The Sweetest Handmade Gifts for Newborns
Gently, you pull the warm, wriggling bundle closer to your chest, closing your eyes as you breathe in the unmistakable aroma. Before this moment, you have been aware of the power of smell. Over the years, you had casually read several scientific articles dissecting the power of pheromones and how certain scents can release powerful memories and emotions. But this?
You were unprepared.
The subtle, primal, yet sweet scent releases something within your body, making you feel like you are melting to your toes. Something deep within your chest stirs and awakens. A desire to serve and protect… A yearning… A love so real and powerful that you can almost feel it physically rewiring your brain and the direction of your heart.
A tiny, dimpled hand reaches up, resting on your cheek. You open your eyes and look down into the dark eyes of your newborn. You could swear they are studying you, drinking in the contours of your face. Somewhere, you vaguely remember learning that newborns can only see clearly enough to identify the face of the person cuddling them. It dawns on you that, for them, the whole world is out of focus… except your face. A smile begins to tip up the corners of your mouth.
“What do you think, little one?” you whisper. “Do you like what you see?” You tilt your head, pretending to pose. “Pretty good-looking, eh?”
Your only response is a slow blink.
“Ahhhh, well. Hmmm.” You reply. “I hope I’ll grow on you.” Then, reaching down, you press your lips against their downy forehead and whisper, “But you, sweetheart, don’t you worry.” You pause, knowing that your following words reveal something that you know, from the very depths of your heart, is true.
“You are beautiful.”
How to Make Blocks to Stimulate Your Baby's Growth
You want to give the precious newborn in your life the WORLD. That amazing, tiny bundle of joy grows over a million neurons per second. The first year of their lives will be crucial in setting up a physical, mental, and emotional framework that will undergird the rest of their lives. You know that snuggles, cuddles, singing songs, and interacting with that tiny person is one of the most valuable things you can do to help them to thrive and grow.
But what other tools can you use to help them thrive?
Advances in science have revealed fascinating insights into your tiny human’s development and learning capabilities. And here at BridgeWood, we want to help you create toys that will communicate the deep love and joy you find in your baby and challenge their growing brain to grow.
Let’s get started!
The Baby Toymaker comes with four hardwood blocks and the tools to apply black and white toy-safe paint. Why only black and white?
Newborns only can see about 8-10 inches away, about the same distance from where they lay in your arms during a sweet cuddle to your face. You are your newborn’s whole world; everything else is fuzzy and out of focus while they absorb, learn and grow from interacting with you.
In addition, babies are born color-blind and only slowly develop their ability to see color. That is why toys with stark black-and-white colors are so helpful for tiny babies. The strong patterns help their eyes to focus, exercising their optic nerve and helping it grow and develop. Focusing their eyes teaches the brain and optic nerve how to communicate and grow, forming the basis for visual communication and processing for the rest of your baby’s life! WOW!
When you paint a strong, simple design on the six sides of the four blocks, you can create an enormous variety of patterns that challenge and stimulate this crucial brain activity in your child.
TUMMY TIME ACTIVITIES
When it is time for tummy time, place your baby on their tummy and stack the blocks in front of them. You can stack them vertically in a 2×2 square tower or line them up on the floor. These simple setups create a staggering 31,104 possible pattern combinations to challenge your little one! And that number doesn’t account for turning the blocks halfway so the little one can see multiple sides simultaneously!
As your little one ages, they will start trying to reach and grasp the toys. This stimulates motor development, teaching tiny but important finger muscles to cooperate. They will slowly but surely develop their gross and fine motor control, first learning to grasp the toy before delighting in the sounds they make when clapping the blocks together. Stacking and knocking over toys is another educational delight, as they learn balance, friction, and foundational lessons about gravity, cause, and effect.
Your black and white toys will help your little ones grow and develop throughout their first year and can continue to be used for open-ended play as they age. And, someday, your grown child may have a newborn who will play and learn with your Made-With-Love toys!
Making toys is a delightful, relaxing way to express your creativity while developing a valuable and practical tool to delight and educate your beloved child. And it is easy! Let’s show you some beautiful and simple patterns you can make using the tools in your Baby Toymaker.
Prep the Blocks
Check each edge of the wooden toys. If there are any rough edges, sand them smooth and wipe them clean.
For detailed instructions and tips, see the “Prepping the Blocks” Tutorial.
Identify the End Grain
- Each block has two end grain sides and four long grain sides. The end grain will appear curved, gray, or purple compared to the creamy white and straight long-grain sides.
Need some visual help? Check out these pictures and tutorials here.
2. Set the end grain facing ‘up.’
Paint the End Grain
- Paint the end grain of each block, either solid white or black, using your foam applicator to get a smooth, even finish. This is accomplished by holding the applicator straight up and down and brushing it evenly on the block with just a little bit of paint.
Remember, it is best to use LESS paint at first. You can always add more later! Using too much toy-safe paint can create ridges or unevenness in the paint, meaning that it takes longer to dry and gives you a smeared result when you apply the star stencil.
- Check out this tutorial for a video showing how to hold your brush for a smooth, perfect finish!
2. Set your block on an unpainted side to dry.
Getting a Perfect Edge
- Take your sandpaper and sand along the painted edge of the block. This will remove any paint that might have slipped over the edge, giving your toy a professional ‘crisp’ edge.
- Wipe the dust off the blocks using a paper towel before continuing.
- Need a visual? This video will show you how easy this step is!
Apply the BridgeWood Star
- Cut out and center the star stencil on the end grain of the fingerprint blocks.
- Holding the foam applicator straight up and down, apply paint by brushing paint over the star. Use the opposite color from what you just painted. You can also ‘dab’ if desired. Make sure every gap is filled in the star.
- You do not need to cover the entire stencil. Only cover the star that is in the center of the stencil.
- Immediately pull off the stencil to reveal the star.
- Check out this video tutorial to see exactly how it is done! You can use the same technique with your foam applicator as you see with the squeegee in this video.
- Immediately apply the star stencil to the other painted side of the block and repeat the steps to apply another star.
- Do not set the wet star down on the table while applying the next star on the other side. Hold the block in your hand or apply it to a different one.
- Apply the star stencils and the ‘Made-With-Love’ stencil to the end grain on each of the four blocks. Set on an unpainted side to dry.
- When finished, immediately and gently wash the paint off the stencil and let it dry, sticky side ‘up.’ If you let the paint dry in the stencil, it will permanently ruin the stencil. And remember, the paint dries VERY quickly!
- With proper care, you can reuse your stencil up to ten times.
Seal the Stars
- With your foam applicator, seal the two star sides with two thin coats of toy-safe sealer.
- Set on an unpainted side to dry
- Continue with the rest of the set.
- Cure for 72 Hours.
- Although the sealer will be dry to the touch very quickly, the underlayers still need to cure and dry.
- Store the toys a finger-width apart and on a gallon plastic freezer bag to avoid ‘gluing’ them to each other or the drying surface.
- Turn daily to ensure even curing on all sides of the wooden toys.
- If you do not wish to wait until the end of the 72 hours to finish your set, wait until the sealer is dry to the touch before continuing.
- Creating patterns on your baby’s toys is so much fun! There are so many educational shapes that you can make that are not only visually stunning and will help your little one to grow.
- ‘Free hand’ painting these patterns can be intimidating for beginners. That’s why we made it easy and created these simple pattern guides for you to practice.
- Choose your favorites and then download the guides and practice applying a thin coat of paint on the guide.
- Practice until you are confident, and then apply the same pattern to your block.
- Set the blocks on the finished, painted, and dry STAR side to dry.
- Sometimes, the brush slips, or you need to correct a mistake. There are three simple ways to fix mistakes.
- Wipe it off
- Working quickly, you can wipe off wet paint using a damp paper towel or a baby wipe. Wipe off your mistake and start over.
- Sand it Out
- Take your sandpaper after the paint is dry, and sand out the mistake. Get down to the bare surface of the wood and wipe the block clean.
- Gently Scrape It Off
- If it is a tiny mistake or needs a small correction, a responsible adult can use an Exacto knife to carefully scrape away the paint. To prevent gouging, keep the razor very flat against the surface of the wood.
- This technique can give you exact results!
- Wipe it off
Seal the Last Four Sides
- When you are finished and happy with the last four sides of your Baby Toymaker, lightly dip your foam into the toy-safe sealer and apply a thin coat of sealer to the four sides of the blocks.
- Repeat with each block.
- Apply two thin coats of sealer.
- Place on a dry, STAR side to dry.
Cure for 72 Hours
- Set the toys on a non-stick surface like a gallon freezer bag or glass/ceramic surface to cure.
- Flip the blocks daily to give each side a chance to dry.
- Avoid gift wrapping until the toys are cured, as the gift wrapping can get stuck to the curing toys. If you must wrap the toys before they are finished curing, wrap them in plastic sandwich bags to prevent them from getting glued to each other or the gift wrapping surface
You have just made beautiful, hyper-educational toys that will help a beloved newborn develop its eyesight and challenge its amazing brain to grow. Be proud. You just brought something good and beautiful into the world. Made-With-Love toys that will bring laughter, play, and SMILES to a child.