Slotted Building Discs

While reading the December issue of Art Forum Magazine, I came across a brilliant Damián Ortega sculpture made of tortillas.  Of course I immediately wished I could play with them.  So I scanned some recent collage circles I’d made, printed them out, and made these building discs.  It’s surprisingly tricky to build with them, but amazingly addicting.  If you have older kids, they will definitely be challenged.  Jack and Tess are having a great time with them too, but their structures are much more simple.

If you’d like to make some, you can download and print out my template at the bottom.  My photo paper wasn’t very thick, so I used a glue stick to glue a sheet of yellow construction paper on the back.  Then after it dried I cut them out with scissors.  They are surprisingly sturdy with the extra paper on the back.  I think they’ll last quite a while.

I also took some sandpaper to an old circular candy tin, and they fit in there perfectly. I’ll definitely take them next time we go to a restaurant.

Templates: (Click on each images below, then print.)


  1. sal
    February 26, 2010 at 11:58 pm


  2. Stephanie
    February 27, 2010 at 1:01 am

    you are a genius

  3. chelseybell.
    February 27, 2010 at 1:21 am

    great and beautiful project. i love how you can store them in a small tin and take them on-the-go.

  4. Amanda Thebe
    February 27, 2010 at 2:31 am

    my construction addicted boys will love these. Thanks

  5. Holly
    February 27, 2010 at 4:15 am

    everything you do is so wonderful, it hurts. (which I only mean in the nicest way possible) We also love to bring little toys to the restaurant--frankly, I am always surprised by parents who do not. We keep a small backpack filled with a few evolving items that our son does not get to lay with EXCEPT when we go to the restaurant--keeps the toys interesting to him since we do not eat out a lot. But the toys do provide a nice respite so my husband and I can actually enjoy a glass of wine and some adult conversation. This one will definitely need to go in the backpack too. Thanks, Joel.

  6. Golubka
    February 27, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Thank you for the templates! The candy tin packaging is the perfect finish.

  7. Caro
    February 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Thank you for saving my weekend. My boys will love it.

    Greetings from Germany

  8. K*and*Co
    February 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

    C'est vraiment une super idée.
    Merci pour les templates.

  9. Ellemme
    February 27, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I also bring little toys for my daughter when we go to the restaurant, and I'm sure that your building disc will have a great success! Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Placebo
    February 27, 2010 at 10:43 am

    They are great! They will be my easter present for my little nephew. Thanks for sharing!

  11. orngpikkle
    February 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    So awesome. They remind me of the Eames house of cards but only better. You could probably use chip board like this to make an even sturdier version.

    It would also be cool to cover the circle with patterned paper (scrapbook paper, magazine pages, old books, etc.

    definitely adding this to my list of things to make.

  12. Alicia
    February 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I've been checking out your blog for a while and I love it. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful projects. You are incredibly creative

  13. l0k1
    February 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    forget the kids, i'm making this for *myself*.

  14. Dolores
    February 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    que buena idea!!! especialmente con esta primavera lluviosa (que se puede esperar en Portland, no?) con niños que ya se cansaron de los juegos y sienten la tentacion del Wii 24/7... gracias!

  15. Amy
    February 28, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Once again, totally awesome. I'm making them for me, too! I also love the idea of using old books, etc. You spoil us, Joel, you really do...Keep rocking, because nobody has the ideas you have. We love 'em! (someone give this man a book deal.)

  16. Marina
    February 28, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Very cool!

  17. 22heures22
    February 28, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    you are incredibly creative! This work/game made me think of the Eames' cards or the colors of Alexander Girard!

  18. Lia
    February 28, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Joel, I am so happy to have come across your blog. I popped over from Blue Bird Baby after seeing her post about your modern paper dolls. I am the daughter of an artchitect, now grown up with kids of my own. I truely appreciate your mix of design and function in your playful creations. I am so inspired and can't wait to read more posts.

  19. Jessy, Greg, Grace, Jack, Nora, and Lexi
    March 1, 2010 at 2:16 am

    Thanks! Your blog is wonderful and your kids are very lucky!

  20. Amanda - Little Star Designs
    March 1, 2010 at 3:49 am

    I've said it before and I will say it again, you are AWESOME!

  21. Jenn Kirk
    March 1, 2010 at 5:29 am

    My 4-yr-old and I made these tonight. He loved it and proudly displayed his creation in his room. A "spaceship" he calls it. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Joel Henriques
    March 1, 2010 at 6:17 am

    You all are very kind. I'm glad you're trying out the discs! I really do love this sort of toy. Small, recyclable, inexpensive, and fun. I'm really tired of big plastic toys that end up in the garage.

  23. kristin
    March 1, 2010 at 6:18 am

    what a great idea - - thank you so much! i look forward to making these with my daughter - and (in future) sharing with friends (gifts/loot bags/etc.). love your blog + thank you for sharing :)

  24. Three Owls
    March 1, 2010 at 6:48 am

    This blog is turning into our home learning finishing off project on a weekly basis...and perhaps I would like a set of my own too :)

  25. Kickcan and Conkers
    March 1, 2010 at 9:42 am

    These are amazing - again! Definitely going to try these - I'm sure my 14 year old arty son will love them as much as his younger brother and sister. Wonderful ideas and creativity. Lovin' it all Merci!

  26. mermaidscreations
    March 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Superb idea!
    Can`t wait for my child to come home from the school... will start making it now :) My daughter can make her set later :)

  27. Elle
    March 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Brilliant. Thanks for sharing. I love your blog and will start following today;)

  28. lilla a
    March 1, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Beautiful, must try this!

  29. Anonymous
    March 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    so simple and so cool! I'm making some for my Sunday School class to fiddle with while they're waiting for the lesson to start.

  30. Maria
    March 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Fantastic!!! I'm printing these out right now!!

  31. Bulles de lune
    March 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    what a fantastic idea!! thank you for sharing

  32. AG Ambroult
    March 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    figures. My daughter loves a similar toy at her preschool, so I just bought them for her, or something similar. IF ONLY I had seen this brilliant idea a few days earlier, I would have taken a crack at it. They're out of this world!

  33. pam
    March 1, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I just found you! Linked from Crafty Crow. WOW! I love your concepts for play. You must be one of those very lucky people who will remain always a child at heart. Can't wait to see more!

  34. norcalwhit
    March 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    The printouts would make fun buttons as well.

  35. nopinkhere
    March 1, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing!

  36. Marcia
    March 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Fond memories of sets when my brother and I had rectangular versions of similar...our artist mother cleverly collecting nifty designed cards from the Charles and Ray Eames design folks - available again from Their slotted card sets also had marvelous photographic images to expand our interests and awareness. Have photos of my then two year old brother completely inside a structure made from the larger set! Great design here...thanks!

  37. Joel Henriques
    March 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks everybody, and yes, I love the Eames' House of Cards! I always wanted a set of those.

  38. Nuts Nits
    March 2, 2010 at 6:15 am

    "you are a genius" [somewhere up there]
    I concur!

  39. marie
    March 2, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Fantastique !
    Votre blog est merveilleux, fantastique, inspirant ! Du pur bonheur.
    Merci de nous le faire partager !

  40. Anonymous
    March 2, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Je viens juste de découvrir votre blog! Il est merveilleux! Quelle chance ont vos enfants!!! Merci de publier vos "trouvailles". Une question encore: les tee-shirts que portent vos enfants sont très beaux et originaux : est -il possible de savoir où se les procurer? Merci pour tout.

  41. journey
    March 2, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    My daughters and I made some yesterday afternoon using card stock and scrap paper. I think they had as much fun making them as playing with them!

  42. Tisha Smith
    March 2, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Ohhhh, just love 'em!

  43. beblune
    March 2, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    I've just discovered your blog and I love everything in it : what you create, your original ideas and the general atmosphere of your life and being. You've got a French admiror... Can't wait to see more....

  44. Passelig dose
    March 3, 2010 at 9:19 am

    So good idea! I printed out double set, and glued them together, so your nice design is on both sides. I even found an nice hand cream-tin in my purse that fits perfectly! I have not decided if my girls are allowed to ply with it yet...

  45. Linds
    March 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Great idea! I found you via the Crafty Crow. I made these for our 4 year old and he is very excited about it. Thanks!

  46. handmadecharlotte
    March 4, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    i love it! yeah! i re posted this on my blog! i hope you do not mind! i love your site! thanks!

  47. MUS
    March 7, 2010 at 11:29 am

    lovely include tin, ...and i like your source of inspiration!

  48. Anonymous
    March 7, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Joel - I am unable to print the discs. Will it be possible for you to post a pdf version of the image?
    Thanks and amazing STUFF. I am excited to play with myself=)

  49. Joel Henriques
    March 7, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Sure, if you send me a message through my profile at the very top right of this page, I will be happy to email you a pdf version, or show you how to print a jpeg.

  50. ligoacoma
    March 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm


    Many thanks for sharing. I'll try it this week with my 5 years old daughter. I'm sure she'll be delighted.

  51. Rendla
    March 14, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    These are awesome! I'm not only going to make some for my kids, but also for their friends and cousins.


  52. Maša Kepic
    March 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    I love your site..creative ideas for big & little kids ( I found you reblogged on tumblr!)

  53. rareRina
    March 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    A perfect idea. I´ve made a set, and my friend have developed your idea and made her own from postcards. I´ve blogged about it too. I love your smart blog!

  54. Helen
    March 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    brilliant and simple! A joy to read. Good luck with the book, It will be on my wish list.

  55. Oceana
    April 8, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I love it!!


  56. Kerry
    May 11, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Happened upon your blog today..Absolutely genius! So many great ideas. Pure and simple. I just printed this one for my kids and myself! Could you please tell me what kind of candy tin you used? What a perfect on the go solution for boredom! Love, Love, Love it!

  57. Joel Henriques
    May 11, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks everyone!

    Kerry - I think I used an old Forrelli (from Switzerland) tin from their raspberry fruit bonbons, like the kind you find in cigar stores and stuff. I just did a google search but couldn't find any. I know I've seen them around though. At any rate, the tin is almost 3 inches in diameter, so any tin that's about that size should work. Hope that helps!

  58. Tanpopo
    May 14, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    What a faboulous idea !! I live in France and I've been keeping round camembert boxes in case it might be useful some day ... Now, I know what to do with them !! Thanks a lot !

  59. Amy Mann
    July 17, 2010 at 3:59 am

    I was doing a search for this building toy when I found your blog. You have made something very similar to the toy we own, but want to buy more of. They seem to no longer exist. They are made of plastic, brightly colored, and are about 1 1/2" in diameter, with twice as many slots around the circle as yours have. Does anyone know the toy I mean?

  60. Joel Henriques
    July 17, 2010 at 4:11 am

    Amy Mann - Hmmm, I don't know. Sounds cool though.

  61. Anonymous
    August 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    WAIT! On print preview it says "shrink to fit" Click custom and set it the 55 or it cuts off the corners!

  62. Joel Henriques
    August 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    The other thing you can do is select "borderless printing" in your printer's software. (Most printers these days have this option.) Shrink to fit is good too though. Your discs will just print a little smaller, which is fine. Have fun building!

  63. Polly
    September 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    What a great idea! I just stumbled on your blog from somewhere else. I think I'll make some of these with my kids, but let them paint the circles themselves.

  64. SMG
    October 4, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Very, very nice!

  65. Mitali Ruths
    November 23, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Thanks so much, Joel! My daughter, who is only sixteen months old, discovered wonderful ways to play with the slotted building discs.

    You're a source of tremendous inspiration.

  66. janille
    January 14, 2011 at 3:27 am

    How did you cut the slots out?

  67. Joel Henriques
    January 14, 2011 at 3:52 am


    Mitali Ruths - Thanks again for showing me those awesome photos!

    janille - I just used scissors. It doesn't have to be perfect.

  68. janille
    January 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks so much

  69. Anonymous
    January 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

    fantastic ideas for my photosessions :) thanks

    March 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    PERFECT IDEA, if you have paper punch, then it's twice easier !

  71. Jodie
    July 22, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Cool - just made them, which was great after work therapy in itself!! Can't wait till tomorrow when my son wakes and sees them on the table. Love your work!

  72. August 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Me encantan tooooooodas las ideas que propones, transmiten alegria y ganas de construir objetos ludicos para generar nuevos juegos y jugadores, ¡muchas gracias por tu generosidad en compartirlo!

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  75. Susan Evans
    September 10, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Excellent! Just what I've been looking for to keep little hands busy.

  76. Betty McLeod
    September 12, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I love these discs and want to make several sets, but I, too, had trouble printing them. Will try the message at the top of the page for the pdf version. Thanks for a great idea.

    1. September 12, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Betty - I'm starting to switch all of the printable projects to PDF. It seems easier to print, as opposed to jpeg. I'll try and update these images later today. Thanks! Joel

    2. September 12, 2011 at 11:33 am

      OK try it now!

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  81. December 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I love this idea and have thought about making these out of plastic lids. Have you tried that yet? I love making toys, too. We are kindred spirits, Barbara

    1. December 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

      Great idea Barbara - I bet plastic lids would be great! Yes, making toys is great isn't it!

  82. Tace
    January 3, 2013 at 7:19 am

    ThAnK yOu so much for your creativity! You do fabulous work and are so generous to share it!

  83. Snag
    August 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Have you encountered any kind of building toy like this before? As a child, when my siblings and I were at a sitter's house, the sitter had this gallon jug filled with these little plastic discs, with eight notches around the circumference, equally spaced. They were really neat and I can't recall what they were called for the life of me. So far, my search has turned up these things, which are kind of similar, although they seem a tad too big. The ones we had were roughly the diameter of a US quarter, and perhaps just a dash thinner, so they were a bit more pliable. If you or anyone happens to recall these and knows where to find them, please let me know. The not remembering is driving me batty.

    1. August 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      Ooh man, those do ring a bell. I totally remember playing with some like that when I was a kid. I could ask the question on the Facebook page. I bet someone would know the name of the ones you're talking about.

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