Make a few simple block houses for the kids or grandchildren and they can create their own neighborhood or small town. These houses are solid, cheap and fairly easy to make.
Salvaged pallet runners or scrap 2" x 4" or 4" x 4"
Wooden slats (for optional chimneys)
Paint (latex for easy cleanup)
Scrap board (1" x 6" or larger)
A few finish nails
Dark stain (optional)
Hand Saw (band saw if you have one)
Drill and bits
Clamp or vise (only if you will add chimneys)
Sander (or sandpaper)
Rags (optional for use with the stain)
Step 1: Prepare the Blocks
Use fully dry wood and rip the angled roofs. Try pitched, gambrel, mansard and flat. If you don't have a table saw, ask a friend to make the cuts for you. Cut the long cut section into individual building pieces. If you want to add some chimneys, cut them now from slats less than 1/4" thick.
Sand everything to smooth off the roughest surfaces. Drill a hole in the center of the bottom of each block. The hole diameter should be just larger than the head of the finish nail and no more than 3/4" deep. This hole is for temporarily mounting the house while the paint dries.
Drive finish nails into the scrap piece of wood. Space them so that when the houses are mounted on the nails the houses will not touch.
Step 2: Paint, Stain, Glue and Decorate.
Paint the blocks whatever color you want. I use an off-white for the walls and a brown for the roofs. Have fun with whatever colors you have on hand. Mount each freshly painted block on a nail until it is dry. Once the paint is dry I like to apply some dark stain to the paint on the walls and immediately wipe it off. Enough of the stain remains to give the building a "lived-in" look. With the stain dry, glue and clamp any chimneys you want to add.
Once the paint, glue and stain are all well dried you can add the exterior decoration. I use permanent markers to create doors and windows but you can try oil paint or other permanent media. Sign and date your buildings.
Just turn the kids loose with the houses and a few toy cars and animals to create their own little world. Get fancy by making a neighborhood map on an old oilcloth tablecloth using permanent markers. Draw in the streets but leave the rest for populating with the buildings you made. If you are a grandparent, keep the map and buildings at your house as a treat for when the young ones come to visit.