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Toddler Activity Center

Create an activity center for your toddler!

Author Laura Gummerman

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. To make your base, stand up your four 15” tall sides to make a tall rectangle and wood glue and nail the sides together. Sand any rough or sharp edges to soften and paint the base your desired color.

  2. Steps for the door and latch side: Buy a few squares of wood that are 3-4” wide (or cut some to size yourself) and use your drill bit to drill a small hole all the way through one side of the wood about ¼” from the edge. If your drill bit isn’t long enough to go all the way through, measure and mark a hole the same distance from the edge on the top and bottom and drill from both sides to make a hole the whole way through. Place your doors and your desired latches and hinges on the designated side of your activity center where you want them to go and install the hardware in place.

  3. Then using a small drill bit, drill a hole into your wood panel right above and below where the holes for your doors will sit, and thread a long piece of elastic cord from the back, through the wood, and back into the center of the cube. Tie the cord so the elastic is tight enough that the door will open easily and snap back into place when closed (I repainted the doors for a different look after these photos).

  4. You can decorate the outside and inside of your doors with stickers or patches (I used a glue gun to attach flower patches on the outside of the doors) to give baby something to see when they open the doors!

  5. Steps for the magnetic board side: Attach your board with glue or whatever adhesive pads your board may have come with to the cube.

  6. Fold your felt in half and cut out shapes or letters from your felt so you have two matching sides and stitch around the edge stuffing with cotton batting and 2-3 small magnets spread throughout so the 3D felt letter/shape will stick to the board. I would recommend securing the magnets inside the felt letter rather than gluing them on the outside so they don’t come off and become a choking hazard. You can also buy a set of whatever kind of magnets you want to use as well!

  7. Steps for the spinner side: Take your wooden shapes and glue 2-3 of them together if your wood shapes are really thin to make them sturdier.

  8. Paint the shapes your desired colors (I punched out glitter centers and used ModPodge to adhere them to the fronts with another coat on top to seal it). Place your shapes onto the cube, making sure they all have enough room to spin and drill a hole into each shape and through the cube as well.

  9. Place a washer onto your machine screw, then put on your wooden shape, and add a nut to the other side of the shape like above. Place that into your hole in your cube and add another nut onto the other side to secure. Tighten the two nuts toward each other but leave a little room so that the shape can spin freely.

  10. Steps to make the abacus side: Cut 2 boards from your trim that are 7 1/2″ long and 2 that are 11 1/2″ long.

  11. Place your longer pieces on the outside of your shorter boards to make a rectangle and mark 5 evenly spaced holes on the long sides of where to drill for your metal rods. You can see that I cut my boards at a 45° angle to make them fit together like a picture frame, but if you don’t have a miter saw and are using a jig saw or a hand saw, you don’t have to do that part. Use a 1/4″ drill bit to drill 1/2″ into each hole (you can wrap some tape 1/2″ up on your drill bit so you know how far to go in). Use the pipe cutter and cut your 5 rods 8 1/2″ long.

  12. Paint your beads your desired colors (you can put them on straws to handle them more easily and I used my bottle drying rack to set them on while they dried) and your 4 frame boards white. Place your beads onto the rods, slip the rods into the holes you drilled, and use wood glue and nails to attach your frame together.

  13. Wood glue usually bonds best when it’s bare wood touching bare wood, so I painted the inside area of the abacus first, glued the abacus on, and then painted around the outside to complete that side.

  14. Steps to make the top side: For the top, I didn’t want to use a polyurethane since it’s a part of the toy that baby would be touching a lot. So I did a coat of food-grade mineral oil (it prevents the growth of bacteria) instead and let it dry. Then I used wood glue to glue the top to the bottom cube and glued on the bead maze and the cloud bases of the rainbows. To make the springy animals, I drilled holes into the bottom of three wooden animals the width of the end of a doorstop spring (I took the white rubber top off first), drilled small holes where I wanted to mount them on the circle and screwed the bases into place. Then I used some super glue to secure the animals on top of the springs and they were ready to bounce around!