Step by Step Guide to Building Your Own Busy Board
Amid the preparation for our first little peanut, the idea of a busy board kept catching my eye. I loved the idea of putting together everyday household items (secured in a safe manner) to allow a child to learn and explore at their own pace!
So, it wasn’t even a question that our girl would get her very own busy board to play and explore. Of course, I wanted to make sure she was ready, developmentally, first.
Prior to building the actual busy board, I put together several little sensory baskets filled with all sorts of fun textures, shapes and colors. Elliana LOVED them. More than I ever could have imagined! It was so fun to watch her pull out every piece out over and over. ?
Her love for these little baskets made it clear that our girl was ready for her own busy board. My creative juices started flowing…
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Building The Frame
Unfortunately, I went into focus mode and completely forgot to take pictures of this step. Hang in there, I’ve included PLENTY of pictures of the completed board at the end.
I wanted to make sure the board was durable, large enough to fit plenty of little gadgets & hardware. My idea was to create a basic frame with 2×4’s and a double layer of plywood for the front.
To do so I simply purchased a couple 2×4’s and 2 pieces of 2’x4’ plywood (similar to this).
I wanted the board to be 48” wide by 24” tall – more like a busy wall for Elli.
So, my husband cut the 2×4’s down to size.
He cut one 2×4 in half – so I had 2 equal pieces, both 48” long.
He cut two 20” pieces from the second 2×4. This left a bit of excess, I just set that aside for a future project.
With the 4 pieces cut, they were so easy to put together to make a frame.
Using 3″ wood screws, I screwed the frame together.
Then I simply took a piece of the plywood and screwed it into the prepared frame (using 2″ wood screws).
I let that dry and voila – the frame for the busy board was complete!!
Preparing the Board
With the frame complete, it was time to prepare the board to make it safe.
This included, sanding down corners (I used a sander, similar to this, so convenient!) and rough spots to make sure Elli didn’t get any splinters. This was a bit time consuming, but absolutely worth it!
With a nice smooth canvas to work with, I applied a few coats of primer (sanding lightly with fine grit sandpaper in between each coat) and I finished with a couple coats of paint.
I chose a neutral grey color for two reasons:
- It was a nice neutral canvas that would allow the added elements to really stand out and
- It was a color we already had left over from painting Elliana’s room. 🙂
After the paint was applied, I sealed it with a water-based protective finish and let it dry for a few days.
With the busy board primed, painted and sealed with a topcoat…now it was time for the fun part: applying the hardware!!
Applying the Hardware
With this blank canvas in front of us, I spent time brainstorming of all the cool little things I wanted to attach to the board for her to play with. The goal was to have a fun thing for her to play with that would engage her motor skills at different levels as she grows.
When my creative juices started flowing, it was tough narrowing the list of items down to those that would fit on the board. The options are truly endless!
Some of the things I decided to include were the following:
Various door locks (chain lock, a barrel bolt, swing bar lock), a magnetic cookie sheet with foam magnets, a touch light, spring door stops (with the end piece super glued on to eliminate choking hazard), a door knocker, a wall telephone (with the cord removed to prevent a choking hazard), a pill box, board books, a painted wood frame with a laminated picture inside (I laminated it using an at home kit like this one), a board with removable gears and a keyboard (with the cord pulled out for safety reasons).
I planned a layout (and changed it several times before finally deciding on one ?) and set to work attaching the hardware.
Each item was attached a little bit differently, with most attached using hardware included with purchase (various sizes of screws). A few of the items were attached with Gorilla wood glue (the touch light and wall telephone). The mini board books were attached with velcro to allow Elli the option to remove the books.
Attaching the items truly was the most exciting part of this whole process! It was awesome seeing the board slowly coming to life piece by piece.
Hanging the Busy Board
Once the pieces were all attached, we wanted to make sure this busy board was attaching securely to the wall. With so much to grab onto, if not properly secured, this board would be easy to bring down!
So, we set to work figuring out how to SAFELY secure it to the wall without living in constant fear that it could come toppling down.
In our search we decided to go with metal french wall cleats to secure the board.
If you aren’t familiar with french cleats – they are great! There are 2 pieces, one attaches to the wall and the other to the busy board. The two pieces click into each other like a puzzle, holding items securely to the wall.
Because of width of the board, we decided to go with 2 cleats to better distribute the weight.
It took all of 10 minutes to hang the busy board using the cleats. Though, the size and weight of the board required two people to safely hang it.
Let the Fun Begin
Once we finished securing the board to the wall, Elliana raced over to play with it. Even now, months later, it is hard to tear her away from it. She loves it!
Every time she goes to the board she finds a new item to learn and explore.
The best part is that I can see as she grows, the board will grow with her and be even more fun!
What’s your experience with busy boards?
Have you made your own – leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!