DIY | Container Blocks

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Mindfully collecting items that would otherwise find their way into the trash or recycling bin is a great way to increase your early learning setting’s variety and quantity of blocks. There’s very little doing in this do it yourself project. Mostly you have to drink coffee and munch pickles, yogurt, and oatmeal cookies. Here’s a look at some ideas.


The only supplies you need are the containers themselves. Ideal containers are:

  • Available
  • Durable
  • Stackable

The items pictured above have been favorites of ours:

  • Yogurt containers
  • Cottage cheese containers
  • Coffee containers
  • Oatmeal containers
  • Pickle containers


Kids will learn everything they do with ‘normal’ blocks when they play with these do it yourself versions. They’ll build cognitive skills, social skills, physical skills, and language and literacy skills.


Here are some tips from our years of experience using these items as blocks:

  • These blocks also make great loose parts for dramatic play, so they should be allowed to travel outside the official block area, if you have one.
  • If you don’t want the lids to come off, you can either apply a bit of hot glue, super glue, or construction adhesive and secure them in place.
  • Don’t bother removing the labels, they’re great environmental print and support early literacy.
  • You could get fancy and decorate them, but our advice is not to bother. Anything you do to make them pretty will also make them harder to clean. Plus, the kids don’t care if they’re pretty and you probably have other things you could be doing with your limited time and energy.
  • One alteration we would suggest is to make some of these DIY blocks heavier as a way to provide children with heavy work (activity that pushes or pulls against the body). How? Just fill the containers part way (or completely) with sand and seal the top as mentioned above. The coffee and pickle containers work best for this because they are made of heavier plastic. Plastic peanut butter jars are also good for this.
  • Another alteration would be to add odds and end that’ll make some noise to the containers when kids shake and roll them. Just add some items and secure the lid as suggested above. This is best done with containers that have screw on lids, like plastic peanut butter jars.
  • In addition to adding these blocks to your play environment, think about how you could add more time and space for block play. Our podcast buddy, Lisa Murphy, explains in her master’s thesis that kids need more blocks, more time for block play, and more space for block play.


If you give this project a try, we’d love to see photos and hear how it goes in the comments below. You’ll find more DIY block ideas here. If you’re looking for handmade wooden blocks, please check out what we have available at Explorations Early Learning Toys (save 15% with SAVE15).


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I'm an early learning speaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ and Explorations Early Learning.

After nearly 30 years working in early learning programs, Tasha now devotes her time to making Explorations Early Learning and Playvolution HQ work, quilting, and taking care of her pet duck, Tape.