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.)

93 Responses
  1. Holly

    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.

  2. Ellemme

    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!

  3. orngpikkle

    So awesome. They remind me of the Eames house of cards but only better. You could probably use chip board like this http://store.scrapbook.com/bb-bcc175.html 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.

  4. Alicia

    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

  5. Dolores

    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!

  6. Amy

    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.)

  7. 22heures22

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

  8. Lia

    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.

  9. Jenn Kirk

    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.

  10. Joel Henriques

    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.

  11. kristin

    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 :)

  12. Three Owls

    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 :)

  13. Kickcan and Conkers

    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!

  14. mermaidscreations

    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 :)

  15. Anonymous

    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.

  16. AG Ambroult

    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!

  17. pam

    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!

  18. Marcia

    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 http://www.eamesoffice.com. 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!

  19. Joel Henriques

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

  20. marie

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

  21. Anonymous

    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.

  22. journey

    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!

  23. beblune

    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….

  24. Passelig dose

    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…

  25. Linds

    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!

  26. handmadecharlotte

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

  27. Anonymous

    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=)

  28. Joel Henriques

    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.

  29. ligoacoma


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

  30. Rendla

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


  31. rareRina

    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!

  32. Kerry

    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!

  33. Joel Henriques

    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!

  34. Tanpopo

    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 !

  35. Amy Mann

    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?

  36. Anonymous

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

  37. Joel Henriques

    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!

  38. Polly

    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.

  39. Joel Henriques


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

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

  40. Jodie

    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!

  41. 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!

  42. Betty McLeod

    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. 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.


  43. Snag

    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. 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.