Square wooden blocks
Lots of scrapbook paper
Medium/fine and fine grit sand paper
Optional: Paint or wood stain
I have seen baby blocks like these for sale for more than $20 for sets of 6-9. Every time I see them I think, "Awwwww!" and then I think, "I could do that!" I'm sure you can, too.
Step 1: Sand the blocks
If you are super crafty with hand tools, you can make the blocks yourself (see: http://www.instructables.com/id/Build_Blocks/).
I'm not too good with powertools and wood, so I bought mine at a crafts store.
Sand the corners of the blocks with medium/fine-grit paper until they are nice and soft and you wouldn't mind your little kiddo handling them. Give the faces of the blocks a little rub, too, to get the store-bought feel off (and maybe the sticky stuff from the price tags).
At this point, you can paint or stain the blocks to give them a different look. Let them dry for at least several hours before continuing.
Step 2: Mark a grid on the back of the paper
Pencil in a grid on the back of the scrapbook paper, 1/4" smaller than your blocks. I am using 2" blocks, so I made a 1 3/4" grid with 1/2" margins. I only need 36 squares (6 blocks x 6 faces) and I have nine pieces of paper, so I really don't need more than about one row.
Step 3: Tear or cut the paper squares
Using the ruler as a guide, tear the long edges of the paper. I am doing two at a time here. It helps to keep the part that's going to be on the block under the ruler. Tear the short edges by hand without the ruler, to give the "squares" a more organic look. Trim or discard any really funky shapes (I tore a few extra just in case). Keep going until you have a nice assortment of little squares.
You could also cut the paper with decorative scissors, or just cut it straight with a rotary cutter for a more modern feel.
Obviously, you could use any other kind of paper, or shapes, or letters, or little hand-drawn pictures for something super-special. You could also buy paper animal stickers (from the scrabooking section at a crafts store) and make a little zoo or farm set.
Step 4: Stick the paper on
First, coat one face of the block with Mod-podge. Stick a paper square on, patting down the edges a little if needed. Cover with another coat of Mod-podge. Turn and continue until you have done all but one face. The technical term here is "decoupage", and if it sounds like something your great-aunt might have done a long time ago, that's because it is, and she probably did.
Mod-podge is very forgiving stuff, so don't worry about little bubbles or brush strokes, but do try to get an even coat, and avoid fingerprints. If you put the Mod-podge in a little container with a lid, you can just close the lid when you're done, and save it for later.
Step 5: Let the blocks dry
Place blocks dry-side-down on waxed paper and let them dry for several hours. If you paint or stain your blocks, this will turn into a long project, but it really only takes a few minutes for each step.
Step 6: Finish and seal
Finish the last side of the blocks just like the others, and allow to dry. You can follow the instructions on the Mod-podge to wet sand and recoat, or "antique" the blocks by applying a thin coat of wood stain/sealer, or any number of other finishes, but when you are done, spray lightly with a non-toxic acrylic sealer.
Tada! Everybody say, "Awwww!"
To see what other fun craftiness I am up to, visit my blog: http://www.karenelisam.blogspot.com/