Last Updated: February 28, 2022
Nothing appeals to kids more than creating toys out of objects that don’t belong to them. Especially if those objects are not even toys! Every time I’m working on a building project outside, my preschooler wants to take and rearrange my pieces of wood for his own DIY blocks. And I’ve always loved the look of those giant Jenga block outdoor games. So I thought some DIY wood blocks of his own might be a fun project for him. After redoing our deck last summer, and building a mud kitchen with the bigger wood scraps, I had even more small oddly sized pieces of scrap wood. Especially with all the short boards and interesting cuts left over it seemed perfect for outdoor building blocks for my toddler.
At the time, it was just heading into rainy season and winter, and he was only two years old. So I stored the cedar pieces over winter and in spring I revisited the project. I spent an hour one weekend sanding down most of the rough edges on the small boards. By this time, he was also two and half. And it felt like he was a bit more capable of handling not perfectly smoothed boards.
So I did my best in sanding, dusted them off and then built a little block house as an “invitation to play”. He was of course delighted with outdoor building blocks. He has spent countless hours incorporating them into his outdoor play. Most of the time with some kind of truck or vehicle involved. But occasionally he’ll build for building sake and try to build the tallest tower in the world.
At first, it was just little wood pieces everywhere! So I pulled out an old crate, and now we store them in that. At least they have a home to return to when we are trying to pick up the backyard play space.
I didn’t paint or coat the blocks with any kind of finish. So they’re not completely weather proof to sit out all winter for years at a time. But most of the wood is cedar, so it can withstand some weathering. We will probably store most of them in the shed over winter and bring them out next spring.
I love how creatively he plays with this outdoor blocks. We have a set of Melissa and Doug wooden building blocks for inside play. They are unit blocks and it’s really interesting how differently kids play with blocks that are not uniform and perfect. It’s definitely a more creative and different experience with the outside blocks. So I love that we have both options!
DIY Blocks Supplies & How To
- any size scraps of wood – these were 2×6, 2×4, 1×4 (and many odd shapes from cutting circles for mud kitchen sink bowls)
- sander or sand paper – I used my small mouse sander since it is easy to hold in one hand and the blocks with the other. It went quick. You could also just use sand paper or leave them unsanded
- paint or sealer – optional
There’s no real how to needed for this. :) Grab your wood pieces, sand if needed, paint or seal if you want to and you’re done! Depending on what kind of projects you’ve been doing, you might not have lots of little shapes and pieces. So you could then make and measure specific shapes or sizes. Or just wait until the next time you’re doing a project and be mindful of grabbing all the little scraps and saving them.
This would also be a good project to ask neighbors or friends about. You never know when someone else has just finished a wood project and has little scraps laying around to donate to your diy wood blocks.
And for older kids, you wouldn’t even need to sand a lot of the wood.
DIY Blocks Outdoor Play Ideas:
- create cars, trucks or car carriers with block and rocks
- count blocks
- create towers
- build bridges and ramps
- build wooden block house
And just like our DIY “seesaw” ramp, it’s been one of the easiest outdoor play DIYs for the amount of use it gets. I hope this has inspired you to create a simple DIY of outdoor building blocks. Let me know if you have any questions!