Early this spring we made a long overdue trip to the Martimes. Though we looked forward to the trip, we did not relish the inevitable sleep challenges… How was our 20 month old going to sleep while we visited house to house? would he in fact sleep at all?? Anyone experienced with having a baby that sleeps terribly will appreciate the desperation this instilled in me.
After considerable research I came across the Kidco PeaPod travel tent. Not only did it pack down into a nice squashy round thing the size of a pillow, but it popped up and made itself. Brilliant. Now the only “minor snag” was to train my very sleep challenged son to actually sleep in it…
And this was where the mattress drawback presented itself.
The mattress is fixed underneath the tent with snaps. It’s miserably thin and makes the sort of rustling noise anyone who has camped in a tent is familiar with. Trouble is, when you have a baby that wakes at the drop of a hat, this noise isn’t welcome.
I decided to make a mat to put inside the tent to make it more comfortable and agreeable. After doing this twice (in a twist of bad luck, our boy grew out of the smaller version of the tent I initially bought before our trip and we had to get the bigger one, blast it) and witnessing its success, I thought I’d share step by step instructions so you, too, can give your baby a more pleasing travel tent sleep.
This is easily made with second hand materials. A flat sheet, fleece blanket and some bias tape. Bias tape can be made with leftover sheet scraps if perfect matching is important. Otherwise pre-made bias tape will make quick work of this project.
- coordinating thread
- upholstery thread
- 8 KAM or metal sew in snap sets [fewer may be used if making mat for 1-3yr sized tent]
- leather needle
- fabric marker
- KAM snap pliers (if using KAM snaps)
Fold the sheet in half, pin to keep the layers from shifting, then use a fabric pen to trace the mattress outline.
Repeat with with the blanket.
Sandwich the blanket layer in between the sheet pieces. Feel free to double the blanket layer if your sewing machine can handle the extra thickness. Note: if using KAM snaps, do a test with the number of layers you’re using and set a snap to make sure it can handle them. KAMs with a taller shank may be necessary in order to hold fast.
Thoroughly baste layers together. Mark the centre of the pieces by folding them in half lengthwise. Sew a line of stitching down the centre, then at intervals pleasing to you (I did ~1 inch), outward until the mat is nicely tacked together.
Trim and rogue bits that may have shifted here and there during sewing. Apply bias tape around the perimeter of the mat, enclosing raw edge. Sew in place.
Next, make snap tabs to hold the mat in place inside the tent. This way, it won’t move about, bunch up, become uncomfortable or present a suffocation risk.
Cut a 6 inch length of bias tape. Fold it in half and apply/sew a snap to the non-raw end.
Mark snap points. Fold the mat in half lengthwise and use a fabric pen to identify the centre at either end. Fold it width-wise and do the same.Using the diagram below, mark the snap positions just inside the bias tape rim. Use a snap to gauge the right distance.
Apply the snaps. If using sew in snaps, sew them firmly in place with upholstery thread.
[Note: this snap diagram and number of tabs is designed for the larger Peapod tent (up to 5 yrs). The smaller 1-3 year tent mat can be made with 6 tabs and snaps instead of 8.]
Locate the rim around the bottom of the tent where the mesh and floor seams meet. This is what the tabs will be sewn to. Place the mat inside the tent. Snap a tab to one of the lengthwise points and position it over the floor seam. Trim away the excess tab fabric to make a snug fit while leaving enough to fold in and make a finished edge. Unsnap the tab, and fold in raw edge.
Using upholstery thread and a leather needle, hand stitch tab securely to the floor seam. A thimble is a great help here.
When finished, snap the tab to the mat holding it in place. Sew in the tab for the opposite end next, then the rest.
Finally, snap them all down and check to make sure the mat lies flat and smooth.
Allow your baby to explore your newly minted handiwork :)