Kids love blocks.
From the time they are very small, babies love the feel of wooden blocks in their hands (and mouths!), to stack, knock over, push around, etc. Imaginative kids will use blocks as food, as game pieces, as buildings, as virtually anything their little minds can create! That's why I think wooden blocks are one of the absolute best gifts for young children. And handmade wooden blocks? Even better.
I set out to spend $0 on this project. Sure I love my nephew but gift giving is expensive (and of course I bought him clothes, stuffed animals, books, etc etc it never ends!) So I wanted something that was both cheap and handmade.
I started with scrap wood from my dad's workshop, and had him cut it into perfectly square blocks. Then I sanded the blocks which probably took the bulk of my time. But it's really important that they are nice and smooth for little hands. A couple of coats of acrylic paint were thrown on top, and I hand painted the letters of the alphabet. This wasn't a project I did alone either - my boyfriend and I enjoyed working on it together in the evenings.
Finally we coated the blocks with Non-toxic shellac. This was really important considering my nephew is only one and these blocks will spend most of their time in his mouth. In the future I would have made a bag to store them, but I simply ran out of time.
Total actual cost: $5 for the shellac. Not too bad for a toy that should last years to come!