Have you ever wondered how to make wooden toy blocks? I hadn’t until recently.
We were at my mother’s house helping frame her basement. I found my son sitting in the middle of a whole pile of wood blocks. The blocks were the cut off ends of lumber being used on the framing project.
“Tell me about what you are building,” I said to my son. The three-year-old builder paused briefly from his busy work, looked up at me and said “I’m making a train.”
Of course! There were at least ten identically sized “cars” made out of lumber scraps lined up in a row.
My adult brain hindered me from recognizing the growing locomotive. Once I looked at the line of wood blocks through the eyes of a young child, I immediately understood the important project my son was immersed in.
It was at that moment, that I first wondered about making wood blocks. In this article, I will explain how we prepared and finished the lumber scraps to make blocks ready for the hands of the little builders in our house.
Step 1-Acquire Scraps of Lumber
You may be wondering how to find lumber to use to make blocks. There are several ways you can get your hands on the wooden material needed to make homemade blocks.
1. Use leftover scraps from your own projects. If you are building or remodeling, chances are you will have access to quite a few cut off ends of lumber
2. Contact a contractor and see if it is a possibility you can have any scraps of lumber from current building projects.
3. Go to a home improvement store or lumber yard and ask them if they have any pieces they could donate you.
4. Buy a few pieces of lumber and cut them into blocks yourself if you have the available tools to do so.
Think about people you know that may have access to lumber. I am sure there is probably some friend or acquaintance that would be willing to give you the material needed to make your child natural wood blocks.
Step 2-Prepare the Blocks
After you have acquired scraps of lumber, look them over to see if there are any longer ones you may want to cut so you have varied sizes of blocks.
The blocks we received were pretty much the same size. Since they weren’t very big, we didn’t want to cut them any smaller.
Another idea is to cut some blocks to make other shapes.
You could cut square blocks in half diagonally to make triangle shaped blocks. Or you could cut a square block into four equal pieces to make cubes.
If you have the right tools (such as a jigsaw) any shape is possible. Use your creative imagination and have fun!
After you have cut the blocks into the shapes you desire, smooth them down with sand paper.
You don’t want your child to get a splinter or other injury from the raw, rough wood.
Step 3-Finish the Blocks
After sanding and smoothing the blocks, you have several options for finishing the blocks.
1. Don’t do anything. Leave them as is and let your child play with natural colored wooden blocks.
2. Use an oil based finish. Seal the blocks using a non-toxic plant based oil finish such as Seal It Green Extreme Bamboo Wood Sealant.
3. Paint the blocks. We used bright primary colors to paint some of our blocks so that our son had a mix of colored blocks and natural colored blocks to build with.
If you want eco-friendly blocks for your children to play with, consider painting them with Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint. This water-based paint is non-toxic and dries to a durable finish.
Painting the blocks will help your child learn colors, sorting and patterning.
Let your child help paint some blocks! He will feel more ownership and pride in the blocks if he is allowed to help make them.
4. Add designs or pictures. Paint polka dots, spirals, stripes, chevron or other designs or pictures on the blocks to add dimension and variety.
My son’s preschool teacher applied students’ photographs to wood blocks with Mod Podge.
Store the Blocks
Congratulations! You have successfully made your own set of blocks for your children.
Now the next question you probably have is where to store the blocks. A pile of blocks can be quite heavy and depending on the shapes and sizes, can also be difficult to stack or organize.
Check out these options to neatly store your homemade blocks.
1. Block Storage Cabinet. This is what I used when I taught Kindergarten and is perfect for a primary classroom or big playroom. This cabinet makes organization and accessibility a breeze.
It does take up quite a bit of room and is probably the most pricey option, so I only recommend this cabinet if you have the space and funds for it.
2. Shelf and Bin Cubby Unit. This smaller and cheaper shelving unit still allows you to store the blocks in an accessible and organized manner.
You can also store other toys in this unit if needed.
Buy as many as you need or have the room for to solve any toy storage problems you might have. Decorate with the units by painting them to add color to your play area.
3. Nine Cube Organizer with Bins
This storage option is both decorative and versatile because the bins can be placed wherever you desire.
It is also ideal for storing other toys and books.
4. Baskets and Bins. If you don’t have much room, you can store the blocks in baskets, bins, crates or laundry hampers.
Play with the Blocks
Now that you have a place to store the blocks, consider the best place for your children to play with them.
Children love to build long and tall structures so make sure you provide ample space for block play.
The ideal place is a large area on a solid surface.
Our children either play with blocks on our living room floor, the area rug in their room or on their play table. Anywhere they can find to spread out and create.
The best thing you can provide for block play is you. Let your child lead, but help design, create and build whatever your child would like.
Blocks provide the perfect opportunity for open-ended play which is so important for overall development. Playing with your children enhances their playing experience.
Share Your Blocks
When you have completed your blocks, I would love to hear how they turned out.
How did you finish them? What solution did you find to best store your blocks? Where and how do you play blocks with your children?
Take a moment to share any questions, comments, solutions and tips on how to make wooden toy blocks below. Thanks and happy building!
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