As most DIYers and crafters can attest, the feeling of accomplishment when you finish a project is completely addicting and is the best feeling in the world. Now add a really cute baby playing with that project… that feeling just got 39374 times better. I have seen baby “busy boards” around the web and Pinterest for years and have always known I wanted to make our future child one of them, so when little Connor started crawling(!) to all the hinges and knobs around the house I figured it was time.
Since I try really hard to find a balance between baby toys and gear being fun while not looking hideous and out of place in our home (what spurred this post), I wanted to make his busy board with all black fixtures, rustic paint, and natural wood. Our item for this month’s Monthly DIY Challenge was wooden beads, the perfect addition to a busy board!
How to Make a Stylish and Rustic Baby Busy Board
This sandwich-board style creates more of an activity station that works for sitters and standers and also folds down for storage too. If you want though, you can add stuff to both sides for double the fun stations.
These things are super fun to make since you can give it any sort of look you want; paint, finish, and what you choose to put on it. I loved just cruising through our store thinking of things that could work on it. Also, who knew there were a bajillion different latch types?!
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Once you have the boards and paint for your piece, the rest of the supply list is pretty much just going hog wild in your scrap wood pile, junk drawer, then local hardware and craft stores and grabbing any and everything that a little one can safely fidget with. Hardware aisle, electrical aisle, plumbing aisle, even the automotive aisle, and then various sewing notions at the craft store.
- (2) pieces of high-quality plywood in your size preference – mine are 2’x2′ and 1/2″ thick, although I suggest 3/4″ plywood (see notes below)
- paint (and Saltwash for a finish like mine)
- painting supplies
- palm sander
- drill – you’ll definitely want to pre-drill your screw holes for the pieces!
- heavy duty adhesive gel (if needed)
- (2) door hinges
- cabinet pull for handle
- scraps of wood – this trim works well, I stained mine with Weatherwood Stains
- electrical switches
- wooden beads
- miscellaneous latches and hinges – some links at the end of the post
- small mirror
- small pulley
- caster wheels
- knobs and pulls
- furniture tacks
- whatever else you want to put on it!!
- one cute baby
I went for an all-black design for my board pieces and if you go the same route, I will warn that there are less items that come in that finish than in other finishes (which is weird, because black/oil-rubbed bronze is a very popular finish right now) AND if you need black screws for your pieces they’re also very few and far between.
As for the plywood thickness, I suggest getting pieces that are thick enough where you don’t have to worry about the length of the various screws. I used 1/2″ thick boards but really needed 3/4″ to avoid the issue in the next photo. I tried to find shorter screws to keep it from happening but like I said, there’s not much of a size selection for black screws. I ended up putting hot glue over these to keep little fingers from getting poked someday.
Lastly, I originally planned to find some sort of collapsible locking arms or brackets to lock the boards open for safety reasons but I couldn’t find anything that worked. But the piece is super heavy and actually very secure when opened so it turned out not to be as much of an issue as I thought it would. I put clear grippy dots on the four corners so it wouldn’t slide and they work great.
After sanding your boards, you’ll paint them and use whatever finish you’d like. I went with Saltwash again (see process here) so that the boards would have a sensory texture effect also. Two little sample pots of paint were the perfect amount for my two boards.
I don’t have pics for putting this together unfortunately because I had to do it in the evenings but luckily it’s pretty straightforward, just attach two standard door hinges to the boards and put a handle in one of the top edges. It is easier to do this part before putting all the stuff on the boards, trust me :) Then just lay out your pieces and start installing them! Use the heavy duty adhesive gel in places where screws won’t work like the little wooden doors. I used a jigsaw to cut the hole out for the electrical switches.
It folds flat(ish) for storage too which is nice since our spaces aren’t that big and the handle makes it much easier to carry around.
You guys, he LOVES this thing!!! We put it down and he hustle-crawled his way over to it and went to town, immediately going for the doorstops then yelling at himself in the mirror. I probably could have just made a board full of those two things and he’d be good to go. He’s still a little too young for some of the latches so this should last him for a while, plus I’ll probably add on to it when I find other things that would be fun.
While this isn’t technically the first project I’ve done for him, it was definitely more well-received than the changing pad tray or closet crates, ha!
I see many more fun projects for this guy in the future given at how well-received this was…now if he’ll just give me some longer naptimes in order to do them!
See what the other girls made with their wooden beads by clicking the images below: