Painted Blocks: I allow my students to paint on blocks. It is one of our favorite activities. I too find it hard to paint on the expensive wooden blocks. I collected remnant wood from my uncle and those are the blocks I allow the preschool to paint. The remnant wood is amazing because it come in all different sizes with different end cuts. I recommend using Bio Color for painting on the wood because the colors are vibrant and it does not flake off. And while painting, why not throw on some glitter? It adds great tactile texture to the blocks.
Masking Tape Roads: Give preschoolers masking tape and scissors and let them go to town literally building a city around the classroom. Many students grabbed markers from the art center to make dashes. This city grew around the entire classroom! It was a great child directed activity with lots of cooperation and team work.