May 14, 2014

Montessori moment: painted wooden chip color game

A baby is about to come in to this world- not mine, mind you, mine are already here- and I never even told you about it's shower.  Still, I'm gonna skip right over that because you can imagine: women chatting, brunch eaten, baby tips lobbed about, cheesy games avoided (it was a particularly good shower).  What you might not be able to imagine are the handmade, Montessori inspired wooden baby blocks we created at that shower.

It would be easier to imagine if I had proper photo documentation, eh?  Well whatever.  They turned out lovely and I'm sure baby will adore them just as Ace is digging his new matching color chip game.  It's the set I made as a dry run to these blocks and guess what? For this version I DO have photo documentation!

For this project, any old wooden shape will do.  I happened to have scored a deal on chips, so that's what I used.

To begin, I sorted them out into the color groups I wanted and then organized my paints accordingly.  The paint is a breeze to make: squirt a few drops of paint into a tray and then stir in a bit of water. The more paint pigment you use, the darker the stain.  My tip here is to make enough paint to cover all your chips for that color.

Paint all the chips.  The watercolor absorbs pretty fast, so by the time you finish the first round you should be able to flip your chips and paint the other side.  This part got a little messy for me because I inevitably used my fingers to hold the chips, but the paint washed off easily.  After that first painting, keep adding coats of color until you get the desired effect.  This time around you will need to let the wood dry completely before flipping it.

If you find the chips are not absorbing color to your liking, consider floating then in a small pot of paint.   In the case of the blocks, I found this method worked well for the lighter colors: I let them sit in the paint for a few minutes and then rotated them around.

After the chips are completely dry, coat them with a spray shellac.   You could also use beeswax polish: both are a safer choice (beeswax polish is the safest) for children than harsh polyurethane, but one might be easier to find than the other depending on where you live.  Once fully dry, let the games begin!  Have your child group the whole pile by colors, or mystery sort individual chips pulled out of a bag.  Count the chips!  Create patterns.  Make towers!  

They are a great open ended resource to have around- except when the games distract you from taking a picture of your child actually playing with the chips.  Oh well, I leave that to your imagination.
 Hey everyone, did you notice what I added?  Yup - some pictures of the finished product!


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