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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best water doodle drawing mats

Last Updated October 2020

Coloring is a beloved pastime that lets kids explore their creativity. It’s not only fun but also educational and constructive, as it helps kids learn colors, spatial concepts, and even shapes. Plenty of parents will agree that coloring books fill up fast, and single works of art often turn into murals and collages on the refrigerator and wall.

To save paper and eliminate the potential for mess, consider investing in a water doodle drawing mat. These large canvases invite kids to color, draw, or trace with “magic” pens that are activated by water. Simply fill the pen with water and let the tip soak for a couple minutes — then it’s time to color. If kids decide they want a fresh canvas for a new drawing, they only need to wait around 10 minutes for the first image to dry and disappear.

If you think your child would enjoy a water doodle drawing mat, we invite you to keep reading. In this guide, we share an overview of features, some helpful tips, and product recommendations so your little artist can get right to work.

Water doodle drawing mats are ideal for Kindergarteners who are learning to write letters and numbers. The mat provides a fun way to practice these new skills at home.

Why parents love water doodle drawing mats

Mess-free

Art is a fun, creative way kids can play and express themselves, but let’s be honest: it’s not the tidiest pastime. Paint pots can spill, crayons can shed wax bits, and markers can leave hard-to-remove stains on clothing and furniture.

Water doodle drawing mats remove mess from the equation. Kids color freely while parents remain stress-free. The magic pens only work when filled with water and applied to the mat. As such, they don’t deposit or leak color. The only mess you can expect to encounter with a water doodle drawing mat is the occasional water spill.

Safety

Well-made water doodle drawing mats are designed to be as safe as possible for kids. The mats and pens are non-toxic, and because the pens are filled only with water, they won’t cause allergic reactions to the skin or eyes.

Pens and mats are generally oversized, minimizing the choking hazard. That said, you’ll notice that water doodle drawing mats vary in design based on age group. The younger the intended age, the larger the pens and accessories will be.

Many water doodle drawing mats meet stringent safety standards for toys. Those marked with the ASTM emblem have volunteered to undergo rigorous testing to ensure a high level of safety. Others are marked with EN 71, which indicates that the product meets strict safety standards to qualify for sale in the European Union. Those designated as CE-certified meet the European Union’s health and safety standards regarding design, flammability, hygiene, and radioactivity.

Portability

Water doodle drawing mats are highly portable, making them ideal for use during travel. As the mats are relatively thin, it’s easy to roll or fold them up to fit into bags. Some even come with a carrying case.

Another reason water doodle drawing mats are ideal for travel: only one pen is required for coloring. Traditional coloring requires a variety of crayons or colored pencils, which are undoubtedly hard to keep track of — and often end up lost.

Side-by-side play

Water doodle drawing mats are often large enough for several kids to work together on a project. The mats may be used by parents and therapists of children with special needs. Not only can they be used to introduce kids to side-by-side play, the mats can also be used for lessons and occupational therapy.

EXPERT TIP

If you intend to hang a water doodle drawing mat, make sure the majority of the canvas is reachable by your kid. In some cases, it’s best to place the bottom of the mat at foot level and raise it as the child grows.


Staff  | BestReviews

Parts of a water doodle drawing mat

Magic pens

Magic pens resemble oversized markers with pronounced felt or brush tips. As they’re water activated, you’ll need to unscrew them and fill the reservoir with tap water. It’s recommended to let water saturate the tip for two to five minutes prior to coloring.

Doodle mats

Doodle mats are usually designed with wide, themed borders featuring pictures of animals, characters, or other kid-friendly images. The canvas consists of a central white area that reveals color once kids draw on it with the magic pen.

If there’s one thing you should know about the doodle mats, it’s that kids don’t have a choice in the colors that are revealed. More often than not, the canvas is designed in a rainbow pattern, so any drawings kids create will be multicolored. There are some doodle mats on the market that stick to fewer or single colors, but these are far less popular.

Other tools

Water doodle drawing mats may be packaged with other drawing tools or accessories. For example, tracing sets come with a variety of oversized stencils that accommodate the size of the magic pen’s felt tip. There are also water doodle drawing mats that come with stamp sets, though how well they work on the doodle mat can be hit-or-miss.

Follow manufacturer instructions regarding cleaning the doodle mat. Many advise against using cleaners or alcohol and recommend wiping it down with plain water or baby shampoo.

Features

Mounted mats

Some doodle mats can be mounted for those who prefer easel-inspired drawing. These are usually equipped with grommets or loops for hanging, but there are some doodle mats with removable sticky backs that won’t damage the wall.

Size

While there’s no standard size, water doodle drawing mats range in size from 18 x 24 inches to 32 x 40 inches. As you can see, they’re fairly large, which means you’ll need ample room to fully unfold the mat. For that reason, it’s common for kids to enjoy coloring on water doodle drawing mats on the floor or table.

Educational varieties

Water doodle drawing mats encourage creative, open-ended play. With that said, some sets are also educational in design. The borders may feature letters or numbers to help kids develop spelling and counting skills. Other educational sets feature drawing or activity books that focus on these skills as well as drawing shapes or animals. There are also some sets that encourage handwriting practice.

EXPERT TIP

If your doodle mat has major creases from being folded, minimize them by placing the mat flat with heavy books on the creases. It won’t make them go away completely, but it can help flatten them out.


Staff  | BestReviews

Water doodle drawing mat prices

Water doodle drawing mats range in price from $15 to $40. For the most part, price depends on the quality of the set and whether it comes with accessories or tools.

Inexpensive: Entry-level water doodle drawing mats cost $15 to $20. While these sets usually have one or two magic pens, you won’t find many in this bracket with additional drawing tools. Quality is hit-or-miss in this range.

Mid-range: Mid-range water doodle drawing mats cost between $20 and $30. These sets are packaged with a few pens as well as a variety of tools and accessories, and the quality is superior to that of entry-level mats. Many mats in this range have earned high ratings from toy-testing organizations.

Expensive: The most expensive water doodle drawing mats cost closer to $40 and are made by premium toy or arts and crafts companies. These typically include a diverse range of tools for drawing and tracing as well as educational accessories or themed activity guides.

Tips

  • Roll the mat up instead of folding it for storage. If you fold it, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with permanent creases across the canvas.
  • Consider a themed set. There are plenty of themed water doodle drawing mats on the market featuring dinosaurs, zoo animals, and ocean life.
  • Embrace it as an eco-friendly alternative. Owning a water doodle drawing mat can help reduce your household’s paper consumption as well as the clutter in your home.
Keep pets away from water doodle drawing mats. Their nails can pierce the canvas, and they may mistake the magic pen for a chew toy.

FAQ

Q. How can I prevent the water doodle drawing mat from sliding across the floor?
A.
Some people use a low-temperature hot glue gun to create a pattern of lines or dots on the back of the mat. This often provides enough resistance to prevent the doodle mat from sliding. If that doesn’t cut it, try affixing the doodle mat to a layer of nonslip cabinet liner.
 

Q. What is the recommended age range for water doodle drawing mats?
A.
Kids between the ages of 3 and 10 tend to enjoy these toys the most. With that said, you’ll find that certain water doodle drawing mats cater to some ages than others. Those geared toward ages 3 to 5 , for example, often have borders featuring letters, shapes, and numbers in anticipation of preschool learning.
 

Q. How long do drawings last on a doodle mat?
A.
It varies between mats, but you can expect drawings to last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Keep in mind that not every kid may be a fan of seeing their artwork disappear. Other kids may marvel at the disappearing drawings and might even race to recreate images as part of an activity or game.

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera Pasturel
    Ciera Pasturel
    Digital Content Producer
  • Erica van Blommestein
    Erica van Blommestein
    Writer
  • Melinda Snowden
    Melinda Snowden
    Web Producer
  • Melissa Nott
    Melissa Nott
    Senior Editor
  • Sian Babish
    Sian Babish
    Writer

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