Homemade Wooden DIY Stacker Toys

I finally finished our DIY stacker toys!!! Seriously this has been months in the making. These are going to be great open-ended toys to add to Bitty’s collection and I can’t wait to watch her grow and learn with them!

Homemade wooden open-ended stacker toys great for small world play

PSA: Buckle up baby. Long Post Alert

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DIY Stacker toys were a time investment

Back in like February or March, I got the grand idea to make my own stacker toys. I will warn you now that this is not a project for the faint of heart or a weekend project. Even if I have worked on it religiously it would still have taken at least a month of working evenings and nap times. Countless hours cutting, sanding, cleaning, sanding more, and painting.

That said I am thrilled with the way they turned out and I have plans for more!

Wood is having its toy moment right now

If you follow the children’s toy market right now you’ll have noticed wood is all the rage, and I am here for it.  Having Bittys play space in our living room means her toys are a major part of our décor. Thus I want her toys to be pretty to look at. Natural fibers generally do a better job matching my aesthetic than plastic does. ALSO, most plastics toys are just too busy and over the top!

Our DIY stacker toys were very much inspired by our Grimms rainbow and these wonderful stackers by Clickity Clack on Etsy. But if you know me I have this problem…If I think I have any ability to do something myself…well, I have to.

I am extremely lucky to have a dad with one heck of a workshop and some seriously impressive power tools that I knew I was going to need to have any chance of doing the projects I had envisioned.

So we planned a trip to South Dakota and I got busy!

DIY stacker toys are great additions to small world play!

DIY Stacker toys had many revisions

The entire process started with working out the actual sizes and designs I wanted the stackers to be. I had a vague idea of what I wanted but once you get the wood in front of you, generally you want a better idea before you start cutting.

the paper patterns for my DIY stacker toys

After I have a basic idea of the size and a general layout I tetris’d them onto my sheet of Baltic plywood. Who said video games wouldn’t teach you anything!

After the sheet was cut into pieces trace those pieces onto a second sheet of plywood and cut again! We did two sheets of Baltic Plywood on the recommendation of my dad.  This gave the final outcome a  wider base to stand on and also helped to strengthen some of the areas that were more prone to problems

So LOTS of wood glue and clamps later we were left with a pile of laminated plywood ready to be cut.

Wood glue and clamps made this project possible for us

For the starting rough cuts, I just had the designs taped on, but I knew that when it came time to cut the inner bands I would want a line to follow. The easiest way was to glue the paper designs to the wood. We used a quick construction adhesive. I do not recommend you go this route. It was a nightmare getting the templates off when we were done and there is still some residue/chemical damage to the wood that I was unable to sand away.

the paper patterns taped down to the wood sheets to give an idea of size

Cutting the DIY stacker toys

I used a bandsaw for these designs. If you plan on attempting your own DIY stacker toys I would recommend a scroll saw instead. You will be able to make tighter turns and the cuts will be more delicate overall.

I started by trimming away the outer excess from each piece. This was a nice way to warm up to the machine as it wasn’t as vital to make my cuts in one precise path. I could come at the piece whatever way I needed and make straight cuts.

After that, there really was no point in waiting anymore. I started cutting. I will say that for a good number of these I had help on this step. Not because I asked for it but because both Zak and my dad wanted to take a crack at cutting these more complex shapes. So I shrugged and started sanding.

So Much Sanding

With these being intended for children’s toys I wanted to make sure they were smooth and silky. No sharp corners and definitely no splinters. The device of my choice was a drum sander. It was able to take those rolling hills and band of sunshine no problem and was 100% better than having to hand sand all of these bands!

the amount of sawdust that was laying around after sanding these was impressive

I was able to give everything curvy a once over on the drum sander and even start on the less curvy pieces before we had to come back home.

sawdust on a drum sander base
I feel like this picture does little justice to the amount of sawdust I was covered in after an afternoon of sanding

I again called in the cavalry to help remove the paper templates at this point. And oh baby was that a task and a half. We managed to get them off with just some residue left on the boards. I knew I was going to have to sand that off and planned on doing that at home later

DIY stacker toys sans paper patterns laid out for the first look at our hard work

Our workshop growth

Our shop space at home has been growing exponentially between my woodworking projects and Zak’s metalworking, so we have a pretty healthy set up of our own including a belt sander that I was going to commandeering for a bit.

I continued to sand on the pieces and even picked up a drum sanding accessory kit for our drill press to do some fine-tuning on some of the curves that needed more TLC. That was totally worth the purchase in case you were curious.

It was time to try and tackle that residue…In comes the old trusty orbital sander a clamp or two, and some elbow grease. It took some work but I was able to get most all the reside and odd discoloration off the pieces. Some of the pieces never fully recovered so word of advice. Either use some sort of washable glue or maybe put your pieces through a planer to get all that of…

I then proceeded to give our DIY stacker toys a once over by hand with some fine-grit sandpaper. This was just to make sure everything was super smooth. I also wanted the bottom of the bands to still have as much surface area as possible so I found hand sanding that part was the best option.

As I sanded more and more of these I got a better idea of how rounded I wanted the edges to be and you can clearly see the difference between the cave and the hill. The cave was the first one I finished sanding and he had some cutting errors that had to be blended out and thus he was a bit too rounded in the end. Where the hill feels much flatter and holds together a bit better because of it.

DIY stacker toys its all about that wood grain

I took a break here while I researched coloring options… I wanted to be able to see that wood grain and feel that texture when you played with them. Not to mention that unsealed texture actually helps them sort of stick together a bit.

My options were this

  • Acrylic paint – watered down so that the wood grain would show through
  • DIY wood stain – made from oil paints
  • Wood Dye – difficult to come by
  • Food dye – readily available and also nontoxic

I had problems with all of these

  • Acrylic Paint – when watered down it can get a little dull and it will always block woodgrain to some point.
  • DIY wood stain – a bit time-intensive to make and no way to make the colors non-toxic that I knew of
  • Wood Dye – Expensive, especially when I needed the full rainbow
  • Food Dye – water soluble

In addition to the choices of color, there was the question of sealing the color in some way. I have yet to actually do this step and I may never do it. Lol If you have a great way to seal wood without losing the texture let me know down below!

Planning my colors before actually painting

I ended up going with acrylic in the end and I can say that I am very happy with the outcome (though I am still super interested in the wood dye, that will have to be for another project another day)

I was super thankful to have had my loose parts set already done and painted because the wood coins were perfect paint swatches to give me an idea of what worked well together! It was so easy to rearrange the coins and try different combinations without having to waste a ton of time and paint and scrap paper!

I used my DIY loose parts coins as paint chips to figure out what colors I wanted to use

It took a lot of deliberations to figure out what I wanted in the end. Some were easy I had a vision and I knew what I wanted. Others took a lot of tweaking and rearranging.

For example the Cave I knew I wanted to go from purple to green. So sue me I LOVE the way the Grimms cave looks and this was my attempt at my own version. The House, on the other hand, I wanted the outer band to be red and it took me forever to select the colors for the rest of it.

My DIY stacker toys were based of the basic elements you find in nature, making them easy to work into lots of different play set ups!

Painting the DIY stacker toys

After I finally picked the colors it was time to bite the bullet and lay paint on wood. It was weird how much I resisted this step. It was like I was so scared of messing them up and I didn’t want to start over…

I pre-mixed all my colors with water and stored them in some small mason jars, this way it would be easy to switch between colors and not waste any!

the dining room table covered in projects in the process of being painted

After many an evening of painting and listening to my Audiobooks (Audible is our jam. Let me know if you need some recommendations I have a LIST lol) The stackers were done!

The Complete DIY Stacker Toys Collection

DIY Stacker Toys are a super colorful and still beautiful addition to our play space and out small world play
I cut all out DIY stacker toys to  easily fit on our bookshelf but be large enough to act as backdrops and scenery for our small world play.

a Close up of the Big Reveal

If you follow me on Instagram you have seen peaks of our DIY stacker toys in my stories and on my feed. And without further ado here is the completed set!

The Hill
DIY stacker Toys : The Hill painted in  a gradient from a rich yellow at the center to a deep green blue on the outer band

Originally unplanned but I had space on the board when first designing them and I am so glad I did. This one might be my favorite.

DIY stacker Toys : The Hill painted in  a gradient from a rich yellow at the center to a deep green blue on the outer band
The Sun
DIY stacker Toys : The Sun painted in a vivid red in the center to a pale yellow on the rays of sunshine

If I were to remake this I would paint the outer rays a lighter yellow as in person it is a very similar shade to the first inner band.

DIY stacker Toys : The Sun painted in a vivid red in the center to a pale yellow on the rays of sunshine
The Cave
DIY stacker Toys : The Cave painted in a  vivid purple on the outer band to a bright lime green in the center

I would love to take another crack at this one and take better care cutting so that the bands fit together a little more snugly!

DIY stacker Toys : The Cave painted in a  vivid purple on the outer band to a bright lime green in the center
The Wave
DIY stacker Toys : The wave painted in a very light blue on the outer band and getting darker into the center where I used a rich purple

Zak was terrified of this one and it really wasn’t as hard to cut as he thought it would be!

DIY stacker Toys : The wave painted in a very light blue on the outer band and getting darker into the center where I used a rich purple
The House
DIY stacker Toys : The House painted in a warm range of maroon to yellow in the center

I love that this can be a house or a barn based on what animals and things are with it

DIY stacker Toys : The House : painted in a warm range of maroon to yellow in the center
The Flowers
DIY stacker Toys : The Flowers : With a bright green base and a gradient of three pinks for the blooms of the flower

This was an entirely custom design created by my sister, I asked if she could think of a way to do some flowers and she said ‘give me a minute’ and less than ten minutes later we had something to work from!

DIY stacker Toys : The Flowers : With a bright green base and a gradient of three pinks for the blooms of the flower
The Iceburg
DIY stacker Toys : The Iceburg : From pure white to a vivid aqua at its center

I really like the jagged edges on this one. Also, it was the most forgiving as far as cutting went. Mistakes were just now part of the ice!

DIY stacker Toys : The Iceburg : From pure white to a vivid aqua at its center
The Volcano
DIY stacker Toys : The Volcano : With red Magma at the center to taupe browns with an ash covered shell with the addition of a separate lava flow for the top of the mountain

The lava at the top is removable so that the volcano can be dormant and erupt whenever we want!

DIY stacker Toys : The Volcano : With red Magma at the center to taupe browns with an ash covered shell with the addition of a separate lava flow for the top of the mountain

Are DIY Stacker Toys Really Doable for Everyone?

DIY stacker toys are not for the faint of heart! You need some specialized tools and lots of time. BUT boy are they beautiful!

I would be lying if I said that these were easy and that anyone could make these. You need a hefty shop and lots of time and patience. But it is possible, if not by everyone…but honestly, that’s the way with most woodworking projects!

My next attempt will be a rainbow I think. We have our Grimms rainbow but I just think it would be fun to try and make a sunset one. What other kinds of stackers should I try? I would love to know what you would make if you could! Leave your ideas down in the comment section!

Please if you love these as much as I do share them. I am so proud of them and I want to shout it to the rooftops!

Other posts you may like
DIY Loose Parts Accessories
Toy Rotation at 22 months
DIY Sensory Bin Table

10 Replies to “Homemade Wooden DIY Stacker Toys”

    1. I do not currently. I created a custom size so they would fit on the shelves we use. I could maybe find a way to make a template but It would have to wait a bit so I have access to a larger scanner!

  1. A tip for removing templates that I got from Steve Good at Scroll saw workshop. Put a layer of blue tape across the whole surface under your pattern, then contact cement the pattern over the blue tape. It stays on securely and peels off cleanly when you are done.

  2. Hi!

    I’ve been eyeing the Grimm stackers for so long and I love your idea of doing them ourselves. Your work is lovely! I have a scroll saw that is just begging for attention… though I’ll have to wait till after the baby comes in two weeks 😛

    I wanted to suggest graphite paper for marking the wood with your pattern. When I burn designs that I draw on paper into wood, I trace it on graphite paper. It usually tends to erase or come out with wood conditioner before I stain or paint.

    Thanks for the idea,
    Neeli

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