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Inspiring ImaginOak

Craig McDowall designs unique children's play mats for creative story telling.ImaginOak play mats are the brain child of Craig McDowall, owner of Anvil Graphics in Maryland. Craig has fond memories of his mom bringing home huge refrigerator boxes, and with his brother Mike, they would spread them flat on the living room floor and draw make believe towns. Each of us would draw a house and a place to work, and then use our cars, army guys and other toys for really fun play together, the kind of play that bonds brothers for a life time. Later, inspired by a small colorful place mat, “Tiki Town”, his daughter used for play, Craig thought that children would like a larger full color play area.

Created at full size in Photoshop, our original artisan play mats are drawn and rendered to include a variety of natural areas and quaint buildings. We are going for a painterly style but with more realism than play mats targeting pre-schoolers. At the same time, we want to create a fun and bright atmosphere which will be engaging to school age children, ages 4-11.

Along the way we thought about a few things. We notice that many games and toys (including most video games), provide a pre-written script for children to follow. We would rather the kids bring their own toys to the play mat, and create their own narrative. By allowing the children to be their own story tellers, we hope that children will be engaged in more meaningful play. We know that children are capable of working out some of their problems by imaginative experiential play, and our play mats might help them in that process.

Craftman edge sealing an ImaginOak play mat. Children love to make believe adventure stories.We also wanted to create a play space big enough for really fun solo play, but also large enough that 2 or more kids could participate. The best stories are relational, and when several children are engaged in imaginative story creation together, we believe magical things can happen. Our advice to parents would be to stay out of the way.

We also found that our JUMBO 4x5 play mat was super fun, but not the best fit for all homes, and particularly smaller bedrooms. We decided to offer a smaller play mat to make it easier on both parents and kids, and the LARGE 3x4 mat is a nice fit in any room. This smaller mat is also easier on the budget for many families, which is an important consideration for us.

Your child’s safety is important to us. We looked long and hard for a printing partner with the right equipment, materials and process to produce a top quality product. ImaginOak play mats are printed with water-based latex inks on flame resistant Agfa scrim vinyl. There is absolutely no odor, and no solvents or chemicals are used in the printing process. The HP latex inks are commonly used in schools, hospitals and restaurants, and are UL GreenGaurd certified. This is good for your kids, and good for the nice people at Printastic in Novi, MI printing our mats.

Three ImaginOak children play mats laid end to end to make a huge play space.Play mats should always be used on non-slip flooring. You should avoid polished tile or smooth wood floors (and your kids don’t want to crawl around on hard floors anyway). Would you play Twister on a tile floor ? Me neither.


Our play mats are suitable for outdoor use. In fact, if your child dropped a PBJ sandwich onto a play mat and rubbed it in with a juice box drink, then you accidentally left the play mat on the back patio for a few days, you can rinse it with the hose, clean it with a mild detergent and a soft sponge, and bring it back into the house. The vinyl has heat sealed edges which are practically tear proof. We think ImaginOak play mats are the finest available.


Our original three designs, Caravan Village, Quest Realm, and Horse Haven are available in both JUMBO 4x5 and LARGE 3x4. Jumbo size is 45.5" x 59". Large size is 36" x 47".

The great part is that the play mats can be laid together in any configuration, such as a large ‘L’ shape, ‘H’ or inline. The three large ones, laid end to end longways, are 14’6” long, that is a lot of play space! The three small mats, laid end to end are almost 12'.

The next play mat design will be released soon, be sure to join our mailing list during your check out for the announcement. Will it be a pirates cove, a zoo, a western town, New England village, or something else ? Be the first to know when you sign up on our mailing list during checkout.

Please Note: The photographs are of actual children using their own toys. Any display of trademarked toys is completely incidental to showing our play mats in actual use. Those trademarks belong to those manufacturers, and are not meant as an endorsement of our product. If you see your toy on our mat, please take it as a compliment from a happy child.