DIY Loose Parts Toys

The first time I heard the term loose parts was last fall; and trust me, you and your kids have played with loose parts. You just maybe haven’t used that term.

Tips tricks and advice on how to make your own DIY rainbow Waldorf inspired wood loose parts toys

Loose parts play is just providing random loose parts for kids to do whatever they want with. They might make them play food or make patterns out of them. They might see how high they can stack them or sort them by color. The idea is that it is entirely up to your kid and their imagination!

The big fad in children’s toys right now is Wood, either in its natural state or dyed bright colors! I am here for that because well, it’s pretty and it looks nice on my shelf! The other big thing is open-ended toys. Toys that don’t tell you HOW to play with them. Your little can use them in any number of ways to suit whatever game they come up with. These DIY loose parts fit both of these bills and I am so happy with them!

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DIY wooden rainbow Waldorf inspired Loose parts toys title card

The most well known loose parts companies are Grapat and Grimms (at least these are the two I hear the most about) .

These companies make a wide variety of loose parts and sure you can buy premade, but that’s just not my style! After some research and internet digging, I knew that there were at least SOME of the more common loose parts that I could totally manage to make myself!

Prepare yourself. There are LOTS of pictures coming.

In the Beginning
an overview of the raw wood pieces that will be turned into our loose parts toys

There are lots of options for where to find your raw wood. Craft stores, Etsy, and Amazon. Had I wanted to keep it simpler I would have, but I tend to over complicate things…

In the end, I purchased my supplies from caseyswood.com I found they had the best selection and their prices were good too!

These are the items I settled on

  • 20 – 2 3/8” peg people
  • 20 – 1 9/16” bean pots
  • 16 – 2” balls
  • 32 – 1 ¾” rings
  • 54 – 2” coins (discs)
  • 16 – ¾” spools
raw wood loose parts ready to be painted

I also picked up a couple other simple items that I knew I could paint to add to the set

  • 20 – clothes pins
  • 32 – popsicle sticks

You my be wondering why there are so many different numbers in that list. Trust me I had a theory!

Its just simple math

I knew I wanted to color match our Grimms Rainbow, but I also felt that there were some gaps that should be added in, plus some neutrals and in the end we had 20 different colors. So that is why there are 20 peg people and pots! We only have 16 balls and spools because I didn’t do any neutral colors for those. The rings are easy enough to figure out, as I just wanted 2 of each color of the rainbow (no neutrals) so that gets us our 32. The coins are the trickiest. I went for three of each of these colors (love me an odd number every now and then!) BUT this time I did the full rainbow, plus black and white. I didn’t want to do brown and natural because I have actual branch slices that I can use for that. So 18 colors at 3 coins each and that is where we get 54 from!

Time to paint : but with what?
many DIY projects in the making spread on my dining room table
if you look hard you can see some other projects in the works 😉

I sat on the raw wood pieces for a quite a while before I got the nerve up to paint them. There were visions of matching our Grimms rainbow in my head and that meant I needed to be picky about colors. I debated on food dye, proper wood dye, watered down acrylic and DIY wood stain.

I settled on acrylic for a few reasons.

  1. it’s cheap
  2. it’s readily available
  3. it comes it a wide variety of colors from the get go

Food dye is a good option, though a slightly more limited pallet unless your game to start mixing. Also it is water soilable, so if your little is still mouthing things the color would bleed. Ultimately I said no because I couldn’t figure out how to seal it without some kind of gloss. Still doing research there, as I would love to have taste safe for future projects. (Not that Bitty is still mouthing things…)

Wood dye would do what I want but DANG that stuff is expensive and with the base colors you have a limited pallet.

DIY wood stain is a new idea to me and I am interested to try it out at some point I just decided not to for this.

a close op of some of the red wooden loose parts freshly painted

Trick time: By watering down the acrylic paint we can still see some of the wood grain underneath and we don’t loose the texture of the wood either!

For the colors that matched up with our Grimms Rainbow, I wanted to be as close as possible. Some of the paints that I picked up worked great from the get-go, others needed a little custom mixing. I also wanted everyone to be the same ratio of watered-down so that the wood grain showed through, I ended up on a 2:1 ratio of paint to water.

Sealing it up

I have yet to seal these. I have toyed with the idea of beeswax or mineral oil. But those would eventually need to be reapplied. There are a number of clear coats I could use but I don’t want to lose the wood texture… I am also hoping to find something nontoxic.

If you have any ideas on what we could use to seal these babies up leave a comment down below!

Ok enough of the boring behind the scenes. You’re here for rainbows!!!

Let the Rainbows begin!
Do it yourself rainbow loose parts toys

I currently keep our loose parts put away for the most part as I feel she would get overwhelmed with the whole collection out. So when we get them out we just get our a few at a time, and usually with some sort of invitation to go along with them. This helps get the juices flowing and then from there she gets more creative!

an overview of our rainbow hand-painted wooden loose parts toys
Our complete (for now) loose parts collection
Peg People & Bean Pots
rainbow hand-painted wooden peg people and bean pots lined up in our wooden lunchbox
rainbow hand-painted wooden peg people and bean pots for loose parts play, all lined up

These peg people and pots are possibly the most well known. I think this is because parents understand them more. There is a goal, a purpose, a skill to do with this. While that is true they are still just as open-ended as any of the rest.

rainbow hand-painted wooden peg people and bean pots for loose parts play
Rings and Coins
close up of our rainbow hand-painted wooden balls for loose parts play
rainbow hand-painted wooden coins and rings for loose parts play

The coins and rings are possible the most open ended. They can be used for building or posting or stacking or sorting or rolling or small world. The list is endless…but that’s the point!

rainbow hand-painted wooden rings for loose parts play
Balls
rainbow hand-painted wooden balls stacked on our wooden rings
rainbow hand-painted wooden balls for loose parts play

The balls are just that, balls. Anything you would want to use a ball for you can use these for. They do have a really nice weight to them…so maybe don’t throw them…lol

rainbow hand-painted wooden balls for loose parts play
Spools
rainbow hand-painted wooden spools stacked up
rainbow hand-painted wooden spools for loose parts play

These spools are great for lacing and stacking but could be used for anything. Advice time: If you are making these, get larger spools to make it easier for little hands to work with them!

rainbow hand-painted wooden spools for loose parts play
Popsicle Sticks
close up of our rainbow hand-painted popsicle sticks for loose parts play
rainbow hand-painted popsicle sticks for loose parts play

Advice time: If you want to make these popsicle sticks, buy slightly higher quality. I purchased mine at the dollar tree and the added water in the paint made some of them bow a little.

rainbow hand-painted popsicle sticks for loose parts play
Clothes Pins
close up of our rainbow hand-painted clothespins for loose parts play
rainbow hand-painted clothespins for loose parts play

Tip time: If you’re like me your first instinct will be to pull the clothespins apart to paint them. This makes painting them a breeze! BUT putting them back together marred the paint. So when you make yours leave them together, getting into all the nooks and crannies was trickier, but the end result was better!

rainbow hand-painted clothespins for loose parts play
Homemade toys
tips, tricks and advice for making your own hand-painted wooden rainbow loose parts toy set

This was a bit of a passion project that just kept getting bigger and I absolutely love how these turned out!

Have you ever head of loose parts play? Are you the kind to take on the task yourself or buy the premade. After doing this I would totally make more but new shapes and objects are harder to find so we might end up buying some too!

14 Replies to “DIY Loose Parts Toys”

    1. Thank you! I am really happy with how they turned out and now I want to do more! lol I’ve been bitten by the DIY rainbow bug!

  1. I love seeing kids use their imaginations with toys that don’t give you specific instructions on how to use them, or what their intended use is have listed some very good tips on how to empower a kids creativity to play with a toy or object that has been around for generations. More parents should encourage this kind of creativity over spending a ton of money expensive stuff that ends up in the bottom of the toy box in a couple days after you’ve spent your money on them. At least my kids do.

    1. Yes! Open-ended play is so much more enjoyable for everyone! My little lady isn’t much a builder or stacker so I had to find a different way to encourage that imaginative play. These loose parts are just the ticket!

    1. We didn’t actually up-cycle these. I purchased the supplies, BUT I do have some up-cycle stuff coming up!

  2. These are gorgeous and exactly what I am after doing! With the acrylic paint, did you buy all the different shades or mix? Thanks for sharing these gorgeous pictures too!

    1. I did end up buying all the different shades, but I knew I had(have!) a lot of projects that I wanted the colors to match across so I didn’t mind having the paint around. I did end up mixing a few shades to get them just right in the end though… Good Luck!

  3. So inspiring! I’ve been dreaming of buying some Grimms goodies but can’t afford it right now. These are great! Might you be willing to share the exact colors/brand of paint you used? Also where did you get the cool wood storage box?

    1. Grimms and Grapat are just beautiful aren’t they!? The storage boxes are from Hobby Lobby except for the 3×3 rectangle that is a Melissa & Doug box from a set of cars. I sure could share the colors but, I honestly can’t recall if any of these are custom tints but the base color would get you close!

      Cadmium red- I can’t tell you the brand, as its an old tube leftover from my college days…
      Red Alert- Americana
      Orange-Anitas
      Tangerine-FolkArt
      Sunflower-Anitas
      Canary-Anitas
      Citrus-FolkArt
      Shamrock-Anitas
      Deep Green-Anitas
      Desert Turquoise-Americana
      Island Blue-Anitas
      Deep Denim-Anitas
      Purple Pansy-Anitas
      Deep Eggplant-Anitas
      Cranberry Wine-Americana (I’m pretty sure this was one that I had to tweak.)
      Electric Pink- Americana
      Bark Brown-Anitas
      Then a pure White, Black and I left one natural and just oiled it with some cutting board oil

      Wait for a sale at one of the craft stores and stock up that way thats what I did!

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