Slight confession. I have a bit of a shopping problem. Not enough to call a 1-800 number about, but enough of a problem that box hoarding is in my future. You see, I like to buy things from Amazon. The hoovering of the mouse over shiny items, the pulse in my skull when I drag items to my shopping cart, the total release of chemicals I can never hope to pronounce as I input my credit card numbers. Pure, pure ecstasy, let me tell you.
Of course, this is in stark contrast to the fact I’m El Cheap-o. I’m serious. I’m so frugal, I use toothpaste to cover up holes I’ve made in the walls by attempting to hang pictures, since I’m too tightfisted to actually just buy a tape measure to line up what’s being hung with where it needs to go. I like to pretend that approximating based on freckle location along my forearm works just as well (trust me, it doesn’t).
While I just dropped $89 on a dresser my daughter desperately needs (I’ve been using a hanging shoe organizer to store her clothes for the better part of two years now) I’ve yet to actually buy toy blocks. I like blocks and most parenting resources I read talk about how they’re great for motor skill development. Awesome stuff. I have a shelf that I hung so low, it will never actually hang towels on the brightly-colored pegs, and I have (allegedly) too severe of a case of OCD to just let the shelf be pretty for the sake of being a shelf. So these blocks I intend to make with ribbon and hang them as lettered accessories.
Anyway, I made them out of cardboard! Here’s a brief tutorial for Not-So-Wooden Blocks.
You will need:
-Glue (or other bonding agent)
First, I grabbed a few cardboard boxes that weren’t dusty or covered with grime to be cut up. You can’t really wash cardboard, so I suggest implementing my (pretty low) standards of cleanliness. Especially for boxes that apparently originated in Italy.
Next, I knew I needed to create about six squares to create a perfect block. I first learned how many sides there were to a block in fifth grade math class, when we did a brief Geometry unit. I remember being told that a cube and a block were one in the same, and that I would never forget the sides to a cube due to my own spatial cranial relationship to a block. My teacher, Mrs. Summers, didn’t like me very much, but 15 years later, I’ve got to give her credit for one subversive way of insulting my intelligence (block head! get it?) even if she is dead now. Anyway, remember how I said I’m too cheap to buy any unit of measurement? That’s pretty much true. So I snapped together some of my son’s Legos to create a square shape about the size I estimated wooden blocks to be.
After I finished tracing squares, I cut them out on a surface which could be painted, and went to town decorating them. I started off with red paint, but it took too long to dry and I was really into the episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” airing in the background, so the other colors received a marker updo.
Not really digging the “Hey! I’m actually cardboard!” give away of the natural color, I opted to obscure it with some lettering and additional paint. This is where you can go crazy with your own decorations. I lucked out, because these cubes are going in a Dr. Seuss-themed bathroom. In a nutshell, that means it doesn’t matter if I mess up, because even if I inadvertently create a triangle here, because it’s Dr. Seuss, it’s allowed to be messed up. Heck, it probably even matches better, so I owe it to my kids to do a poor job (how’s THAT for justifying mediocrity, America?) or else it won’t like right. However, unless you’re going for a Dr. Seuss theme, I’d suggest that you avoid creating under my philosophy.
Once the paint had (almost) completely dried, I began constructing the block. I wasn’t too worried about the arrangement of letters, so it didn’t really matter where I started. Put down one square and then glue each side on one at a time, and from the inside to avoid drip lines and strengthening the integrity of the block. This is what I recommend, because this is precisely what I DIDN’T do, and it would have been better if I had.
No, I was the genius who thought it was a fine idea to do squares across from each other and leave the glue on the outside (maybe Mrs. Summers was on to something…). Here’s a staged photo of how I’d advise you to do it (you know, CORRECTLY) for your own sake.
After you’ve successfully glued everything together, what’s next is up to you. You can stop, or you can choose to embellish it further. My writing style should probably tip you off to which direction I headed.
After it dried, I attacked it with some ribbon to cover the glue streaks and some mod podge for a shine, and left it alone overnight. Make no mistake, it won’t pass for a wooden block, but it looks decent enough and I saved a few things from the trash heap, so I’m feeling pretty could about myself.
Here’s the finished product, on the shelf it will hang from. I ran out of ribbon, so I’ll have to buy more before I hang it properly. I don’t have any idea how long, though. I’m just going to hazard a guess.