Would you like to add a touch of nature to your playroom? Here is our DIY tutorial on how to make a set of Waldorf-inspired nature blocks that are great for imaginative play with animals!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
We do not follow one particular educational philosophy in our house, but we are very much in love with Waldorf toys, making them for our kids and for sale. Since before my son was born, I have been admiring the rustic and natural look of building blocks made of tree branches and pieces of bark. Just looking at them seemed to evoke images and memories of walking down a forest path on a crisp fall afternoon.
For once, I will not sing the praises of a scroll saw. It does not do well cutting anything thicker than 1 inch. But you know what? A simple hand saw will do the job just fine! This is my favourite hand saw – it is a Japanese style saw, and it does the job very well. But any hand saw will work. You will also need a vise for holding the branches while you are cutting them. And if you have a band saw, then you are in luck! You can start making sets for nieces and nephews.
Then, of course, you will need branches. Collect two or three branches of different diameters (1-2 inches should be enough). If you find branches from different trees, it will provide an interesting variety. Here we have walnut branches and birch branches. A big old walnut tree was cut in our neighbours’ yard a year ago, and we have been benefiting from it ever since, making a fairy house and some fairy furniture. But if you go for a walk in the forest, you will be sure to find many fallen branches!
If your branches came from a living tree, it is not advisable to start work on them right away – you should put them in a dry place and leave them for several weeks. The branches need to dry before you start cutting them, otherwise you will have small crack in the blocks. It is a small cosmetic defect, so if you do not mind, as your children probably will not care, you can skip this step. If you do wait, you will notice the cracks forming at the ends of branches. However they will not go very deep: after the branch is dry, you will simply cut off its ends.
Once everything is ready, clamp your branches in the vise and begin cutting.
You will be aiming to make many blocks of different thickness and diameters.
Some of them can be additionally cut in halves. It will be fun to turn them into furniture later on!
Some sticks have peculiar shape, and you can include them in your set too: children will probably find most use for interesting pieces! My favourite is a piece of bark that I cut into four little arches.
After cutting, you might want to sand some rough edges if there are any.
What to do with nature blocks?
1. When we play with nature blocks, we like to build forest-inspired scenes for our animals (over time, we collected a few of very realistic-looking Schleich animals: here you can see the bear, the fox and the raccoon). They seem to belong in this surrounding like nowhere else.
2, Another favourite is building rustic doll house furniture. Again, animals can become the inhabitants of such a house, or you can invite fairies and gnomes to visit. Here is a couple of our wooden fairies, dining on a woodland mat.
3. Simply stacking the blocks the way children like to do with any blocks is fun too!
4. And, of course, these blocks will complement any nature sensory bin!
What nature-inspired toys are you going to make this fall? Or have in the past? We will be excited to see them. Please, participate in our creative challenge!
Oh wow, what a cool challenge this month. I’ve never made anything like this, but you have tempted me to start looking out for branches and have a try! The nature scenes you made with these do look awesome :) I’m sure my kids would love it.
My son always grabs huge sticks and I sneakingly toss them. No more doing that
I think my daughter would love these. Definitely need to go to my uncle’s house to borrow some tools! :)
Thanks for the great post! My son and I are going to make these for the younger sibs and cousins this year. I bet the 11 year old will want to play with them too.
Just a quick question: did you clean the wood before giving it to your children? Did you seal it either?
I love this . I was wondering where you found the lovely North American animals and birds. I’ ve been looking for something like this for a while. Thank you.
These are Schleich animals (here is the fox, for instance). They are pricey, compared to some other brands, but I really like the quality. So I usually add a couple into the gift pile for every holiday.
Another possibility would be to have a look at Safari Toobs. We have some of their animals too, and their quality varies. I like their frogs and butterflies, for instance! Their birds and fish are fun. Their big mammals are not always very realistic though. On the bright side, the price is much more affordable than Schleich.
I hope it helps!
I love these! Where did you get your animals?
These are Schleich animals. They can be found at many toy and hobby stores, and I also bought a couple from Amazon. They are pricey, compared to some other brands, but I really like the quality. They are so realistic we like to use them for models when we draw animals for our son. So I usually add a couple into the gift pile for every holiday, and that’s how we got quite a stash over two years.
If Schleich is too expensive, you can take a look at Safari Toobs. They are less expensive. We have some of their animals too, and their quality varies. I like their frogs and butterflies, for instance! Their birds and fish are fun. Unfortunately, heir big mammals are not always very realistic.
I hope it helps!
This is such an amazing idea! I love how you brought nature into playing indoors. This is perfect for block and construction centers in preschools. I love the sensory element the wood offers. I’m definitely going to share this post on my Facebook and pinterest pages. Thank you so much for sharing! :)
Kari @ http://www.PreKComplete.com
It’s so beautiful. Thanks for your post. I have shared on my facebook blog.