Big Fun with DIY Giant Building Blocks
What does your child like the most: building a giant tower or knocking down a giant tower? Whatever the blocks play style of your kiddo, one thing is for sure – building blocks are a timeless toy that never goes out of style. Giant building blocks mean bigger blocks for bigger fun! They do not need to come with a bigger price tag though!
With a little bit of effort you can have a fabulous toddler outdoor toy that is so budget-friendly it is practically free! In fact, if you put in a little search time it probably can be free.
It’s a fun and beyond simple craft your kids will love and then have a cool new toy to play with outside over and over again. Depending on how you play, it’s an amazing learning toy for problem solving STEM activities!
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Giant Building Block Materials:
1. Wood Scraps:
If you don’t have any lying around, someone else does! Ask friends and family. They may have some or know someone who has done some reno work lately.
Post an ad on your local online marketplace asking for free scrap ends. Only use wood that hasn’t been treated with any chemical sealants etc. that aren’t safe for little kids to handle.
If you really aren’t having any luck, you can buy some 2x4s at your local lumber store and they will cut it into lengths for you. Your giant building blocks aren’t free anymore, but they aren’t exactly expensive either.
Whatever you have or can find is fine! This isn’t a fancy furniture refinishing project going from large down to fine grit. It just needs to get ride of the sharp bits so your child doesn’t get splinters! I recommend gettingsome sanding blocks , not just paper – your hands and your mental health not being so frustrated with the paper will thank you!!
Non-toxic dollar store acrylic works just fine. We used a combination of that and regular Crayola children’s paint. Since it’s for a children’s toy, meaning everything will end up in a mouth at some point, it’s best to leave out as many chemicals as possible so no varnish or anything!
Our blocks have been outside in the elements for a year now and are still colourful. When I say elements, I mean it – we live in Canada and used these blocks all seasons! Some have faded a bit in the sun, but nothing has washed off or been ruined.
This is also a step that can 100% be skipped if you prefer the natural wood or need it to be totally free. The painting is really just for the fun crafting part. You could just cut the scraps and introduce it to your child as a toy only.
How to Make Your Blocks:
1. Cut Sizes
This is obviously an adult job. If your scraps are all the same size, cut some down to be different shapes and sizes. Generally, nothing should be more than a foot long – these blocks can get heavy and you don’t want one falling on little feet!
If you have some scraps with angles, even better! This adds more to the creative ways your child can play with the blocks. To be honest, we didn’t cut anything – we just used exactly the random cut bits we had left over.
Happy Moments Mom Tip: Make sure to have pairs of some length building blocks. This makes lying a block across two much easier when little ones are building a tower.
Run your sanding block back and forth quickly along all cut edges of the wood to smooth everything out. Since you’ve got kids you’ve probably scrubbed a stain or two out of clothes – use that same scrubbing motion! The last thing you want is a kiddo getting splinters while playing.
Get your kids involved and have fun! No set patterns or anything required! We did some giant building blocks with stripes (working in some math lessons about patterns!), polka dots, different colours on one block, or all one colour. Some blocks even have random colours made by doing some experiments of “What happens when I mix these colours together?!”
No blocks needs to have a specific role or identity painted on them. This lets your child’s play be very open ended and creative.
Playing with Giant Building Blocks
Yes, obviously you can build towers and other structures with these giant building blocks. But there is SO MUCH MORE your child can do with these than build towers! Take the blocks outside for the most imaginative fun without scratching any floors.
I’m truly so excited for you and your little kid(s) to get to enjoy all the fun at your house that this simple idea has brought to ours. I’d love to see what fun you’re having with your new giant building blocks – share your pics of your creations or the fun ways you’ve been using them on facebook!
Ten Ways to Play (other than building towers)
Created and loved by a 2 and 4 year old, here are some fun ways to play:
1. Lined up lengthwise to make a road for toy cars
We have had simple roads like this or a whole little city built of block roads connecting Little People buildings one day this spring.
2. Building bridges between other toys
A fun STEM challenge to set up for your little ones. Put two chairs, two swings, two anything side by side and challenge them to get their doll/car to the other side without touching the ground. They have to find the right size block or make a support for multiple blocks to build a bridge across. Make the two things uneven heights for even more fun!
3. Scavenger hunt items hidden around the yard
Easter egg hunt long gone but your kids loved it? Hide your wooden blocks “treasure” around the yard to be found and brought back to your ship (otherwise known as your deck, the swing set, etc.)
4. Ramp for toy cars to launch down
Need I say more?! What little one doesn’t love launching cars down ramps to smash into other things at the bottom?! These Little People toy cars are great for all young ages, can handle the inevitable crashes and have a built in person for kids to make talk and play pretend! Exploring the ramp angle is also some excellent toddler science.
5. A trap when playing pretend dragons, explorers etc.
Make a ring out of blocks laid end to end. Leave one opening that is then closed by one last block put down by whoever is doing the trapping. The trapped person then has to be sneaky and break out of the trap. This is done by moving blocks out of the way and making a run for it! Can you tell this game was thought up by a 3 year old?!
6. Buried Treasure
Instead of the treasure scattered around the yard in a scavenger hunt, maybe it’s the traditional treasure hiding in the sand box waiting to be dug up. This one works best with the smaller of your giant building blocks!
Such good STEM fun for little ones to figure out how to place blocks to have them hit each other. Comparing height to space between then testing and redesigning the domino sequence is such amazing learning!! If you’re like me and love some science play like this trail and error domino fun you’ll also love this easy food experiment!
8. Rocks for when the ground is lava (or a river)
Is your yard often the scene of a major volcanic eruption?! It happens almost weekly here!
9. Obstacle course markers and obstacles
Perfect for outlining a trail, a target or goal line to hit with a ball, a marker to run around and turn back. Obstacle courses are a big hit over here any time of year, but summer is perfect for them. That’s why they’re on this ultimate toddler summer activity game.
10.Wooden Block Art
With a little imagination, these blocks can become beautiful pieces of art! With a little encouragement and leading by example, your little one can then make lots of shapes!
11. Buildings along a sidewalk chalk road
Rather than being the road itself like the first way to play, pair the blocks with another favourite budget outdoor toy. Draw a sidewalk chalk road and place blocks around to be the city buildings. Paint a couple blocks with a “random” pattern of rectangles when you make them so for this they look like windows.
12. Giant Building Block Letters
Sneak in some learning fun! Depending on where your child is with knowing letters you can either make them yourself and have them guess while building which one they think it will be or just identify it once made. If your child knows their letters, have them use the blocks to create their own!
Phew – that’s a lot of playing!! I’m tired out just thinking about it all – and hopefully your kiddo will be after playing too. Then you can both enjoy a long nap or easy bedtime! And don’t forget – this is by no means the end of the list! Let the imaginations of little ones run wild and you’ll find so many more ways to play!
The sky is the limit! Well no, not really. In fact, the one main safety tip for these giant building blocks is don’t let your toddlers and preschoolers build too high. The larger blocks get heavy because it’s wood. I recommend nothing be cut longer that one foot max. You don’t want a really heavy block falling on little toes! In fact, even in summer the rule at our house is that shoes must be worn while playing with the blocks.
Once you’ve got these blocks made and perhaps helped introduce some of the various ways to play with them it is truly a toy that gets used again and again. The giant building blocks can be incorporated into so many other outdoor play activities and pretend play, not just building, so they never get old!
This toy is so good it is probably one of my favourites on my list of the 10 BEST BUDGET OUTDOOR TOYS FOR TODDLERS.