Use Paint and Tape to Create Decorative Kids’ Building Blocks

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Children’s blocks are an iconic feature in any kid’s bedroom or playroom. You can give the classic silhouette a bit of updated, modern flair with paint — in an unexpected neon color palette, of course — some painter’s tape and wood stain.

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Supplies

  • Wooden blocks (can be purchased precut from your local craft store)
  • Sandpaper or sand blocks
  • Wood stain
  • Paint stirrer
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Foam paintbrushes
  • Paper towel or rag
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Acrylic craft paint in coordinating colors
  • Plastic painter’s tray
  • Painter’s tape

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Start by sanding all six sides of your wooden blocks, first with a rough sandpaper to even out the surface, and then with a fine-grit sandpaper, which smooths the wood. Don’t forget to sand down the edges and corners of the blocks so that they are dull to the touch.

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Next, lay out a scrap of cardboard and open the can of stain. Stir it well using a paint stirrer, and then use a foam paintbrush to brush an even layer of stain on all sides of each wooden block. After you’ve finished staining all of the blocks, go back to the first one and wipe off the excess stain with a paper towel. For a darker finish, give the cubes more time to soak up the stain, and then wipe it off. Then, allow the stain to dry for a minimum of 24 hours.

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For the design of these children’s blocks, I used a triangular motif. The first step is to find the center of each block’s plain. First, lay a ruler or straightedge diagonally across one flat surface of your first cube. Put a light pencil line in the center area of the block, about 1/2 inch long — it doesn’t need to be exact. Then, lay the straightedge diagonally and perpendicular to the mark you just made. Make another mark. This will create an “X” exactly in the center of the block’s plain. Repeat the steps across all sides of each block.

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Now rip off strips of painter’s tape and lay them across each cube’s sides, following the “X” as your guide each time, to create a triangle shape. Mask off adjoining edges as well, and press the tape firmly on all of the edges.

Then use a foam paintbrush to paint triangles with acrylic craft paint. Allow the paint to dry for one hour, and then go back and paint a second coat if needed. Immediately remove and discard the painter’s tape.

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Allow the paint to fully dry before repeating the steps to create more triangles. Because you’ll be taping over previously painted triangles as you work your way around the cubes with paint, you’ll want to allow the paint to dry for at least 12 hours before starting a new section of painted shapes.

If on some surfaces you want to see a full block of color, use more painter’s tape to block off the four sides of the cube. Use a cleaned foam paintbrush to add the color.

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When you’re satisfied with the coverage of the paint (which may take two to three coats of paint), remove and discard the painter’s tape. Allow the cubes to fully cure for at least 24 hours before handling.

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If you choose to allow these cubes to be purely decorative, then you don’t need to worry about sealing them. Otherwise, to make them child-proof, you’ll want to give them several coats of a clear urethane sealer. Sand lightly in between coats, and allow the final coat to cure for 48 hours, or according to package instructions. Although the blocks will now be sealed and safe for play, you’ll still want to supervise all interaction and prevent children from putting the cubes in their mouth.

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Carrie Waller is the writer, designer and stylist behind the blog Dream Green DIY. Photos courtesy of Carrie Waller.

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