Wednesday, May 15, 2013

DIY Busy Board

For Cora's first birthday we decided our present to her would be a busy board. I had found multiple types of busy boards on pinterest- super cute, fun, and utterly entertaining for kiddos. I told matt about my grand idea to make Cora one...and off we went to Home Depot. We wanted to have a big board that was mounted on the wall at an appropriate cora-height. It was to have many gadgets on it... things that she finds already fascinating in real life. And as she gets taller- we just keep moving it up the wall or down for the next kiddo.

I'd like to tell you that this project was affordable and easy. But it wasn't. Matt thankfully had the skills to mount all of these crazy devices. But the gadgets and the wood- they added up real fast (ie. $100)! Perhaps if you used items from your home, or a recycled building materials store, or chose to make a smaller-scale busy board...this would be a thriftier DIY project. Alas. It was a fun project for us, and Cora loves it.

1. Buy materials
We bought a piece of plywood 2' x 4' for the board itself then some 2" x 2" to make a frame. Next we roamed around each aisle looking for fun gadgets. We also bought some spray polyurethane and I had acrylics at home already. This is what we came up with:

- master lock with key
- combination lock
- gate latches

- door chain

- PVC caps to screw on and off

- tap lights
- door stopper thing

- light switch
- chain links with a carabiner

- pulley with a rope
- a random knob
- door knob (found at a local re-use store. I only needed half of the knob with the locking it was perfect and under $1)
- a few eye hole screws and U-bolts
- a garden faucet knob (not pictured here... but red, and fun)

- two doors made from scrap wood we had: each with pictures of our dogs behind them
- hinges for the doors

2. We laid out the gadgets together on the blank board, to see what looked best for ease of her "working" and visual appeal. Then traced out where each went with pencil.

3.  Matt pre-drilled holes in the busy board for each gadget and sanded it. This took him a ton of time. He also had to cut down metal things- like the eye-hole screws or back of the door knob- they would have protruded through our living room wall (not okay).

4. We came up with a design to paint it. We love the look of real wood... so we went with a subtle herringbone in some fun colors we were okay with having on our living room wall. This design we blue-painter-taped out, then randomly painted with acrylics. Matt & I each took a color and painted some random diagonals...and then we went to the next colors. So. much. fun.

5. Then spray- polyurethaned the board and doors. And let it dry for a day.

oh hi cora. you're right, maybe I should stop taking photos from scary places... pregnant.

6. Matt started to install all of the contraptions at this point. Lots of screwing & gluing I tell you.

7. Make the mounting frame with the 2" x 2" frame, then glued it on the back of the busy board. Matt clamped it and let it dry.

8. Mount the board to the wall with some HUGE screws.

9. Then you're ready for the big reveal! Cora's favorite item on the board - the lock and key. Crazy. She almost has it down. Also our dogs hiding behind the doors- super fun for her.

- I wish that we had rigged the light switch to turn on a little light bulb on the busy board. Matt is handy...but not an electrician. This would have taken some more google searches and even more effort. However, sweet little cora, each time she turns on the "light switch" she looks around to see which light in the house turned off or on. It breaks my heart. That girl is so smart, and I am ruining her world of light switch's cause and effect. Next time. Ha.
- I wish we had put two hinges on each door. It would have been sturdier for all of the tugging. It's far.
- I wish we had looked longer for unique latches. As it was we spent a lot of time and money on the project, so it wasn't really feasible in our minds. But it would be fun to have some crazy fun contraptions from antique stores, etc. on there. Can I mention I was in my first trimester-hangover at this point too? Yeah. Home Depot made it easier and done in one I have to give myself a break on this one.


  1. It looks like you're training her to be a spy or a jewelry thief! hehehe! It looks like a lot of fun for Cora. Very cool.

  2. I <3 this board; I am going to have my wood designer make a display board for the jewelry line in a similar style. Very creative!

  3. Wow, this is awesome! I found your blog via a google search and I love how you painted your busy board. I am SO impressed you made this during your "first trimester prego hangover." I would have never attempted anything but eating yogurt during that time. I'm hoping to make one of these for my daughter and I'm definitely going to use yours as inspiration. Thanks!

  4. Ready made Busy Boards in time for the holidays!

  5. How did you mount the lock and key? My dad made one for my 2yo, but it fell off within 24 hrs.


Thank you so much for your comments!! I love hearing what you have to say...