I Spy Mats

The very best thing about this gift is that it doesn’t add any more CLUTTER! You get to use the toys/items you already have to make these mats. And your child is learning visual discrimination (a cognitive process)…so it’s a win-win for everyone!

As Big Brother and I were looking at the book  Can You See What I See? The Night Before Christmas today, I remembered I made these “I Spy” mats with my first graders and they LOVED them! And since the I Spy bottle we made several months ago has been a hit, I figured this would be too!

These mats would make for an excellent way to keep your little one busy while in the car or even while making dinner! Interacting with your child while looking at them would also be a great way to help increase your younger child’s language development. Ask your child to find how many sheep, zebras, and lions there are. Have him pick out the letters in his name. Ask her to point out the different colors she sees. The possibilities are endless!


So…here’s what you’ll need:  a digital camera and a lot of small items (markers, puzzle pieces, small toys, etc). You can either print the pictures on an 8×10 piece of photo paper at home or send it to Walgreens, Walmart, Sam’s, etc. If running out of time, you could even just use the pictures I’ve already taken (though I think your little one would enjoy seeing their own “stuff”).

Basically, all you have to do is group the items, snap the picture, and print it out! I organized my photos by theme (transportation, learning, animals, and Christmas) and made some harder than others.


I would highly suggest laminating these as well! I bought this laminator from Amazon and we use it ALL THE TIME. Then I bought a package of 200 generic laminating pouches from Sam’s for $20, which is way cheaper than the name-brand! If you’re not looking to buy your own laminator, Office Max will laminate for just a few cents a foot.

*A few weeks after I posted this, I also came up with the idea for this I Spy “magnifying glass”. Check it out here.


  1. I love this! My daughter is always collecting her 'treasures'. It would be a fantastic keepsake too to have a photo of her treasure piles.

  2. I love this! I think I'm going to bind the the pages together to make an "I spy" book! GREAT idea! Hope you have a great Christmas :)

  3. I LOVE this idea!! I have been looking for a great idea for my nephew, and this. is. it!!! My daughter will love "making" these, too! Thanks!

  4. I love this idea! My stepson lives far away and so I'm always trying to think of things to keep him connected with his dad. He loves I spy. What better than his toys from our house or pictures of him and his dad where he has to count how many of them there are on one page. Thanks! I had one suggestion though. As I was thinking about making this I was thinking of paying to get it laminated, but then I realized I could simply upload my pictures to hotprints. They print free simple photo books and all you have to pay is $2-3 in shipping.

  5. This is fantastic. I've been needing something like this and I am also going to make one with family photos. We have lots of family that lives out of town and my son loves to see pictures of them. Great idea. Thanks!!!

  6. This idea would be cute using cutouts from magazines and ads too. For example, I made a "foods" mat yesterday using images from Sunday's ads. I also bought the laminator and love it.

  7. I jumped to your site from a link on Money Saving Mom's site. Wow! What an excellent idea! My daughter is just under 2, so some of the craft ideas, while great, just aren't within the realm of what she is capable of yet. (Of course I bookmark them, but I've been looking for great stuff for now!) I am so, SO excited to try this out. I think my nephews (5 & 3) will also love it. Only wish I had my own laminator, but I will figure something out. Great post :) Thank you!

  8. Love it. I totally planned to do this the other day. My daughter pulled out our I Spy Game and as she was playing, i thought how nice it would be to make custom mats.

    I like the lamination idea, I wasn't going to do that.

    Mats work great for travel too!

  9. This is an awesome activity. I shall try and make one myself. Thanks for inspiration. Lisa:)

  10. Love this idea and will be making “I Spy” pages with my students at school. Plan on using clear contact paper instead of laminating. Thanks everyone for sharing.

  11. I often print pictures (or other pages I want to use over and over) on cardstock. It is still rather durable and less expensive than laminating or using photo paper.

  12. I love this idea, but have not accumulated enough to do this since my son is only 4 months old. I’d love to do this for my 2 year old nephew. Do you share? If not, I’d be willing to pay to get a pdf of the pictures you took! Thanks for your help.

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