The nesting bug has hit me again, now that I’m about 6 months pregnant. I’m finally digging out projects that I’ve had half done or barely started (or even just purchased materials for) and getting them sewn up and completed! I figure I’ll have a harder time making things happen while I’m trying to navigate parenting a tot and a newborn!
One of those projects that I’ve had just the materials purchased for are these really fun stacking foam blocks. The toddler loves them – she loves stacking them, throwing them (mostly at the cat), holding them, shushing them, and even pretending to nurse them. Since I made them with a variety of materials, they’re also great as a sensory object for her and the incoming baby!
Best of all? They’re super quick and easy to make! Really, even you can make them, and they’re not too hard to make by hand if you don’t have a sewing machine!
First off, you’ll need foam. I like the 4″ block size quite a bit. They’re a little big, but they’re perfect for small hands and easy to cut and sew for. 3″ blocks would be great, as well. If using 3 inch foam, cut the blocks 3 x 3 x 3 and cut your fabric to 4 x 4 inches. I wouldn’t go smaller than that, though.
I purchased a 12 inch chunk of 4 inch high foam at my local Joann during a 50% off sale for not a whole lot of money. This was enough to make over 16 blocks – plenty for my kids OR plenty for us and to share a few!
You’ll notice I use a lot of fleece, especially with these. I have a lot of fleece scraps hanging around and this was the perfect project to use some of it up! There are a lot of things I love about fleece – it doesn’t shrink, it’s machine washable, it is soft and cuddly, it’s readily available in a wide variety of prints and colors, it is slightly stretchy and very forgiving! When choosing a fleece, make sure you go with an anti-pill variety to ensure your blocks look nice for a long time to come.
Other fabrics I used include minky – both dot minky and some embossed – and plain woven cotton. With the green high density foam, I would recommend choosing darker cottons so the foam doesn’t show through, or, as I highly recommend, regardless of color, line your cotton squares with fusible fleece. It makes the project take a bit longer and a little more expensive, but it’s highly worth it for durability and ease of use. I do recommend starting with the fleece if you’re not a very confident seamstress just because it is so forgiving to work with.
For buying reference, a third of a yard (12 inches) of regular 58″-60″ wide anti-pill fleece will make 3 complete blocks with some pieces leftover. Save yourself some money by shopping the remnants bin (or your own personal stash).
Baby Foam Stacking and Sensory Block Sewing Tutorial
First things first, gather your materials!
You’ll need 4″ foam, six 5 x 5 inch squares of your fabric of choice (anti-pill fleece is pictured here) per block, thread, scissors, and a hand-sewing needle. Sewing machine is optional, but very handy. All of the photos will show me making these on my sewing machine, but if you’re hand-sewing, use a back-stitch to sew the sides together.
Start by marking your foam. I made grid lines every 4 inches on both the front and back of the foam block, this way I could ensure I was cutting fairly straight the entire way through.
Cut your foam with an electric knife, if you have one, or if you don’t (like yours truly), cut the foam with a serrated knife. The electric knife makes a much nicer, cleaner cut, but the serrated knife gets the job done just as well and the jagged edges are hidden inside of your project anyways!
Next, sew together your fabric cube. Start by sewing four pieces into a straight line, right sides together, as above, using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Important: when sewing these, start and stop your seams 1/2 inch from each end. This makes sure your corners come out nicely when you turn them and makes it easier to sew your block together.
Take one of your unsewn squares and attach it to the first square in the strip, right sides together. Again, make sure to start and end your seam 1/2″ from each end.
Sew it to the next square in your strip, and then the next, working your way around all four sides of this square, always starting and stopping your seam 1/2″ inch from each side.
Take your final unsewn square and attach it to the other side of your strip squares (which look more like a mess, at this point, or maybe the start of a cube?) one by one, just like you did with the others.
You should have all but one seam fully stitched together. Leave this open for turning and for stuffing your foam block through.
Trim the fabric around your corners to help them lay nicely.
Now, we’re going to put the foam block into your fabric cube.
I found it easiest to match up two corners of my fabric cube to two corners of my foam block, hold them tightly there, and stretch the fabric cube over the block as I was turning it right side out. This is where the stretch of fleece really came in handy!
Once your foam block is fully inserted in your fabric cube, straighten it out and push out the corners, and neaten up the sides as necessary. Make sure each of the foam block corners matches up with a fabric corner.
Finally, use a hand sewing needle and some thread and sew a ladder stitch to close up the one unsewn side. Tie off your thread at the end and snip it close.
Now you’re done, so go and make a dozen more!
I can barely finish these before my toddler demands the new ones, so I think they’re quite the hit. The blocks also make a great gift for a baby shower, first or second birthday, first Christmas, and so on. These stack nicer than poly-fil filled fabric blocks, in my experience.
For younger babies, use high-contrast patterned fabrics to capture their interest. You can also add 2-3″ pieces of ribbon folded over to make ribbon tags into the seams of the blocks, just be sure to secure them well when sewing by doubling back over the seam where the ribbon is held.
The possibilities with these are endless, really, and with a small bit of adjustment, you could easily make a variety of shapes to expand the building potential.
I love it when you share your projects with me! Feel free to drop a photo on my Facebook page of your completed projects, or link your blog post about it here in the comments!
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