When my nephew turned one a few months ago, I was at a loss as to what to make him for a special gift. I had wracked my brain for something appropriate for gifting a one year old and came up with nothing. Then one day while playing in my sewing room, Hayden began playing with some little wooden painted people that I had made for a wooden travel playset a few years back.
He had such a fun time playing with them, he banged them on the table and tucked his fingers around their bodies and trees. I could see that he was trying to stack them up as well. I thought that he was too young to enjoy toys of that kind…but like most things with this babe- he surprises me in a good way.
It gave me an idea for a gift. I scavenged some leftover pine from our flooring renovation and made him a wooden playset. It was one of the most fun projects I have ever done and it was a joy to see it come to life.
Below you will find a tutorial for making your own simple wooden playset.
The instructions and process is simple and can be done with lots of help from little ones. All of the toys are non toxic and they are good and chunky for little hands.
Wood: poplar, cedar or pine (select untreated lumber for your little one’s safety)
Saw – I used a scroll saw, but a hand saw would work as well
Sandpaper or an orbital palm sander
beeswax polish or Mod Podge non-toxic sealant
Draw a round-edged shape with a pencil on the wood. It is best to have varying sizes to enhance the fun in playing for a little one. Have an adult cut out the pieces on the lines with a saw.
You can then sand the wood until it is smooth.
I used an electric palm sander on half of the pieces and let my son do the remaining pieces with a piece of sandpaper.
Make sure that all edges are rounded. Now you can draw designs on to the wooden pieces. We chose woodland animals, but you can create your own theme of characters. Once you have drawn the designs to your liking with pencil, trace over them again with a slim non-toxic permanent marker.
Now is the fun part! Have your little helper color in the designs with small paint brushes and non-toxic paints. We used both watercolors and acrylics for our set.
Let the paint dry completely and then seal with preferred sealant. Let them dry fully before giving them to a little one to play with.
Once I became more comfortable with my skills using the tools and working with the wood, I decided to make a more deluxe playset. If you want to make a more complex playset and feel comfortable using a saw for more adventurous shapes you might like to try making a rainbow-shaped piece with a shape cut out at the center. This can serve as either a cave for a little woodland gnome or to serve as a cave for a bunny or a bear.
I used more vibrant colors and cut out trees of various shapes for my deluxe set. I also painted contrasting seasonal animals and foliage on the reverse sides each piece.
Both sets were equally well received by my nephew. I keep one set at his house and one set at mine for him to play with on the days that I watch him.
Here is to homemade-with-love for little happy babies.
Julia Daby is a Registered Nurse who lives happily with her husband and little boy in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. She enjoys crafts of all kinds, eating good food, reading, and being outdoors. Most important of all….she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She has a small store on etsy where she and her twin share sewing and fiber tutorials to inspire creativity in other Mamas. She writes about life, family and creativity at Happiness Comes and We Deserve This. She also can be found at Windfall Dolls, where she and her sister give away Waldorf inspired dolls to deserving little ones.