Make: Kid-Safe DIY Stem Vases

Ah spring, come on! With winter hanging on, it has me longing for the first signs of cheery spring flowers. Our recycled building block stem vases were born out of the desire to surround ourselves with some signs of spring while using up some bits & pieces of past crafts I had laying around.

This versatile activity is a perfect afternoon project for kids and a great way to get them engaged with nature after a long day sitting at a desk. As an added bonus, the plastic test tubes make these 100% kid-safe and durable enough for continued use season after season!

barley and birch diy stem vase materials

For a whole day of outdoor investigation, grab a shoebox to make our DIY nature explorer kit first – it’s a great way to collect your nature supplies or plants from your own garden. Fresh foliage is out of season? You can make your own tissue paper and twig flowers!

To make your own DIY stem vases you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*


  • Wooden blocks or wood scraps – I used these 1 1/2-inch wooden blocks
  • Plastic test tubes (I used this kind)
  • A Drill
  • A Spade bit (the same diameter as the test tube – mine was 5/8″)
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Flowers, branches, or other seasonal clippings


  • Paint or wood stain
  • Small paintbrushes
  • Other decorative art and craft items to decorate the bases of your stem vases

How to Make a Kid-Safe DIY Stem Vase – Instructions:

  1. Prep to drill

    To create our stem vases, we’ll be drilling a hole for a test tube into a wooden block, so make sure you have the block clamped while you drill, or are safely holding the block in place. Don’t forget the protective eyewear!
    barley and birch diy stem vases - drill1

  2. Drill 3/4 of the way through the center of a wooden block

    Drill a hole through the center of your wooden block with a spade bit that’s the same diameter as the test tubes you have (mine had a 5/8″ diameter) – stopping about 3/4 of the way through the block.
    DIY kid-friendly stem vases via barley & birch
    *Check to be sure you’re holding the drill upright so the test tube will sit straight in the block.

  3. Sand

    Using a fine-grain sandpaper, sand around the inside of the drilled hole, and along all the edges of your block.

  4. Paint and decorate

    Once your blocks are drilled and sanded, grab some sponges or paintbrushes and let the kids go to town! These can even just be dipped and dried. I used some acrylic paint I had sitting around and wanted to use up, but you can also use stamps, a stain, markers, washi tape, or stickers or letters to decorate – get creative!
    barley and birch diy stem vases - paints

  5. Add test tube

    Let these fully dry, then just pop one of your test tubes in! If the test tube has a little wobble, you can use some candle wax or a dot of glue to hold the tube in place. Voila! These are ready to be filled with a little water and some seasonal snips from the garden – or…anything really!
    DIY kid-friendly stem vases via barley & birch

Half the fun of these is that they can be stacked up, arranged, and rearranged for all different kinds of fun looks – these are really so versatile!

More ways to use your DIY bud vases:

  • Put a different letter on each side of each block and spell the name of the flowers collected or the season.
  • Cover the blocks with different funny faces and fill the test tube with some foliage “hair” from the garden.
  • Play with different colors and patterns to create fun, ever-changing arrangements.
  • Paint with a magnetic paint for stem vases that can double as picture or noteholders.
  • Use some different sizes and shapes of blocks to create a cityscape of stem vases.
A set of three of our filled DIY stem vases sitting on a bookshelf in front of art and other decorative items.

These little stem vases were made to hold water, but you can also dry flowers or other foliage in these as a little experiment. Of course, some varieties of flowers and plants will hold their color and shape throughout the drying process. For good drying results, try one of these…

Foliage that will dry well in your DIY stem vases:

  • Hydrangea
  • Eucalyptus
  • Baby’s Breath
  • Lavender
  • Coneflower
  • Astilbe
  • Yarrow
  • Strawflowers
  • Celosia
  • Herbs

For more DIYs like this, check some of our other scrap wood DIYs like these process art sculptures, this simple modern beach dollhouse, or an incredibly fun DIY balance board. Or try making a Thingamaboard – the perfect tool for creative play of all kinds!SaveSaveSaveSave

A set of three of our filled DIY stem vases sitting on a bookshelf in front of art and other decorative items.

*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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