DIY Matching Game for Toddlers

Usually I am the Aunt or friend that buys the loud and obnoxious toys for the kids. This is part payback and part pure joy for the kid and myself! Noisy toys never really bothered me with my kids. Of course there would be the dinnertime witching hour when I would contemplate hiding the toy for forever but more often than not I’m a fan of the head rattling chaos that comes with kids. So we bought a few of those toys for my niece but I wanted to make her something special for her birthday as well. Last year I made her a sandbox that she still loves but with the projects I had going on in my garage I didn’t have the space to dedicate to something of that size.

I’ve made building blocks before, but those are heavy and don’t always pair well with wooden floors. She’s too young to appreciate a tipi but I still wanted to make something! I was burning my signature into the back of a headboard when I got the idea for the matching game. I would need just a few items, a few hours and not a lot of room.

Items Needed-

Chop Saw
Orbital Sander
2 inch x 48 inch Poplar Dowel 
Soldering Pen
Clear Coat

Step One –
I burned the outside of the dowel before I began making my cuts. It isn’t necessary. I cut the dowel into half inch pieces. This is enough for them to be easily picked up without being bulky. You need to measure after each cut because you will lose the blade width. With the entire 4ft dowel I was able to get 90 piece and have a bit leftover.

Step Two – You will need to sand these very well. Not to state the obvious but we don’t want little fingers getting splinters. I sanded the outside circle first and then each side piece. I sent many of the disks flying across the garage with my sander.

Step Three- Figure out what you are going to write or draw on your pieces. The letters that came with my soldering pen were too large to write most things so I chose to use the sharp point and draw and write on the letters individually. I marked out each design with a pencil first just lightly drawing on there. I was able to erase the bits that I missed after burning them once the pieces cooled down. Some ideas you could write are smiley faces, animals, shapes, the sun, moon, stars, or names. I had thought about painting the colors onto the pieces but I didn’t have enough paint! I was going to paint the entire side the colors of a rainbow.

My niece has a huge heart, loves flowers and her chickens, Mama and Dad.

Step Four – Get to burning! I originally started to make these while I was hanging out on my living room rug watching trashy tv. But my dog yanked the extension cord and the soldering pen moved under my leg and burned a nice quarter sized hole into my leg! Don’t be like me! Work in a smart place and listen to a productive podcast! The next morning I placed everything on a large cookie sheet so I wouldn’t damage my table or myself and it gave the pieces space to cool off.

I loved how the pieces turned out. Like I said above I was easily able to erase the lines from the pencil that I missed.

Step Five – I used the quick drying clear coat for two coats on the front and back of the pieces. It really enhanced the color and game a smooth finish.

I chose a cute and colorful box to store the pieces in. I was originally looking for a bag that could cinch up but was unable to find one I liked in the fabric stores. Honestly I was aiming for a Crown Royal type of bag like I had when I was a kid!

I used my Cricut to write her name on the lid of the box.

Off we went to her party with a few noisy toys and this cute game.

Let me know if you make your own set or if this inspires you to make something else with a dowel!

Thanks for reading.


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