First, cut the wood into 1½" and 3" pieces with a chop saw to create blocks. After making each cut it's important to sand all the surfaces so that they're completely smooth, ensuring little hands won't get splinters!
There are so many options when it comes to designing and personalizing these blocks. We found these amazing acrylic paint markers that make it easy to draw designs. Here are two ideas, but don't limit your creativity to our suggestions!
Whatever type of paint you decide to go with, be sure that it is approved to be safe for children. You'll see that we finished ours with a satin polyurethane finish that is safe, but not edible. Choose a paint and finish that is safe for the age of your child. If you'd like to finish your blocks with paint, we'd recommend Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover paint, which comes in a variety of colors and is safe for use on toys. When using this paint, a primer is strongly recommended over bare wood. Per the instructions on the can, wait two hours after applying the primer before painting on your top coat.
Option 1: Mod Geometric Design
For our first set of blocks we went with a modern geometric pattern. To create similar geometric designs, use a combination square and a pencil to make guides for drawing (or painting) shapes onto the blocks.
Option 2: Cityscape Design
Use an acrylic paint marker to draw doors, windows, roofs, lampposts, people, pets, etc. You can also use a sharpie, but the lines aren’t quite as sharp and the color isn’t quite opaque.
To set the design (from the acrylic markers or paint) and give the blocks a nice finish, paint a coat of satin polyurethane finish over the design. Follow the directions on the can and allow the paint to fully dry before the blocks to come in contact with children.
For our version, we used polyurethane over the design made with the markers. If you are making these blocks for very young children, we recommend mineral oil as a safe alternative.