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!