After last year’s successful joint project making handmade wooden people for the girls for Christmas, Lonnie and I knew we wanted to make more gifts this year. One simple idea we grabbed from Teacher Tom’s Blog: Tree Blocks.
I had watched with interest Teacher Tom’s various explorations with “tree parts”, including this stacking one on pegs, that looks super cool but didn’t go over as well with his preschoolers as he had expected. I’ve always longed for these wooden tree blocks you can purchase, but spending money on simple cut, sanded wood seems a bit much, especially given our wealth of regular blocks!
So, after showing Lonnie some pictures, he grabbed some wood (cherry from a tree we cut down years ago, rock maple and mystery wood from my parents place) and started sawing. He used a Japanese-style pull saw for the little ones and an old-fashioned bow saw for the larger ones (yes, he’s a tool geek as well as a computer geek). He made a wide range of sizes, from small ones fit in your hand to big chunks of log for larger construction. Free is a very good price!
I have seen them treated with a wax finish to seal them up and make a nice shine (which is tempting! I am a sucker for beeswax!) but we opted for au natural. Some have cracked a bit as they have dried indoors, but nothing that compromises the fun.
I figured we’d have the most luck with blocks that were mostly playable freeform, combined with animals, people, and dolls — what our girls gravitate towards most often. I hoped (and was correct) that they would pair well with some of the other things we were making for the girls, too — tie dyed play-silks and little handmade fairy dolls (more coming soon on those!).
I will admit to being the one to build this one, not the kids! Though Elsie had a fun time playing with it and dropping things into the “hammock”…
So far (as I expected, given Teacher Tom’s results) the tree blocks have been greeted with curiosity and some independent play, but are not something the girls take out and really get into on their own. If I start setting them up or playing around with them, they do jump in and play with them too! I think the larger ones are a bit big and heavy for them to manipulate easily, at least indoors (looking forward to taking them outside when the spring and summer). When they are up on the play table and pushed down for a crash, for example, it’s kinda scary — these are heavy logs falling! I’ve had to make a few rules about not crashing them when others are there, or how to crash them without injuring themselves in the process. With the smaller pieces, I’m not worried, though!
We have some plans to drill some holes in the sides of the larger blocks so the girls can poke things into them for “decoration” or to create fancier fairy homes — things like pegs (perhaps to create tents or platforms for the fairy houses), feathers, glittery leaves and flowers (from the craft store floral aisle), and the like. I have a feeling this will add some instant intrigue for them….stay tuned for pics when we finally get around to it!