The most versatile children’s toy is also a toy that has infinite possibilities for DIY. There are so many ways to create your own building block sets, so many ways to embellish old or thrifted wood block sets to make them playable in an all-new way, and so many ways to upcycle wood blocks so that you can enjoy them in brand-new ways. Here are just a few of my favorites!
Create Your Own Building Blocks
- ice blocks. Encourage kids to spend time outdoors in the cold by surprising them with a fun new toy! Use silicone molds or cake pans to freeze a collection of blocks (dye with food coloring for even more fun!). Use milk or juice cartons to create a set of giant blocks for igloo-building!
- wooden blocks from scratch. Put your woodworking skills–and those fancy tools!–to good use.
- DIY Tetris. Technically you’re not making these from scratch, but you are turning them into a completely new type of block. Haven’t you always wanted to play real-world Tetris?
- rainbow square. While you have the cubes out, also DIY this set of blocks that are good for puzzling, patterning, and stacking.
- pallet wood building blocks. Yes, I know pallet wood is pretty gross, so don’t let your kids lick it or anything, but there is no better large outdoor toy than a big set of pallet wood building blocks. These blocks are especially fun in a sandbox or the dirt area where the kids play with their toy trucks.
- pyramid blocks. These are extraordinary blocks that any kid would be thrilled to receive.
- interlocking blocks. The notches cut into these blocks allow them to be connected in gravity-defying ways.
- giant interlocking blocks. Let the fort-building begin!
- giant Jenga. Just… please be careful when these inevitably fall. They are REALLY big!
- tree blocks. Tree blocks are the natural alternative to pallet wood blocks. You can even take them inside! Take extra care to cut the flat sides of these blocks nice and parallel.
- baking soda blocks. These sculpted blocks would be a great addition to small world play.
- stacker. DIY the ultimate in baby toys!
- soft blocks. If your baby can’t be trusted with wood just yet, here’s a set of soft blocks to sew.
Embellish Blocks to Make New Ways to Play
- art dice. Embellish wooden cubes with simple shapes, colors, or scenes, then roll them to tell you what kind of picture you’re going to draw! Or, substitute the art with story prompts, numbers, or anything else that it’s fun to combine and be inspired by.
- architecture blocks. Got a little city planner in your family? Thrill them with these hand-design architecture embellishments on their blocks. For added interest, create local landmarks or national ones like the Eiffel Tower or Great Pyramid of Giza.
- art blocks. Hand your kids the paint and let them create their own fantasy blocks for imaginative play. They’ll love incorporating their own art into their scenarios!
- snap blocks. Adding a set of snaps to ordinary building blocks makes them into an all-new building experience.
- painted blocks. While art blocks are a way for kids to create their own blocks for fantasy play, these painted blocks allow you to thoughtfully design a new experience. You can make blocks that teach colors, include architecture elements or animals, illustrate the animals of the world–your imagination is the only limit!
- color gradient blocks. Here’s how to paint blocks to represent a full color gradient. Ordering by color is an excellent way to improve one’s visual discernment and pattern recognition.
- chalkboard blocks. Sand some larger blocks very smooth, then cover with chalkboard paint. Kids will LOVE creating their own scenes with chalk!
- image transfers. Use Mod Podge to transfer fun images to building blocks without decoupage.
- puzzle blocks. This project works best with flat blocks like Kapla or Jenga. Make your puzzle fun, or use it to teach spelling or shapes.
- sand blocks. Here’s another good use for those Kapla and Jenga blocks!
- pattern blocks. For more open-ended puzzling, draw a simple pattern that kids can repeat or riff on endlessly while they play.
- watercolor-stained building blocks. Liquid watercolor is my secret weapon for adding vivid colors to ordinary building blocks. Depending on how a block was cut, each face might take watercolor a little differently. This project is NOT for children who still put things in their mouths!
- melted crayon blocks. Add a new art technique to your kid’s skill set by doing crayon and watercolor resist right on heated wooden building blocks.
- wood-burned blocks. Most building blocks are made from high-quality wood, and they take woodburning like real champs! Design something beautiful on your own, or let the kids have a try. Even younger kids can safely use a woodburner with supervision!
- sensory blocks. Oh, your sensory-seeking kid is going to LOVE these.
Upcycle Blocks to Enjoy in New Ways
- candle holder. You can drill a candle holder into any building block, but I’m partial to vintage alphabet blocks.
- tabletop. This is such a beautiful way to enjoy vintage building blocks.
- fabric-decoupaged blocks. You could make these kid-friendly, but I think the best use for these fabric-decoupaged blocks is display. They make fun holiday decorations (while, yes, still being workable for stacking!), and fun interior design components when used to show off your favorite fabric prints.
- infinity cube. Turn a handful of cubes into the ultimate fidget.
- paper-decoupaged blocks. Prefer paper to fabric? There are even more possibilities for paper-decoupaged blocks!
- photo cubes. Decoupaging photos is just as simple as decoupaging scrapbook paper.
- woodblock printing. This is an easy first printing project that works with any type of engraved block. Alphabet blocks are perfect for this!
- clock. You could use any size of blocks for this project, but those pallet wood blocks ARE nice and big…
Do you have another great idea for DIYing, embellishing, or upcycling blocks? Tell me about it in the Comments!