I LOVE Montessori toys and learning materials, I believe children thrive with order and simplicity. But, collecting the materials can get expensive. The surprisingly easy solution is to make them yourself! With little effort, you can make materials and toys that are beautiful, sustainable, sensory rich, and honestly can be passed down to future generations thanks to the incredibly resilient nature of wood! I made this entire collection below for a fraction of the cost of buying them ready made, and I easily did it in an afternoon (with toddler “help” and lots of interruptions!).
They turned out beautifully! The dyeing process lets the wood grain show, and the baby safe beeswax finish gives each piece a deep shine and incredibly silky feel, providing hours of sensory-rich play and offering endless educational purposes! Scroll for the easy step by step tutorial!
What you’ll need:
Gloves (or you’ll have rainbow hands!)
Unfinished wood pieces
Here are the links to this particular set:
Liquid food dye (not gel! You can use vegetable food dyes, for this round I honestly just grabbed a set from our local grocery store).
Beeswax (I used this one from Amazon and it worked perfectly)
I chose to do rainbow colors for this set, and divided all my wooden pieces so I could batch dye each set of color all at once (all red, all orange, etc).
Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into your bowl and add 15-20 drops food color. Mix with your paintbrush and then start painting your wooden pieces. For the smaller pieces (wren eggs and acorns) I simply dumped them into the bowl, swirled them around and then fished them out.
Let them dry on the racks (this literally takes a few minutes) and do a second or third layer of color depending on how dark you want them to be. Keep in mind that when you seal them with the beeswax/olive oil it will deepen and darken the colors a bit. Make certain to keep your differently colored pieces separate while they dry so that you don’t end up with green spots on your yellow eggs.
For the finish, pour 1/4 olive oil into a 2 cup glass measure and grate the beeswax. You’ll want two tablespoons beeswax which comes out to about 4 tablespoons grated. (also don’t despair, very hot water will get that beeswax off your grater!)
This is what it will look like in the cup:
Heat on high for about 2 minutes until it is completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds. It will be completely clean when melted:
Pour into whatever container you want to keep it in (not plastic! I used a glass storage container) and stir frequently, be sure to scrape the sides and mix it as it sets so that it doesn’t clump and set unevenly. It will end up looking like this:
Simply rub into your beautifully dyed wooden pieces, and wipe off any excess with a cloth. Rub it into your hands, lips, feet, it’s amazingly hydrating! I don’t have any pictures of this part of the process because I was doing it while the kids all slept and my husband and I watched an episode of The Americans. I let the toys sit overnight and by morning the finish had set/soaked in and each piece was downright luminous.
My kids LOVE them and I love that they can play with them for years and years and then pass them down when they’re done. Oils from little hands will actually improve the wood, and if they ever start to get dry simply rub them down with the beeswax/olive oil finish again.