How-to: Stain Unfinished Wooden Toys with Vibrant Colors

How-to: Stain Unfinished Wooden Toys with Vibrant Colors

Families who embrace a natural lifestyle often have lots of simple wooden toys–I know that mine sure does! Building blocks, peg people, beads, and even more unusual items, such as my daughters’ collection of little wooden acorns, can furnish an infinite amount of creative play, all without batteries, or plastic, or a video screen of any sort.

However, sometimes you just need a little color. A kid can build with her unfinished wooden blocks all day long, but if what she really wants to build is a rainbow, well…

Fortunately, unfinished wooden toys (or unfinished wood of ANY type), is quite simple to stain, and it takes color so beautifully that you may never want to paint wood again. Here’s how to do it:

How-to: Stain Unfinished Wooden Toys with Vibrant Colors

The secret to staining these small, unfinished wooden toys is to use liquid watercolors. You can’t buy liquid watercolors everywhere, so you may have to ask your local arts and crafts store to order it for you, or purchase it online, but they’re not terribly expensive. There are expensive liquid watercolors around, of course–Stockmar makes a very expensive set that’s all the craze amongst the Waldorf mamas in my circle–but the cheapie brand works perfectly for this project.

While you can stain the unfinished wood perfectly well with liquid watercolors and a paintbrush, if you can stand to have zip-top plastic baggies in your house, you can stain your items even better, and in seconds, using one of those little baggies.

smoosh the wooden toy in the baggie with the liquid watercolors

Put a few drops of liquid watercolor into a zip-top plastic baggie, add just one or two small wooden objects, and seal the baggie up.

Smoosh the wooden object around in the baggie until it’s completely covered in liquid watercolor. The wood will suck up the liquid, so it only takes seconds before each piece is done.

Kapla blocks stained with liquid watercolors

Set each piece aside to dry, well away from the others–I tend to stain a whole rainbow of toys at one time, and if one of my yellow blocks touches one of my red blocks while they’re both wet, they’re both messed up permanently.

I really prefer staining to painting especially with our fancy Kapla blocks and other plank-type blocks, because the stain doesn’t interfere with the perfect balance of those blocks, while finally, FINALLY, allowing my kiddo to stack the rainbow of her dreams.

These toys are perfect for any kid who’s old enough not to pop them in her mouth. If your kid still puts things in her mouth, either seal them with a polyurethane sealant or hold off with the color until she’s a little older.

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

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