Jul 16, 2010

DIY spinny spellers and repurposing Duplo bricks

Almost a year ago I made a couple of DIY spinny spellers for my kids, because they were learning to sound out letter combinations and blend sounds to start reading. The spinny spellers you can buy are all upper case letters though, and I wanted something that was lower case, so I just used a bit of dowelling and some wooden beads and some letter stickers we had handy.

It worked a treat and I agreed with my older daughter's kindergarten teacher that it would be a good tool for the classroom, so I've got a box of wooden blocks that her husband kindly cut and drill pressed holes in, plus a bunch of dowelling and all the left over wooden beads from a thrift store find, to make over 40 of these things. I'm hoping I can get my act together and find some appropriate letraset cheaply to put letters on all the blocks and varnish them. I was going to try this method (which is very cool), but with nearly 500 surfaces altogether, that would take my until the kids were in college!
Anyway, as well as the spinny speller hackathon, I've ended up making a set of creative spelling/reading/story making blocks from our Duplo bricks. I wanted something with a bit more freedom than just the three blocks of the spinny speller. Something that could grow with the kids ability. We are lucky enough to have a good amount of Duplo because my mum saved all mine and my sisters, and we scored a couple of cool garage sale sets too, plus uncle Chris gave the kids a zoo set. Their dad stole a few of the bricks to make traffic lights for them a while back, but we still have lots we can use.
The kids are now preferring more and more to build with the smallest scale Lego, but the Duplo still has so many possibilities for them as they get older.
All I did was sit down one evening with a bunch of white stickers and write out a load of easy words. Sight words and words that my kids can already read or sound out. It took a while to write and cut them all, but it was very cheap, and we were lucky enough to have a mate we'd not seen in years staying with us that night, so we all sat around and chatted until about 3am while I stuck all these words on the blocks. For some of them I put the opposites on the other side of the block, like "love" and "hate" or "big" and "small" and for others I put complimentary words like "his" and "her", so that the kids could change sentances they made easily by switching around a block. I had a couple of long blocks, so used them for entertaining long words.

The kids have enjoyed them a lot. We started out making story walls together, and then when left to their own devices they started making funny sentances stacked up vertically.









For my younger daughter, who is four, I made another set that were in a different orientation, that would work a bit more like an extension to the spinny speller. They just had vowel bricks with a different vowel on each of the four sides, and consonant bricks with four consonants on each side. I also made a few bricks that had combinations like "ch", "sh", "th" etc, because she's learning those sounds in words too.

I drew a load of pictures in black sharpie that the kids wanted to colour, then they sat with the letter bricks making the words that went with each picture.

They also made words to go with pictures in books and little toys they have.



Of course the Duplo bricks can still be used in regular building play, but this adds an extra learning possibility to the play. The really seem to like the idea of "building" a word or a sentance. I really think that Lego should just make sets like this. The kids were so into building with the words and it would be great to be able to buy grade level appropriate sets or character story telling sets. Limitless!

We're still having fun with all the card and hole punching Lego crafts from a while ago too. I should get my act together to post you some new vehicle kit print outs of something else interesting from our experimenting.

126 comments:

Fiona said...

This is frankly a totally awesome idea!
My kids would love it.
It is one of those things that is so simple I know I should have thought of it myself, but didn't.
So thanks.
Yet anoterh inspiring project to attempt.

Melissa said...

Wow. How absolutely wonderful. I will be looking for some duplo blocks the next time I'm on a charity shop spree.

Debbie said...

Your word/letter duplo blocks are just brilliant! I am going to use this idea with my kids. Thanks for sharing!

Phyllis said...

And I have been throwing those Duplos away by the bucketful! Yikes! If only I had a fraction of your genius! I am holding on to them from now on and playing games with my 6 year old!

Care said...

GENIUS!! (as usual!)

I definitely want to give this a try! Now to find some duplo blocks at a yard sale.......

Teacher Tom said...

What's particularly cool about the Duplos is that it does nothing to diminish their play value as intended. Every set of Duplos should be like these!

Emma said...

Wow, brilliant! I have been looking for a lower case block set! Now, shall just have to convince someone to stay up until 3am to help me make one with our duplo set! Love it, thank you got such a wonderful idea!

Aridell said...

I totally just scored a huge bag of mega blocks from the goodwill for $5. I think I am going to make some of these, and be on the lookout for the smaller duplos. What a great idea!

Berry Patch said...

Now I'm thrilled I still have these kicking around! My youngest (6) is an emerging reader. This will be so much fun!

Kendra said...

You just blew my mind :). I mean, really... who DOESN'T have some blocks like this that they could easily convert. This is the best idea I've seen in awhile!

Kara said...

oh, my goodness how I love this idea for duplos! Fabulous!

thanks for the inspiration :-)

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

So Completely AWESOME!! I would stay up right now and do it to ours but the house is dark and everyone has gone to bed without me -- probably means I should get off the computer!

I'll be sharing this with my favorite kindergarten teacher -- she's going to love it.

xoxo pink and green mama
MaryLea

child central station said...

Love. Love. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing!

Jenny Lou Who said...

As an elementary teacher, this is AWESOME. I am definitely going to borrow this idea! Where do you come up with so much awesomeness?

rainbowmummy said...

AWESOME! I don't have any duplo but I'll have to get some for this. I love it, love it, LOVE IT!!!!

Lego do have a wall mountable thing that has letters but I never really liked the look of it. (see here, it's a school catalogue hence the extortion http://www.hope-education.co.uk/pre-school-supplies/early-years/construction/lego/duplo-playwalls-and-letters/ )

Couldn't you write directly onto the wood with a sharpie? If I ever write on craft sticks or wooden pegs I have a little bleeding, but it's usually ok. I bet the school LOVES you :)

Michele said...

Fantastically awesome! I think you should contact Duplo and do some sort of deal with them where you get trailing commission for every set of SILLY SENTENCE Duplo that they sell from here to eternity. Wow! I am getting out the Duplo and white stickers and black permanent marker now (just have to tiptoe into the kids room to get the boxes out of their shhhhhhhhhhh)

Scott said...

May I just say - genius! I love this idea and can't wait to find ways to use it. Thank you for a great repurposing idea.

Jeana said...

Love, love, love the word building! What about burning the letters into the spinning blocks? Those wood burning pens aren't too expensive, I don't think.

MustangShelby said...

As always, my friend, you are brilliant! I love your ingenuity.

Sarah Craftylocks said...

That is such a great idea! My kids had some shop bought game with words and they had heaps of fun making silly sentences - I thought it was really good, but this is so much better as they join so well and you can include some of your own special words. Love it!

luckeyfrog said...

These are wonderful! :) Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

Yet another genius idea! Your posts always make me excited :-) And I've linked here today:
http://www.playingbythebook.net/2010/07/18/fishing-for-words/

MaryAnne said...

This is a fabulous idea - and just write for my words-obsessed Emma and letters-obsessed Johnny. Thanks! =)

gigi said...

this is so awesome! what a great idea! do you have any ideas for empty dvd cases? i put mine in a big folder with sleeves. thanks!

xo, Joan said...

You are so amazing! What a terrific idea...was just going through my g'daughter's old duplos and feeling kinda sad she's outgrown them...Well, now they will be re-purposed thanks to your great idea! xoxo

xo, Joan said...

Do you have a list of words to share for those of us who would love to make a set of these wonderful reading Duplos? And would be nice to have a list of letters and combinations you chose for your blocks. Thanks so much! Look forward to your next adventure!

The girl who painted trees said...

That is BRILLIANT. My LOs still play with ours in the traditional way, but my oldest is beginning to read. I'll be working on this in the next little while!

Mommy Moment said...

This is such a great idea!
Thanks so much for taking the time to share all the photos too!

Jody

Amy said...

I've said it before. You are a genius.

GianneCurry said...

Another AMAZINGLY simple, sweet, and brilliant idea! In the short time I have been following your blog, you have inspired me numerous times. I wanted to tell you how thankful I am for your creativity and for sharing your ideas with me, so that my little ones can experience the fun and love that inspired your activities. I am giving out 15 blogger awards and you are on my list. Visit my site to see it and to give out awards yourself.

http://cowsgomooandducksgoquack.blogspot.com/

Erin @ Letter Soup said...

I love this! I did something similar and posted about it here: http://lettersoupblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/legos-make-poetry-fun.html
I like your idea for doing the individual letters!
This is a great blog, btw!

Kitten Muffin said...

Thanks for the kind words y'all! It's great to hear that people are keen to give this one a go.

Thanks for the ideas for getting the wooden spinny spellers sorted too. I've gone off the letraset idea after pricing it out, but I have got some indian ink and a set of rubber alphabet stamps in lower case, so I'm going to do a test out with that.


Joan, I didn't have a list of words really. I just wrote them out as I thought of them. I think if you google "sight words" for various grade levels then you should get a few lists to work from though. The kids love having their names in the mix!

Gianne, thank you for the award. I'll go check out your site :)

and Erin, hello! So cool to find you're on the same wavelength! I love the idea of using this for rhyming poetry!

Mari-Ann said...

You are a genius! This is a brilliant idea - so creative! I made some spinny spellers a few months ago using wooden blocks (see my blog if you're interested in how I made them). I can't wait to give your version a try! Thanks for sharing this idea.

Warmly,
Mari-Ann
Counting Coconuts
www.countingcoconuts.blogspot.com

Jennifer said...

Love this! I just may have to do this!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, how I ADORE your blog. I am so glad I found it and am amazed by your creativity every time I read it.

I am jumping on the bandwagon and I left you a little award on my blog today too. I know you don't usually post on stuff like this, but I wanted to link to you so more people find out how awesome you are!

http://sixgoldencoins.blogspot.com/2010/07/six-truths-and-one-lie.html

By the way, how's that bug hat these days? I hope the girls still love it!

jessica said...

COMPLETELY awesome, and perfectly in time for the mid-break brain melt. This will be fun! Thank you!

Jaimie said...

Brilliant, as usual! I think I've said that every single time I've ever commented on your blog :).

alljoinin said...

As usual fabulous ideas, I have added your blog to my tip five blogs. http://alljoinin.blogspot.com/ Thanks Bea

Kitten Muffin said...

Hi Elizabeth! The bug hat is still top dog of the dress up box :) Thank you!!! The kids drew some pictures to send back your way, but I am totally lame and have a large pile of long overdue things to post out to people. I'll get them to you, but just don't hold your breath, because you'll go purple and pass out ;) Oooh and thanks for the awardy doodad too :)

and thank you Bea too!

Mari Ann, I love the colours you did your spinny spellers in. Very cute!

Sherry and Donna said...

This really is an irresistible idea. So much fun, and learning here. Well done!
Donna :) :)

Jen said...

This is awesome! I love the idea of using legos. I was thinking about using an old scrabble game for word building (the tiles), but I like how you can connect the letters or words. Thanks. Thinking about schooling at home in the fall and this would be awesome for spelling!

Charlotte said...

AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

Where did you get the white stickers? Are they just cut up mailing labels? What a fabulous idea!

Anonymous said...

OMG! You are brilliant!!!!!

We have the Duplos, we have the time...

I was wondering what I would do with the Duplos when my 4 year old demands to graduate to the smaller Legos.

I love your blog!

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Very cool idea.

Cara said...

Such an awesome idea! My daughter is loving Duplo now...what a great extension.

millie said...

This is a fabulous idea! I love your blog, mama

Louise said...

Wow, I don't normally leave comments on blog sites, but this is fantastic and I wanted to say so! Thanks for the wonderful ideas.

Andrea said...

Brilliant! Thanks for the idea. :0)
Andrea

US said...

so cool! I have a ton of alphabet stickers from my scrapbooking days. I am going to put them to use on the duplos/legos that my kids aren't playing with anyhow.

Anonymous said...

stolen! I love this! can't wait to sticker up our duplos! Thank you!

Cariann said...

Thanks for the wonderful ideas!! I have some Large lacing beads that I think we will make a spinny speller out of... and Duplos are something we have tons of... this is going to be fun...

Anonymous said...

Okay I was just complaining that nobody was buying my duplo blocks from craigslist. I am hereby deleting my ad and creating these cool word blocks you made. Thank you so much for this idea!!!!

Mom Guide said...

Brilliant! My son would have love these when he was younger. I think I am going to work these into spelling this year.

Kami said...

This is awesome! Definitely need to try this out for my lego loving boys!

Jenny said...

What a genius idea!

Jen Barnes said...

I love everything you do. You really inspire me so much! As a stay at home mom I feel such a responsibility to teach my kids creativity, independence, etc. I love this and think that you should sell your idea to legos. You need to earn big bucks with this idea! Or maybe you could patten it yourself?

Aimee said...

I love this! I'm linking up on http://onthelap.blogspot.com
It's a reading blog dedicated to early literacy and these ideas are perfect.
Graciously,
Aimee

Rebecca said...

Brilliant! I featured it on my blog
http://rebecca-youcandoit.blogspot.com/2010/08/leggo-letters-and-spinny-spellers.html

greetingarts said...

You know that's really quite genius, right? Have you thought of writing to Lego? It's brilliant, and highly marketable. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

Rebecca said...

Great idea! I hope you don't mind, but I featured you :)

http://rebecca-youcandoit.blogspot.com/2010/08/leggo-letters-and-spinny-spellers.html

Jessica said...

Earlier today I seen this project on another blog, but with just the bigger blocks and whole words. I think the individual letters is even more genius because, a child can really dig in to the components of a words instead of being thrust upon the entire word.

Halfmoon Girl said...

Love the duplo block idea!

N from the Learning Ark said...

These are great. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

These are wonderful ideas for words - but don't forget math. You could put numbers and pictures or dots for children to match for number recognition. You could do numbers and plus or minus and equal signs for them to begin basic math. Match up the numbers into an equation and pair it with dots in an equation. For older students, it's a great manipulative for learning their times tables. Thanks - I'll be looking for duplo and lego blocks now.

Anonymous said...

Great idea! Reminds me of "Magnetic Poetry" only in 3D.

Becka said...

Genius. Pure and utter geniosity! I don't have any duplos and have no access to them (I live in Ecuador where ten legos cost something like 20.00), but I could not help but stop by an express my appreciation for this project.

Sharon said...

I love this idea and will be using it with my children! Thank you for sharing!

Betsie said...

My daughter (your daughter's teacher) sent me a link to your blog...I am a preschool teacher and just love all of your ideas...especially the scaffolding with Legos (alphabet and hole punch). Thank you. I will be following your creative ideas.

sippy cup mom said...

Just a perfect idea! Thanks, Karen
Sippy Cup Central Mom

•´.¸¸.•¨¯`♥.Trish.♥´¯¨•.¸¸.´• said...

This is the best and most awesome idea ever!
My boys will love it.
Yes it's one of those things that is so simple anyone could have thought of but didn't LOL .
Thank you I am keeping my duplo now ... my boys are just 4 but what a super project to start them reading.

Vanessa said...

This is one of the most genius ideas I have ever seen! Thank you for sharing it. I'm going to have to bookmark this page so I can do this wthl Little Moo's mega blocks when she's ready to start learning to read!!

melismama said...

WOW. thanks for sharing...awesome idea!

Mick said...

WOWOWOWOWOW! What an ingenious idea. Thank you so much for being willing to share such an awesome idea. Guess what I will be doing. :)

Mick
Homeschooler of three

Kristi Stephens said...

I. LOVE. THIS. Thank you for this amazing idea!!

Carol said...

That is just clever! Thank you for sharing. I'm gonna need some duplo bricks now. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Quick! Patent your excellent idea!

Anonymous said...

I stubbled on to you and OMG what a wonderful idea!!!! I was just wondering what to do with all of our Duplo now that legos are moving in and now I know!!! THANK YOU!!!

Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

We've finally tried this and had so much fun:

http://www.playingbythebook.net/2010/11/01/building-with-words/

Thanks ever so much for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Do you have instructions for making the spinny spellers? I couldn't seem to find them. I would like to make them to put in my daughters' Christmas stockings this year. I especially need what letters to put on them. Thank you so much for this and all of your ideas! Susan from NJ

Lucas Quinn said...

Oh I absolutely love this idea! I'm so glad you put it in your 'Best posts of the year' recap because I would have otherwise missed it. My son is also four and is starting to outgrow his Duplos and I'm definitely going to convert them your way! :)

ElectricMomma said...

I thought this was such a great idea I sent a link to the post to mu son's speech therapist. What a great way to help kids practice troubling sounds and letter blends while they relax and build. Not only will our blocks get a makeover but I bet this goes to class soon! I love your ideas!

Nathaniel said...

Thank you for this simple yet powerful idea along with the time you have taken to write about it and uploading the pictures, you have helped a lot of people and positively encouraged language acquisition for an even larger number of people.

rocknrolla said...

another FABULOUS idea!!! why did i give all of those blocks away! truly and awesome idea. i've emailed it to my son's teacher and will post it on my blog she's crafty....

http://crafty.littlerockmamas.com/index.php/2011/02/19/duplo-block-spellers/

Danina said...

This is a great idea!
Both fun and educational. Exactly what i need for my 5 years old.

Rachel Harwood said...

Also featured this post here:
http://sunscholars.blogspot.com/2011/03/scholarly-inspirations.html

Thanks for such a fun idea!!
:)rachel from SunScholars.blogspot.com

RETRO-fabulous said...

genius.
pure genius.

.....now I've got to dig some duplo blocks out the bottom of the toybox!

Thank you for sharing this INCREDIBLE idea!!

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely fantastic idea - I cant wait to do this with my duplo bricks.

It will be so useful for the reception children I care for plus the under fives.
Christine

Cindy said...

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!!!!! Thank you!!! I'll be pulling out the Duplo I had ready to give away!! I'm so excited!

Rainbow Angel said...

Most impressive, thanks so much for this amazing idea. Totally cool. Our pre-k kids will love these.

Amy said...

Love, love, LOVE the duplo idea! I think it's even worth buying MORE duplo blocks at thrift stores or garage sales just for this project!

Jeni said...

Brilliant! I had to pin this; hopefully I can find some bricks that my kids won't mind me using for this!

Michelle said...

This is a wonderful idea! I have a whole box of those upstairs. I found you via Money Saving Mom and would LOVE it if you linked up at DIY Thrifty Thursday @ www.thrifty101.blogspot.com
~Michelle
www.thrifty101.blogspot.com

Michelle said...

What a great idea! I have a ton of those upstairs! I found you via Money Saving Mom and would LOVE for you to link up at DIY Thrifty Thursday @ www.thrifty101.blogspot.com
~Michelle

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

YOU are so smart! I love it. I have a bunch of those just sitting in a toy box, and I think I'll give this a try. Thank you.

Kathy M.

Susanne said...

what an awesome idea!

Karla said...

This is GREAT! I would love to share a link to your post on my blog, but would like your permission. Thank you.
http://chasingchalk.blogspot.com/

Kris said...

Cannot wait to do this. Thanks for sharing!! Do you mind me asking where you found the blank stickers?

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful idea. Thank you so much. I am working on ours tonight. I know my children will be beyond excited. Finally a project that I can put hours into that will last longer than it took me to put together :)

Angela Noelle of SK said...

Fantastic! Thank you for sharing! I've pinned this!

Marnie @ Carrots are Orange said...

I think I already commented on this post but what the heck! I was reviewing some bookmarked stuff I want to do with my preschooler. I love, love, love this idea. Thank you for being so resourceful and creative...

Robyn Stewardson -- Focus on Art said...

Brilliant! Wish I had more duplo!!!

Mrs. Suntken - 6th grade Language Arts said...

I was reading all the posts and thought how cool this would be for early elementary classroom and then it hit me .. this would be great for ELL students. We have an ever increasing population! It could also be used for subjects and predicates if I use the long legos! :) One more thing to add to my ever growing list of great ideas from the blog world!

Michael said...

Pretty cool idea especially for kids that need that learn more via handling things than purely visual

Jemima said...

I thought I would share with you the blocks that I made after being inspired by your post.... http://the-pre-school-room.blogspot.com/2011/11/building-literacy-literally-building-it.html
I've made sight word blocks, letter blocks and am in the process of making Italian Vocabulary Blocks now too. Thankyou for the inspiration!! :)

Emily W. said...

I found this via Pinterst and it is AMAZING!!!! I hope to become an Educational Assistant after colledge, and this is something that I am keeping in mind!!!! :) Thanks so much for sharing!!!!

montessorimom said...

This is so creative. Learning should be this fun!
Thanks so much.

Nisha @ Healthy Mom's Kitchen said...

LOVE these ideas! We're putting words on our blocks today.

Anonymous said...

I never post comments on blogs, but I had to tell you how amazing this idea is! I teach special education and will be creating these for my students to help them learn to spell. Thank you for the great idea!

Andrea said...

Thanks for such a great idea. I'm doing it right now. My husband said to me why don't you just use the labeller. Sometimes he has a good idea or two. It worked great.

sweetieincinci said...

Thanks for the great idea! I'm a teacher of special needs students and some of them don't know their basic sight words. What a cooler way than to have them build with them!

Maria Oliveira said...

En español...
¡Me gustó mucho!
Em portuguê!!
Adorei o seu blog.

Thanks.

K. Innes said...

I found this pin via pinterest!! Thank you so very much! I would like link this post on my blog page as part of my first ever Friday inspiration post. I have given credit you and even linked to your blog. I hope you will check it out. Thank you again. --Kate (http://familyinnes.blogspot.com)

the classroom creative said...

This is a brilliant idea and all you need is duplos, white stickers and a sharpie. We had to include it @ theclassroomcreative in our summer reading sight words post. It fits perfectly! Enjoy your summer, Karen & Nicolette

Tami said...

So cute!

I’d love it if you shared this with the Fun Family Crafts audience.
FFC is similar to Craftgawker but it only features kid friendly tutorials.

Looking forward to seeing what fun crafts you submit!
http://funfamilycrafts.com

Anonymous said...

I would love to use your idea and put our high frequency words on them for my literacy group. They would love it! What a fabulous idea. I love your creativity and practicality!
Smileyshirt:)

Anonymous said...

I would love to use your idea and put our high frequency words on them for my literacy group. They would love it! What a fabulous idea. I love your creativity and practicality!
Smileyshirt:)

Unknown said...

I absolutely LOVE what you have done with the duplo blocks! Do you mind if I post your photos with credit to share ideas on pinterest? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Didn't have any Duplo, but my DH found a large tub of Mega Blocks that work just as well. I also added punctuation to the single orange ones to make complete sentences. Also made some words with a capital first letter for the start of sentences. I'm a special ed teacher and love your idea! So do my students. Thank you!!
Julie

Savannah @ HammockTracks said...

This post is such a super smart idea! I've had four kids and gotten rid of many duplos...this would have been a perfect way to extend their life. Please consider adding this to Look What We Did. -Savannah http://lookwhatwedid-homeschool.blogspot.com

Wife of the Prez said...

Just saw this on Pinterest. GENIUS! Now I'll be saving all of our duplos. I have a 2YO who loves them, but I know she'll eventually move on to the LEGO bricks, which we have literally tons of. This gives me an idea, wondering if I can do anything with some of those. Hmmm?

Anyway, thanks for these wonderful ideas!!! Hope it is OK to repin!

suzyhomeschooler said...

I know this is quite an old post but I found this page about 8-9 months ago. I made some re-purposed blocks at the time and have found them to be very helpful and fun these past few months. Thank you for the inspiration, a wonderful idea!

http://suzyhomeschooler.wordpress.com/

Fedor Mukhametshin said...

Need to make a note for my children.

Mums make lists said...

Fab post

Would love for you to link it up at my new Empty Your Archive link party which is a chance to dust off great posts from your archive - there is a focus this week on reading - would really love to see you there, Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

PK @ Knee Deep In Grace said...

Love this, love this, love this! Thank you for sharing your idea. I will definitely be copying it for my young ones!

Sweet Blessings to You and Yours,

PK

Juf Nathalie said...

Thankx for the idea i'm going to use it in my class! Greets from Belgium!