Chic & Fun! How To Host A Baby Shower ‘Block Party’
You take a step back and smile. It is finished. Glancing at the clock, you breathe a sigh of relief; everything came together in time. The first guests should be arriving any moment now.
As you look around the room, your heart starts beating a little faster. All of the planning and effort have come together. Color fills the room with rainbows of balloons and flowers tastefully arranged around the table. Tiers of cupcakes and fruit look and smell delicious while sparkling glasses wait to be filled with the pretty, fresh-squeezed juices you had made that morning. Colorful pots of paint, ceramic glasses of brushes, and towers of beautiful hardwood blocks sit at every place on the table, waiting to be made into playable toys by friends and family. It had been a lot of work, but now that it was done, it looks wonderful.
A hand slips around your waist, pulling you close. You look over and smile, reaching around to pull the new momma closer. Her belly is so big now that only side hugs are possible. She leans her head to rest on your shoulder, her eyes brimming with happy tears.
“It all looks so beautiful.” Her hand squeezes yours tightly. “Thank you for working so hard to make this day special.”
You glance at her belly, smiling at the thought of the sweet one nestled comfy and cozy inside. “You are both so loved.” You explain, “How could we not go all out to celebrate this new, special baby? And,” you hug her even closer, “the new mamma?”
She laughs, about to reply, when the door swings open, and happy greetings and laughter begin. The baby shower has begun, and everyone is oohing and ahhing over the new mommy.
Plates of food are soon heaped up, nibbles of the tasty treats snuck between the chatter of good friends. Presents pile up on the fireplace, and the new mommy is glowing, relishing in the compliments and joy her friends and family are showing her. Gently, you guide folks to the table, hinting that something fun is about to happen. Eyebrows arch, and they swiftly gather around, hushing each other as you step to the head of the table.
Laughter greets your welcome, and cheers erupt as you point to the new mommy, lifting glasses to toast her happiness and the baby’s health. From there, it only takes a few moments to explain the Baby Shower activity: how to make the ‘Love Letter’ toys. Murmurs of appreciation rise as folks start inspecting their supplies and toys. “Use any color you want; we want every color of the rainbow on these pretty toys!”. You smile at the new momma. “And make sure to write your name on your finished toys. We want to remember forever that you were here to welcome this precious baby.”
Laughter and conversation rises around the table as everyone compliments each other on the toys, helping one another to create a special set of toys. As the ‘Love Letter’ toys start to take shape, the new momma looks up and smiles at you, her eyes saying “Thank you” as her friends dive into making toys for her baby. You can see how the toys will become a remarkable memory of this wonderful group. Smiling, you nod back, your love for her shining through your eyes.
It’s a happy day.
Why Host a Block Party?
The little life that is sweetly growing inside of Mommy deserves to be celebrated! If you are hosting a baby shower, you know that you are creating a joyous moment when friends and family come together to offer much-needed support and encouragement for a growing family. The memories of this special day will be cherished in a mother’s heart forever as she remembers how deeply her precious baby is loved and celebrated by the people closest to her.
That is why hosting a Toymaking ‘Block Party’ at your baby shower can be so special. When loved ones make ‘Love Letter’ toys for a new baby, they are:
- Creating safe, playable, and educational toys.
- Creating heirloom toys that preserve the memory of their love and the special day they spent together.
- Learning a New Skill
- Having FUN!
- Finishing a 36-block toy set in only Two And A Half Hours (Or Less!)
New babies need educational toys to help their little brains to grow while providing the happy playtime that fills their childhood with joy. Making ‘Love Letter’ toys gives a growing family a beautiful set of playable toys while helping their little ones develop their fine motor development, identify colors, numbers, and letters, fostering open-ended play that develops imagination and evens helps them learn how to read and spell as they get older.
Children will never outgrow classic ‘Love Letter’ toys. As they enter new stages in life, the blocks will continue to support their education before transitioning into home décor that older children and adults STILL love to play with.
Adults and teenagers will leave silly notes, jokes, or spell out holiday phrases and welcomes with their Love Letters.
Friends and family are making wooden ‘Love Letter’ toys that will be enjoyed for life!
Heirloom toys are designed to last, meaning they are made of the highest-quality components. With the BridgeWood Toymaker, your loved ones will create toys that CAN be enjoyed for life. As the toys are played with throughout the years, they will wear gently, creating a patina reflecting the happy playtime they provided to the little ones and their family. With normal use, the toys will last for generations of playtime, meaning that the tiny baby who plays with them may someday gift those same toys to their children and grandchildren! The toys collect the memories of a happy childhood and a happy family while preserving the beautiful moment when they were created by the friends and family who loved them before a child was even born.
Making toys is FUN. The Toymaker Kit makes it so easy to make toys that people can talk freely, laughing and encouraging each other as they make beautiful toys. You will find that people compliment each other, exclaiming over each other’s special toys. Your guests will thoroughly enjoy this unique activity, as they quickly learn a confidence-boosting skill and leave having earned the title ‘Toymaker’.
And the fun with the toys continues even after the party! As one new mother, Kelsey R, shared,
“This makes a great baby shower gift that lasts a lifetime. My friends and family had a lot of fun making them and even love seeing and playing with them now. They remember the exact blocks they made and still talk about what a wonderful idea it was.
Imagine your friends and family coming to visit the new baby or visiting years after the party. When they see the ‘Love Letter’ blocks, they will start hunting for the toys they made, laughing as they find them, and sharing their memories of the special baby shower when their wooden toys were created.
The fun doesn’t end at the baby shower but will continue as the toys give the gift of beauty, education, and playtime for years to come.
Learning how to make beautiful, educational heirloom toys takes only minutes. We’ve broken down the steps for you to make it easy to host a ‘Block Party,’ where friends and family become Toymakers together.
Finishing A Set
It doesn’t take long for a group to finish a full 36-block set of toys, especially if your ‘Head Toymaker’ helps to do some prep and finishing work. Each person in a group of nine can create four blocks in about two and a half hours, while a group of eighteen can complete two blocks each in about an hour and a half.
Our Best Tips and Tricks for Hosting a Successful Toymaking ‘Block Party
After hosting multiple baby showers and block parties, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to have a happy toymaking experience. Here are our best insights with a deeper explanation and checklists for having a smooth experience.
But before we get into the tips, here is our BIGGEST tip:
Let go of trying to make ‘perfect’ toys with a group. Making toys is fun and easy, and most people will catch on very quickly, making almost perfect toys even on their first try.
But everyone has different abilities that can affect how their toy ends up. Some of this is due to their age or health. Sometimes, people get so excited to be talking to their neighbors and enjoying the party that they forget to concentrate on making the toy, resulting in an imperfect toy.
This ALWAYS happens! The best way to prepare is to accept that imperfect toys will happen.
But imperfect toys are ok! We like to think of them as a reminder that life does not have to be perfect to be worth treasuring.
There are two primary ways to host a ‘Block Party,’ and each has pros and cons.
Easy ‘Side Table’ Set Up
Envision setting up your toymaking on a side table that your guests can drift towards and make a toy at their leisure. ‘Happy Chaos’ ensues as guests jump into toymaking without instructions and with great gusto. They will love making toys however they want, creating a wild, unpredictable, colorful set full of character and fun.
This style is good if you and the baby shower team want a unique, colorful, and uncoordinated set of toys when they are finished. It is a good style for laid-back personalities who can let the group go wild making toys and enjoy watching everyone have a great time.
This style of Block Party is NOT recommended if the baby shower team desires to have a cohesive, matching set of toys. The Baby Shower team and Head Toymaker should also be prepared to do a lot of finishing work on the toys.
- Least amount of prep
- Guests enjoy the ease and simplicity
- No one feels ‘forced’ to make a toy
- Great for chatting and conversation
- Guests can create however they want, making each toy truly ‘unique’ and recognizable
- Even if you set out instructions or video guides, our experience is that only some people will read or pay attention to them!
- Because people ignore the instructions, results are often colorful but sloppy.
- Although it is less work to set up this style of toymaking, sometimes the sloppy results mean that someone needs to take a considerable amount of time ‘cleaning’ up the toys, especially if children are involved in making the set.
- The finished set will not look ‘perfect’ and likely won’t have a consistent look. This can be very disappointing or frustrating if you’re not expecting it.
Envision hosting a Baby Shower where folks gather to learn and create a set of toys together. This event is more controlled, as the Head Toymaker and Baby Shower Team work together to gather everyone together at pre-determined times to make toys. Careful instructions are given, and the baby shower team is available to help everyone learn how to make a consistent and gorgeous set of toys.
Even with this style of workshop, be prepared that some folks will still rush ahead without listening to instructions! Here at BridgeWood, we have noticed this happens at EVERY toymaking workshop! Even with help, most people are still learning how to make toys, and mistakes are bound to happen. This often takes the form of putting letters and numbers upside down or sideways on the toys or accidentally painting the long grain instead of the end grain.
But, with the proper prep and instruction, a group can pull together a lovely set of toys in this style of baby shower, especially if a cohesive color palette has been chosen beforehand.
- You are much more likely to get a lovely, consistent toy set.
- Guests grow in confidence when they receive careful instruction, leaving them amazed and proud of the toys they helped to create. They are learning a new skill!
- Less finishing work is needed to be done by the Head Toymaker.
- Even in a more structured environment, folks have plenty of freedom to talk, laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
- More Prep Work Is Needed
- It can be hard work to wrangle a group!
- It takes practice and a gentle but firm hand to guide a group, so they listen to instructions without resenting the instructor. Be sure to choose someone with the experience and personality to lead a group for this important role.
- Staying on schedule can be difficult.
Here at BridgeWood, we have many beautiful patterns and designs! The Prisms are gorgeous, perfect for open-ended play, and super educational. And the character designs are adorable, sending your little ones sweet messages of snuggly, playful love. But, when it comes to doing a design with a large group, there is one design we wholeheartedly recommend: Love Letters.
Our Love Letters pattern is one of the most straightforward designs, making it easy for a group to get a consistent result regardless of talent and experience. If someone accidentally puts the letters on sideways or upside down, it won’t matter! Children and adults will naturally flip the lettered toys into the right orientation when using the’ Love Letter’ toys. They will look adorable jumbled together once the set is complete.
And though simple, it is easy to customize with a unique color palette. Again, this makes getting a consistent look from your group effort easier.
You can choose another design. In our experience, we have realized that folks tend to get distracted through happy chatter with their neighbor (as well they should!). They rarely will reference the handy 3-d templates provided, and the designs will be put onto the blocks upside down, sideways, and without paying attention to the patterns. The results are still cute even if they aren’t perfectly consistent so, if you don’t mind, feel free to go for it!
We have a thorough tutorial for creating the classic ‘Love Letter’ design. Check it out here: Love Letters
Choosing a color palette is one of the easiest ways to customize your heirloom toys while getting a consistent look. This is an excellent opportunity to chat with the expecting family. Do they have a color scheme picked out for the nursery? Would they prefer a classy, minimalist look with just white and wood letters? Or perhaps they’d like an explosion of color, with happy rainbow blocks filling up a bright and cheerful playroom?
Head to our Inspiration Page to see a wide variety of color palettes! There are thousands of possible combinations; which ones will you choose?
Note: If the family wants to choose a pastel palette that needs a lot of white paint or perhaps wants to go heavy with one particular color, you will want to purchase extra paint to make sure you have enough of a specific color to share around the table. You can find extra toy-safe paint for sale on the BridgeWood shop tools and accessories page.
Check-in with your Head Toymaker about pre-mixing and sorting the color palette before the big day! They will want to remove any unwanted paint colors and pre-mix the desired colors, ensuring there is enough to share around the table.
Choosing a great Head Toymaker will make the toymaking experience a happy one! This individual will be responsible for prepping supplies, setting up the toymaking experience, and instructing the group on how to make the toys. They will also be responsible for collecting the toys, doing any necessary finish work, and ensuring they cure before turning over the finished toys to the expecting family.
We’ve made this handy-dandy checklist to help your Head Toymaker out! It includes a full supply list, how to set up the table, and how to do prep and finish work.
The Head Toymaker should start gathering supplies about three weeks ahead of time, particularly if prep work is desired on the toys. Order the Baby Shower Bundle from our shop page, and refer to the supply list, ensuring everything is ordered and ready to go well before the big day.
Chat with your baby shower team to determine if any prep needs to be done on the toys before the big day. Your Head Toymaker might want to get a head start on making the toys if there are concerns about time or a specific color palette/design is desired.
Mix the color palette and remove unwanted paint colors.
If a particular effect is desired or there is limited time for toymaking during the party, then we recommend that the Head Toymaker prepares the starred end grain sides of the toys. Refer to the ‘Toy Making Basics’ tutorials to learn how to identify the end grain, paint the two sides, and stencil the star, sanding the edges to a crisp edge and sealing them.
If only one person is doing this step, it can take some time; make sure you start a few weeks before the Block Party! If this is your first time making toys, reserve at least 8 hours to do this step. Experienced toymakers can finish this step in a couple of hours.
Also prep the 3-d box template by cutting and taping the sides. This will give the group a visual you can pass around, so they can see what the finished toy will look like. If you feel extra ambitious, make one finished block to show off to the group.
Lastly, cut out the alphabet and star stencils, and place them in a sealed storage container.
After the two-star sides are finished and sealed, the Head Toymaker can help the group easily paint and seal the last four sides of the toys. In addition, it can reduce the toymaking experience from two and a half hours to less than an hour or even be done as a side activity.
The Head Toymaker should arrive at the party at least an hour and a half early to set everything up. It shouldn’t take too long, but if you are like us, you know you will want to chat with the baby shower team and get some nibbles. Just ensure you have enough time to set everything up before everyone walks in.
Prep the table by laying down a protective tablecloth or placemats.
Divide the blocks by the number of guests, setting them in front of each seat. For instance, nine guests will have four blocks each while eighteen guests will have two blocks each.
The Baby Shower Bundle has enough tools for nine people. But if you have more guests, don’t worry! It is very easy for two or more folks to share the tools. Just set a detail brush, a squeegee, and two dabbers between two places at the table so they are within easy reach of those sharing.
Scatter the pre-mixed paint pots and sealer within each reach of the guests.
Set bowls of the pre-cut alphabet stencils within easy reach in the middle of the table.
Set out water bowls. Have at least one water bowl for every two guests, placing it within easy reach in the middle of their seats.
Set a paper towel at each place setting to help clean and dry brushes and dabbers.
Also include baby wipes in case paint gets on someone’s fingers.
Place the 3-d box template close to the Head Toymakers place at the table. If there are pre-made examples of the finished toys, also place those next to the Head Toymaker.
Everyone is here for the party, and it is time to begin. Invite everyone to take their seat around the table.
Have the Head Toymaker stand up to show everyone how to make the toys. Refer to the video instructions in the Love Letter tutorial for each step!
Pass around the 3-d box template, explaining that each person will recreate that design on their toys. If there are any instructions regarding color, be sure to include that now (ie. Please make all of the letters white.)
If no prep has been done on the toys, you will find it easiest to walk the group through the toy-making process one step at a time. Although you could show them quickly how to make the toys at the head of the table, it is guaranteed that folks will rush ahead, skipping the steps for sealing and finishing the star sides before trying to paint all six sides at once. We have seen this happen MULTIPLE times, always resulting in messy fingers and blocks getting glued to the table! So inviting the group to take one step at a time is better.
There is no need for the entire group to finish each step together, as people will work at different paces. Instead, wait until one or two of the fastest folks complete their step and invite the group to watch the next step.
Always invite the group to inspect and sand their toys. This will only take a few brief moments. Be sure paper towels or baby wipes are passed around to wipe off the dust so it doesn’t accumulate and gum up the paint.
Next, show them how to identify the end grain of their toys. Walk around the table, helping those who might be confused.
Next, show them how to get a smooth, even paint surface on the end grain of the toys. Emphasize how to hold the brush straight up and down to get a crisp edge and minimize sanding work. Remind them that they only need a LITTLE bit of paint to start! They can always add more coats later, but thin coats mean the surface is smoother, making it much easier to get a clean stencil pull. Thin coats also dry much faster!
Show them how to place the toys on an unpainted side to dry. This is why they should only work on the first two sides! If they skip this step, they will have messy fingers and chunky, ‘glued’ blocks stuck to the drying surface.
After one or two of your fastest toymakers have finished painting the end grain on their sides, show the group how to sand the sides to a crisp edge. Encourage them to place a paper towel in their laps or to the side, to collect any sawdust. Wipe the blocks clean after the edges have been sanded.
After the blocks are painted, sanded, and dry, show the group how to apply the star stencil. Use this simple formula to explain the technique.
- Center the stencil
- Scrape paint over the image until smooth
- Pull to reveal the image
One of the Head Toymakers’ most important jobs is to remind people to immediately continue using their stencil or wash it right away! Making toys is a happy occasion and we have noticed over and over that folks love to chat with their friends and neighbors. If someone gets into an animated conversation, they can forget about their poor stencil, which immediately starts to dry, gumming up with paint and making it unusable.
Gently remind folks to rescue their stencils!
If someone has a disappointing stencil pull, don’t worry! Just encourage them to wash the stencil. Perhaps the paint surface was uneven, causing the paint to slip underneath. Show them how to immediately wash it off with a baby wipe or wait until it is dry to scrape off the mistake with an Exacto knife or repair it with a detail brush.
After the star is applied and dry, show the group how to seal their star sides. Two thin coats on the end grain will do the trick! And, remember, show them how to set the toys on their sides to dry as they move on to the next step.
We learned this the hard way, and it is some of our best advice.
RELAX. And have fun!
Toymaking is FUN. Folks are going to have a blast, and they will create darling toys. They will NOT make perfect toys.
And that is ok! That is entirely all right! Walk into toymaking with a group knowing your Head Toymaker can instruct and assist but, ultimately, permit people to make mistakes. But the point of having a group of loved ones getting together to make toys is NOT to get perfect, perfect toys. Instead, it’s to laugh, love and enjoy creating something special that will bring a smile to a young child’s face.
You are going to get DARLING toys full of memories. But you and everyone else will have a LOT more fun if you aren’t as worried about getting something perfect at the end of the day.
Rest in the joy of toymaking! Have FUN!
If you are worried about mistakes being made, we have your back. Mistakes on toys are fixable! Quickly wipe the paint off with a baby wipe or damp paper towel. Or gently scrape dried paint off with an Exacto knife or start completely over by sanding down the surface.
There are multiple ways that Love Letters can be applied to the Love Letter set.
‘Solid Letter’ Blocks
This is the easiest but least versatile version. Let’s pretend we are using the letter ‘A.’ Instruct your toymaker to put the letter ‘A’ on every side of the block. Continue with each letter/number for the rest of the toys.
This is very easy to do and looks very cute! It is also a great way to teach little one’s their letters by having them search for the ‘A’ block or group all of the vowel blocks together.
Applying the letter to just one block also makes it much harder to spell phrases and words. Because all of the ‘A’s’ are attached to the same block, you cannot spell phrases such as ‘Happy Birthday’, where two A’s are needed for the same phrase.
‘Sweet Words’ Blocks
Split up the letters and numbers in the alphabet to spell sweet four-letter words. Here are some examples;
This is an adorable way to spell out sweet phrases for a little one to learn and explore! Choose your favorites to encourage and send lovely messages to your little one!
But here’s the catch. Mixing the letters and sharing the vowels is TOUGH in a crowd. There are several ways you could do this:
- Sort the phrases and have two people who share most of the letters sit next to each other to share the stencils. This is doable but can get complicated.
- LOVE – DOVE – VOTE – JOKE
- BABY – PLAY – PRAY – JOYS
- Buy several sets of alphabet stencils. Pre-cut and arrange the words at each place setting. Some sharing might still be necessary, but encourage people to use high-use letters, such as vowels, first so they can be washed, dried, and shared with the next person.
- Extend the time for making the toys so that there is time for the stencils to be washed and dried before each use.
Cut out four letters and set them at each place setting. Invite the toymaker to put one of each letter on each block so that each block gets four different letters or numbers.
The Four-Letter-Sort is the easiest plan, and it does mix up the letters! Cute words can even be made with some, although not all, of the blocks.
But it can also limit some of the versatility for spelling phrases, as the same four blocks will have the same repeats.
Switch And Swap
This is both easy and fun for the whole group!
After the star sides are dry, have everyone take one stencil and four blocks.
Have them apply the same stencil one time to each of the blocks.
Try to have everyone do a vowel! Putting one vowel and three consonants on each block will give you the most versatility for spelling in the future.
Immediately wash the stencil.
Set the blocks, without touching each other, in the middle of the table.
Have everyone grab a different block, ensuring each block has a different letter already placed on it.
Encourage them to avoid placing two vowels on the same block.
Have them apply a different letter, one time each, on those four separate blocks.
Immediately wash the stencil and place the blocks back in the middle of the table.
Repeat the same steps until each of the four sides has a different letter!
The last time might be a bit of fun as folks try to search for blocks with no repeats on them.
Although this system removes some of the individuality of each person making their own toys, it is a fun group effort that gives each toy a great mix of the alphabet.
Your greatest hazard will be having the blocks rub against each other while they are still wet and set in the middle of the table. Folks are also more likely to accidentally smear wet letters if they pick up the block by grasping it instead of pinching it on the star sides. Encourage folks to pick the blocks up from the dry, star side. That is why the star side is there!
After the Love Letters are applied and dry, have folks apply two thin coats of sealer on the last four sides. Have them set the ‘Love Letter’ toys on the dry, star side to dry.
At the end of the day, the Head Toymaker will be responsible for collecting the finished toys, placing them a finger-width apart on a non-stick surface to cure for at least 72 hours.
If a box is necessary to bring them home, ensure the blocks are completely dry to the touch before setting them in the box. The box must be lined with gallon freezer bags to prevent the blocks from sticking to the sides of the box and getting glued to it. Set the blocks a finger width apart in the box. If this is not possible, separate each block with a plastic strip between them.
It might be helpful to inspect each block. If there are obvious mistakes or slips, use the detail brush or Exacto knife to make repairs. But don’t remove all of the individuality of the blocks! Mistakes are normal and teach a child that life doesn’t need to be perfect to be worth treasuring!
Be sure to seal any corrections that were made. If necessary, apply a final coat of sealer to the blocks to ensure they are sealed thoroughly and correctly.
Let cure for 72 hours before shipping or play!
If shipping the blocks, individually wrap each Love Letter toy before packing them in a box. Make sure they are completely cured before wrapping them in tissue paper to avoid gluing the tissue paper to the blocks.
And There You Have IT!
SUCCESS! You hosted a WONDERFUL baby shower! Your guests will go home talking about the fun activity and the clever, new skill they developed. And the expecting family will receive a memory-filled ‘Love Letter’ toy set that will grow with their tiny one, helping them learn and grow.
As the child grows, their family will be able to tell them how their loved ones gathered together before they were even born to prepare something beautiful and educational for them to enjoy.
You aren’t ‘just’ making toys. You are telling the story of your friends and families’ LOVE for this precious new baby and their family.
You have done a BEAUTIFUL and good thing.