap gifts. We’ve become very creative in using multiple colors and knots as bows.

Dog Exercise. My daughter does a lot of research on dogs. Our dog, she tells me, can see red. So, my daughter covers herself with a sparkly, bright red play cloth and run through the house to get the dog to chase her. The dog loves this. When my daughter wears an 8-foot long midnight blue, star-covered play cloth as a cape for more dog exercise, they both romp through the house happily.

As my children enter teen years, I suspect the play cloths will still come in handy. I can’t imagine what they will become, but my children can.

Image © Tatyana Chernyak |

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