Toy Block Make Over

I have a love for natural materials in my toys.  Although we have some really fun plastic toys, I never really love them.  I'm always wondering how I could create the same thing in a more pleasing material.  

Last summer, I thrifted a box of alphabet blocks.  Typical alphabet blocks are painted on two sides.  My thrift find was also painted in prime colors.  It was the only thing about them I didn't love.  I loved the size of them (1 3/4 inch square), the wood burned pictures and the way they are unfinished wood in the fronts.  Only the letters and the border are painted.  If only they had more subtle colors!

This week I decided to change all that.  I went to my craft paints and picked out 6 colors in soft hues.  I chose a very thin brush and went to town, repainting the letters and the frame around them.  It was exciting to see the soft colors replace the harsher, brighter colors (a subtle difference but a definite improvement)   I didn't mind the time it took, (about 2 hours to paint and another hour to double coat with a water-based craft varnish for the painted parts.  (Directions at the end of this post)

I love the soft colors.  The blocks look beautiful in our Waldorf inspired playroom and the natural materials are pleasing to the eyes and hands.  

As I very well know that I lucked out when I found those blocks and the opportunity to give new life to old toys.   I knew there had to be options for everyone to enjoy a similar project online.  I have a few ideas to share.

You can buy your unfinished Alphabet Blocks on Amazon in this beautiful style from Uncle Goose.  They are just waiting for your creativity.  

Another option is to purchased unfinished blocks from your local craft store or in bulk from a store like Amazon.  These blocks can be painted in soft or neutral colors and stenciled with letters for an understated, minimal look. 

 Project Materials:

-Thrifted Alphabet blocks (look for ones with a lot of natural bare wood).
-Craft Paints (Apple Barrel and Folk Art are two brands I have used and are available in Walmart. Pick 6 colors (soft tints or variations of a neutral color)
-Water-based varnish (found with the craft paints.  I used Folk Art for this project)
-1 small paintbrush for painting,  I used a #6 shader and the flat end exactly covered the border around the letter.  
-1 small round brush for painting the varnish on the block.  I'm not sure of the number but small enough to do the detail work.  I really just get my craft brushes second hand and so I don't worry a lot if I am using a substance that might be a one brush use.  Keep that in mind for really messy or inexpensive projects.

Clean any residue or dirt from the blocks and lightly sand off any imperfections in the wood (if any).  
Lay the blocks you want to paint on a flat surface, painting side up.  I painted the oranges orange, greens, green ect., using a softer color.  Craft paints dry very quickly.  I was able to complete all the same colors and immediately start over at the first block to paint a second coat.  

When this color is dry, lay out the next color of blocks and repeat as with the first color. Continue until all the blocks have been repainted top and bottom letters.

Give the blocks a chance to dry thoroughly and then paint on the varnish just where the paint has been placed.  I came back the next day and gave it a second coat.  It will take two weeks to be really seasoned.  You will want to leave the rest of the wood as is.  It is so lovely, untouched.  Please note that these are not mouthing toys so do not just give them to your babies to play with.  

I hope that when you are looking at wooden toys and wishing that they were less vibrant and more calming, you would think about craft paint and how different they could look.  Rather than spend money at some pricey, exclusive shop, give this a shot.  It is Saturday and I think I am going to go thrifting!  


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