By Kid’s Craft Contributor, Gillian from the blog “Dried Figs and Wooden Spools”.
Once upon a time, when I led a much more exciting life than I do nowadays (it’s still great, just not quite as exciting!) My husband and two-year-old son took me to Paris for Mother’s Day. I know, major points for them! In those days we were the masters of childhood distraction and I was always on the lookout for great, small toys that could distract a busy toddler on our travels. That weekend, walking along the ile de citie, we stumbled into a small toy store hoping to find something that would keep our son busy while we toured nearby Notre Dame. The store was a marvelous jumble of exotic looking toys and we were instantly fascinated. We could have walked away with bags and bags of fabulous toys, but with limited funds we left with only a small box containing a set of puzzle blocks with six different pictures.
Our son literally spent hours with that puzzle. Not only building the puzzles correctly but also making an infinite combination of odd- looking animals, a lion with a monkey tail, a giraffe with elephant feet. It was one of the best purchases we ever made. And ever since I’ve kept an eye out for similar puzzles to add to our toy repertoire.
The boy has pretty much outgrown the old puzzle blocks, but his little sister is as fascinated as he was which started me thinking, how hard could it be to make a set of puzzle blocks?
As it turns out, not very hard. Here’s what you need:
- 4 or 9 wooden blocks – you could reuse old alphabet blocks or purchase plain wooden blocks
- Six images big enough to cover all your blocks when they are pushed together in a square. I used pages out of High Five and Highlights, but copies of family photos would be another great idea
- Mod Podge
- Scissors or paper trimmer
The only trick with this project is that you need to be fairly precise with cutting, so it helps if you have a paper trimmer to make things easier.
First, cut the image down to roughly the size you’ll need, leaving at least a half-inch all around. Position your blocks on the reverse side of the paper and trace carefully all around the big square, then around each of the individual blocks. Trim the paper along the lines, checking as you go to make sure the squares line up on the blocks.
Once you have all your images cut out, it’s time to glue. Be sure that you only have one square for each puzzle per block (it’s easier if you separate the squares by picture and just take one per puzzle per block from each pile). Brush a thin coat of Modge Podge onto the surface of the block and smooth one of the squares over the top, being sure to line the edges up. Working in stages, cover each block with the six puzzle images until every square has been used up. When all your squares are covered and dry, apply a second coat of Modge Podge over the top to seal the images on. Depending on the thickness of the paper, you may want to add a third layer as well.
The variations on this are pretty much endless. And once you have one set done you can change out pictures as your child’s interest wane by gluing new squares over the top of old or damaged ones. Use family pictures, images from wildlife magazines or even drawings that your child has made for these fun little puzzles.