Make Your Own Wooden Gradient Blocks

DIY Wooden Gradient Blocks

School may be out for the sum­mer but that doesn’t mean you child’s learn­ing has to come to halt. Espe­cially if it’s fun and comes in the form of a toy! I’ve always been drawn to Montes­sori learn­ing toys as they are as beau­ti­ful as they are edu­ca­tional. I love their color tablets and have wanted to cre­ate our own take on this concept.

We decided to paint 9 wooden blocks in var­i­ous hues and gra­di­ents. We love the result and have been hav­ing so much fun play­ing and learn­ing about the names of col­ors, color tone and gra­da­tion, hue match­ing, lin­ear order­ing and just sim­ply appre­ci­at­ing that color is fun and beautiful!

diy wood blocks

To get started on this, you will need 9 wooden blocks (you could also use 6 blocks, which would also work well). We found our 1 1/2″ blocks at a local craft store which proved to be just the per­fect size for lit­tle hands. You will then need to pick six col­ors to work with. We used craft acrylic paints for this. Make sure that these col­ors are pretty dark as you will be cre­at­ing 8 lighter hues from this base color and you want to be sure to have a good range to work with.

diy wood blocks

You will also need a good deal of white paint which will be added to each color. And of course you’ll need a paint brush or small sponge brush (which is what we used) to apply the color.

diy wood blocks

Paint­ing the Blocks
To paint the blocks in a nice gra­di­ent pat­tern you’ll need to start with the orig­i­nal dark hue and then grad­u­ally add more white to the paint until you are sat­is­fied with the col­ors. Once you are happy with your color vari­a­tions go ahead and apply the paint to one side of each block.

I find that a small sponge brush does a good job of keep­ing the lines nice and tight. I sug­gest apply­ing a few thin coats to keep the paint from glob­bing up and drip­ping over as opposed to one opaque coat with a lot of paint.

diy wooden blocks

Let the paint dry (or blow dry with a hair dryer to speed things up) and then rotate all the blocks to one side and then do the same thing again with a dif­fer­ent color. I tried to also rotate my blocks so that none of the dark­est or light­est shades were on the same block.

diy wood blocks

Play­ing with the Blocks
Now for the fun part! There are no hard and fast rules to play­ing with these fun and col­or­ful blocks, but if you want to teach your child spe­cific con­cepts about color, there are a num­ber of of things you can do. You ask them “What is the dark­est shade of this hue?”. “What is the light­est?”. “What color looks like it could be right in the mid­dle?”. You could then sit next to them and demon­strate how to line up all the blocks from dark­est to light­est, point­ing out the sub­tle vari­a­tions that just one hue can cre­ate. Then have them give it a try on their own. I did this with my six year old and he had a lot of fun with it. He ini­tially needed help lin­ing up all nine color vari­a­tions but he enjoyed see­ing how it all came together once things were in their cor­rect order.

For a younger child (Lit­tle O is 3yrs) you can elim­i­nate a num­ber of the col­ors and just use the dark­est, light­est and mid­dle hue. You can then ask the same ques­tions you did ear­lier, being sure to point out the vari­a­tion of dark to light, etc.

diy wood blocks

The options for these blocks are end­less. You can have your child put a num­ber of dark hues together as well as light hues. Then add the mid­dle color to see how things line up. Then just have fun with it and explore the dif­fer­ent things you can do and cre­ate. And as a bonus, you’ll love all the fun col­ors these blocks will bring to your home, even when strewn about the floor!

  • The Card­board Collective

    These are so clas­sic and so beau­ti­ful .… Brilliant!

  • Laura @ CharmStitch

    Love this project, Rachel. Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new engage­ment with Dis­ney Baby! 

  • patri­cia v

    Excited about this one!  Thanks!

  • Monika

    I LOVE these and made them… but they didn’t turn out as per­fectly as yours :( You must have great paint­ing abil­i­ties! Do you have any advice for get­ting the edges so per­fect with­out the paint bleeding?

  • hand­made charlotte

    From Mer­rilee: I find that a small sponge brush does a good job of keep­ing lines tight and nice. I would sug­gest doing a cou­ple of thin coats to keep paint from glob­bing up and drip­ping over as opposed to one opaque coat with a lot of paint.

    Hope this helps!

  • hand­made charlotte

    Thanks so much!

  • Christie Hep­burn

    Since I’m so lazy and don’t want to deal with paint, I think I might try this with paint chip sam­ples. I can just cut them into squares and hodge­podge it to the blocks.

  • hand­made charlotte

    great idea!

  • Sally Bishop

    Did you paint all six sides or just a few? In some pho­tos, it looks like sides are left natural… :)

  • Bethany King

    Would you sug­gest seal­ing the paint with some­thing or does it hold true?