DIY Blocks! So Easy!

When I made the move up in grades from PreK to First grade, I was a little taken aback that blocks would not be an item that was provided by the district I worked for at the time. I cannot use the word shocked as that would be exaggerating, but I was definitely bummed. Blocks can provide an avenue to meet so many required standards that I cannot fathom how they are not valued past Kindergarten as a teaching tool. However, I was determined as ever to use blocks in my first grade classroom and prove their existence is not only necessary, but vital. I decided to make my own blocks!


I started by going to my local hardware store and asking for their scrap pieces of wood.They provided a few scraps that they had on hand and encouraged me to come back for more. That afternoon, I happened to be going to my friend’s house in a new development. I noticed all of the scrap wood laying near the construction sites and asked the workers if I could have it. They said of course and said that they just trash it! What?!? I couldn’t believe they would trash all of that lumber! I gathered what I could to save it from certain death, I was doing a public service at this point.


I used a table saw to cut down the scrap pieces to the size and shape I wanted them. Then I used standard sand paper to smooth any rough areas. I then used paint, stain, and sealer that I already had in my garage from other DIY projects. I used a cherry stain and a clear coat sealer. The use of stain and sealer is not vital to creating your own blocks, but I think it has helped extend the life of them a bit.


Some of the scrap pieces were already shaped into these nifty house looking forms so I used acrylic paint to paint the “houses” and then clear coated over the dry paint.

Voila! There you have it! Your own set of blocks! I spent exactly ZERO dollars on this set and they have lasted me over 3 years now and are still going strong. Even though this year I am not in the classroom, I have loaned them to a wonderful first grade teacher who is happily using them to prove their worth with her students.

BTW, I used my blocks to teach Geometry, Measurement, Problem Solving, and Algebraic Reasoning. My principal never once questioned their existence in my classroom.

Thank you for reading! Share in the comments your favorite classroom DIY!

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  1. Shelly Hozack says:

    Absolutely! Blocks a such a key element to any classroom. Thanks for sharing this inexpensive idea for creating a set of blocks for the classroom.

    • Jenni Caldwell says:

      You’re welcome, Shelly.

  2. Morgan says:

    I LOVE this! Thank you for the inspiration to continue using blocks in first grade. I will be relocating from a Reggio-focused public school teaching kindergarten to a traditional school teaching first grade. I’m hoping to incorporate Reggio ideas and appreciate your post! I just found this site and am looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    • Jenni Caldwell says:

      Hi Morgan,
      I’m so happy you feel inspired. I was able to incorporate Reggio-inspired and inquiry based learning into a public school first grade and hope you are are able to do the same. It is a lot of work, but is so worth it in the end. Let me know if you have any questions along the way or need ideas. ?

  3. Alana says:

    Great work! lOVE block play.

    • Jenni Caldwell says:

      Thank you! There is so much that can be learned through block play.

  4. I agree blocks and lumber are one of those materials children never get tired of using and reinventing all that they can build. At Kidzateljé se fall them the shape shifters since one can make so many different things out of them.
    Thanks for sharing your Idea
    Shashi-Rekha Berglund
    Gävle Sweden

    • Sally says:

      It’s incredible the many ways the students can extend block play by adding space, materials, and other children!

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