DIY | Jumbo Milk Jug Blocks

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My early learning buddy, Kristen Peterson, from Butterfly Hills Nature Preschool messaged photos of these awesome blocks they had built at the center. I could not wait to share a DIY for the idea.

The idea for these blocks popped into Kristen’s head when a couple energetic kids pulled off sections of the milk jug igloo they were building and started hauling them around.

Instead of blowing a gasket and scolding the kids, she figured out a way to follow the children’s lead. First she grabbed some duct tape and reinforced the only-held-together-by-hot-glue sections the kids were playing with and then she started building blocks from the remains of the igloo.

Pictures And More Pictures

Here are some shots Kristen took the day igloo building became block play.

Note that some images include early attempts at milk jug block design, while the instructions below include refinements to those attempts that I’ve deemed Best Practice in the new field of Jumbo Milk Jug Block construction.

Scroll down for instructions.

I’ll walk you through the construction of a 4 jug by 4 jug block. Then you can go crazy with all kinds of different sizes and shapes.

Supplies

  • Sixteen Plastic Milk Jugs (With Lids)
  • Duct Tape
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Recycled Plastic Grocery Bags (Not Half A Bunch, You’ll Need A Whole Bunch)

Jug Preparation

Start with rinsed and dried jug. Then stuff eight of them with the recycled plastic grocery bags. Really pack the bags in there. The stuffing does two things:

  • It adds some weight to the jugs so they will be a bit heavier and less likely to tip when the jumbo blocks are set on their narrow edge.
  • It adds some structural integrity, making the blocks a little less smooshy.

You can skip this step if you like, but we don’t recommend it.

The next jug preparation step is to hot glue lids onto all sixteen jugs. The lids also help with structural integrity–it’s harder to smoosh a jug with a lid. The hot glue keeps the lids in place. Then you don’t have to worry that two-year-old Becky is unscrewing the lids and eating them. Don’t skip this step.

Little Jugs All In A Row

Warm up your hot glue gun, turn on some gluing music (I recommend you start with Stuck on You by Lionel Richie), and get down on the floor.

Lay four of the stuffed jugs on their sides in front of you. Line them up so the bottom of the first one faces you, the bottom of the second faces away from you, the third one face you, and the fourth faces away. Like this:

alternate those jugs

Now, hot glue them together in this alternating configuration.

Repeat with the other four stuffed jugs.

Then glue the remaining eight jugs into alternating rows of four as well.

Glue Rows Into A Square

Next, you’ll hot glue the 4 rows you created into a square. The stuffed jug rows go on the outside and the empty jug rows get sandwitched in the middle.

There’s more alternating to do. If the first row is oriented like this:

stuffed row

Flip the next row like this:

empty row

The next one like this:

empty row

And the final one like this:

stuffed row

All this alternating may be a pain, but in the next step it provides each side of the block with the same amount of surface area for tape adhesion.

Wrap It Up

It’s time to reinforce your jumbo milk jug square with duct tape.

Start by wrapping the perimeter of the jug square in duct tape. Then loop tape around the other square to create this pattern on each side:

If you want to really beef up your milk jug block, you can add additional tape:

The beefiest of Jumbo Milk Jug Blocks!

If you give it a try

…I’d love to see photos and hear how it goes.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.

Kristen Peterson is the founding director of a nature and forest preschool in Minnesota. She believes in dirty bathtubs, bare feet, and considers herself a play detective. She has 40 chickens, a goat, two dogs, a cat, two hissing beetles and four children. She loves to travel, inspire others in all things play and nature, and she is a creative mastermind. Even more creative than Jeff.

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Barbe
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Barbe

I can’t wait to try this. We have a storage house full of milk jugs. My daycare families brought me garbage bags full of the jugs all Winter. (Where I live in upstate NY our winters are frigid for 6 months) I found out pretty quickly that I could not glue the jugs together outside in the winter here and my door is not big enough to make the igloo in the house and then take it outside so we are waiting for summer to make our igloo. I think now instead of an igloo I will be making the… Read more »