Friday, September 20, 2013

chunky nativity craft blocks for kids {a tutorial}

Here's another idea for craft blocks using Heritage Makers.  This one is a little different than the last tutorial ("thankful" blocks; click here for the link).  These are just as simple and inexpensive, but these are for Christmas!  Also, these are made for kiddos. 

Anybody who has children around the house and nice nativity sets know that these two things don't go together.  From personal experience, I highly recommend some hands-on, kid-friendly nativities.  And that's what I'm going to show you how to make today.  

To make these blocks more kid-friendly, I'm going to use Mod Podge to adhere the pages to the wooden blocks AND put a coat of it on top, too, as a sealant.  This should prevent little ones from being able to pick off the decorative part of the blocks.

Aren't those ADORABLE?!  I think this art is sweet.

This project cost me about $5 total.  It took more time than the Count Your Blessings blocks because the Mod Podge takes longer, but I love this set so much that I don't mind. 

UPDATE 2022:  The Heritage Makers website and software is currently being reworked so it will no longer run on Adobe Flash (which Adobe has discontinued).  At the moment, it's easier for me to just order these scrap pages for you on your behalf and have them shipped to you than it would be for you to open your own Heritage Makers account and find the template.  Contact me with questions or to order.

Here's what you need:
  • Heritage Makers template 112122.  This is actually my own template--I created it!  Then I just submitted it to Heritage Makers for them to add to the template gallery.  Just click the "template gallery" link at the upper right, then type 112122 into the search field.  
  • less than 2 feet of a 2x4 piece of wood (found at home improvement stores; remember that 2x4s actually measure 1.5"x3.5".  I know.  Whose idea was that?!  You want one piece cut 5.5", one piece cut 4.5", and three pieces cut 3.5".)
  • a saw (power saw recommended), or a nice person at said home improvement store who will cut the board into pieces for you--just be sure you take the measurements with you.
  • dark brown paint (Craft paint or spray paint; I use craft paint.  I chose dark brown because the little border around each piece is dark brown.  But you can choose whatever color paint you prefer.)
  • Mod Podge.  You could use other methods (spray adhesive, double-sided tape, etc.) to adhere the decorative pieces to the wooden blocks, but I'm going to use Mod Podge this time both to adhere the pieces to the wood AND to then cover it, sealing the paper to the wood.  This should prevent cute little kiddo fingers from pulling off the decorative papers. 
  • a clear acrylic sealer (optional but suggested)  (I just used a spray can of this.  You can find it near spray paint.  I just got mine at WalMart.)

STEP 1:   the beautiful part (the print)
As I mentioned, I created this design myself, and now it's a template that you can use.  Or you can create your own design from scratch.  You can also change things in my design if you want--background colors, borders, whatever.  You'll place the template into your account by doing a search for it in the Template Gallery.  Once you find it, click on it.  Then click "personalize."  

While you wait the 7-10 days for it to come in the mail...

STEP 2:  cut your wooden blocks
I've put directions right on the Heritage Makers scrapbook page, so when it's printed, just follow the directions for the wood.  Measurements are listed above.   I'd recommend that you cut the blocks with a power saw, to save time and to get a cleaner cut.  The blocks will end up about 1/4 inch larger than the paper pieces all the way around.  This gives a nice little wood border around your HM pages so that you don't have to line up the edges exactly or worry about them getting bent or anything.

STEP 3:  prepare the wooden blocks

First, sand the rough edges.

Then paint all the sides of the blocks.  Let the paint dry completely.  

STEP 4:  cut out the cuteness

When your blocks' decor arrives in the mail from Heritage Makers (and you're finished with your happy dance), cut out the pieces.  Use a paper cutter or scissors--whatever you'll be happy with.

STEP 5:  adhere the cuteness to the blocks using Mod Podge

First, I painted Mod Podge on the back of each decorative piece.  I'd never used it before, so I'll admit I was a little scared.  But it was fine.  Just use a paint brush or a sponge to cover the backs of the pieces.  

Then place them on top of the blocks.  Smooth out any air bubbles.  Let dry completely.  I turned them over (face-down) and placed some other heavy wood on top of them while they dried.

STEP 6:  apply Mod Podge on top of the cuteness (two coats)
I will admit, this was a little scary.  You get these darling little pieces of cuteness, and then you paint over them with goo!  But the Mod Podge does dry clear, so don't worry.  

What I did was paint the Mod Podge in sort of a heavy coat around all the edges--where the paper meets the wood.  This IS thick paper since it's printed on a Heritage Makers 8.5x11 scrapbook page, so it's cardstock-like.  Anyway, I did a heavy coat around all the edges, then went back and covered the whole thing using a light-to-medium coat.

Given the protection you get from these Mod Podge coats, I would highly recommend this method, particularly as this is designed to be a children's nativity set.  Mod Podge does make for a less "clean" look.  It does leave some brush marks and such if you look closely, but again I like the sealed edges, and I really think they end up looking good.  

You can see the progression of how the Mod Podge looks as it dries.  I did the camel at the bottom first, then the shepherd, then the angel last.  

I found since this set has five blocks, by the time I was done putting Mod Podge on all the pieces like this, the first one I started with was dry by the time I finished.  So I just started over and went back and put a SECOND COAT on each piece--again, a thicker coating around the edges where the paper and wood meet, and then a light-to-medium coat over the rest.  The second time, I did the brush strokes the opposite direction.  Whatever you like.  LET DRY COMPLETELY

STEP 7:  spray with clear sealant (optional but suggested)

The package says that Mod Podge will leave a little tackiness (stickiness)--not what you want for something that's intended to be handled--and suggests that you finish your pieces with a clear sealant.  I honestly didn't notice any stickiness, but I'm all for a little extra protection on these pieces, so I sprayed them with clear sealant.  And that's it!!

I just love it!!  I think it's darling, and I think it would be a great gift for little ones, too.  (And only 5 bucks!!)

UPDATE 2022:  It won't look exactly the same, but an other option for creating your own digital scrapbook pages and making them into nativity blocks just like this is to use Artisan digital scrapbooking software by Forever.  You can learn about Artisan here:

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