The Germans seem to have a love and fascination for making children's playthings out of wood. It's just one of the things they do very well: toys beautifully crafted from wood, stained or painted to perfection. I think wood is one of the loveliest materials for toys, with its natural variations in colour, the swirling woodgrain, and it's ability to be sanded down to smoothness. When we were in Germany, I was really tempted to get some of the wooden toys made by longtime toymaker Grimm's Spiel and Holz Design, but they were pretty expensive, so we ended up not getting anything (I half-regret that now though!).
I particularly liked their rainbow blocks, since they came in such a range of colors, and I was very excited to read that you could DIY your own! I decided to try making some using materials from Daiso, and they turned out pretty well, so I'm sharing how you can make your own today:
1. You'll need just two things: a set of liquid watercolors (ours were from Daiso), as well as unfinished wooden blocks (again from Daiso).
2. Squeeze a dollop of paint (in whatever colour you'd like) onto a palette or plate with a flat base (no rounded bases please), and then add in a few drops of water. Stir to mix. Place the wooden block into the paint, and let sit for a few seconds, before turning to coat another side. Repeat, until all sides have been soaked in paint. Gently tap the block at the side of the palette to let excess paint drip off.
3. Leave the cube on a tray to dry, and repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other cubes. The cubes should be completely dry in a day.
Some tips to note:
:: Adding a few drops of water to the paint helps to distribute the colour evenly, since I find that the undiluted paint is too thick. However, you have to trial and error to find the paint-water balance. We discovered that the colors were not as intense as we'd like them to be if the paint is too dilute. Letting the cubes soak in the paint allows for an even colour distribution, compared to using a paint brush (but Lil J insisted on helping so I let him!). The lovely thing about using watercolors is that the woodgrain of the blocks shows up through the colors (unlike if you use acrylic paints), and the colors actually accentuate the patterns of the woodgrain.
:: To get a whole range of colors, I started by using primary colors, and then gradually mixing them (red with yellow, yellow with blue, blue with red) to get a range of secondary colors. Along the way, I also tried mixing in white to lighten the colors. If you do follow this method, don't forget to continue to dilute the paint by adding in drops of water during the mixing process!
:: The blocks fit nicely into those little crates that they sell at Daiso too. All in all, we used up 3 packs of blocks, so our rainbow blocks set cost us $10, if you include the crate!
:: The quality of the Daiso wooden blocks seems to be dropping. We used some blocks that were purchased a year or two ago, as well as some that were recently purchased. The older blocks were made of harder wood, were sanded smooth, and didn't have splinters. Those were lovely. The newer blocks unfortunately were made of softer wood, were rougher, and many had chips or splinters and had to be sanded down. I'd say that these would be ok for older kids to play with, but keep them away from babies who are still mouthing their toys. Also, remind your kids to ensure their hands are dry when playing with these. If you'd like an alternative (especially since the blocks can go out of stock quickly in Daiso), Amazon stocks these Hygloss unfinished wooden blocks and these quality for free global shipping (Note: These are a tad smaller than the Daiso ones.).
If you do try to make your own rainbow blocks, do share your photos with us over at our FB page ok? Would love to see what you come up with!