Introduction: Busy Board for Toddlers

Picture of Busy Board for Toddlers

I decided to make this board for my son. He is VERY active and loves to get into anything and everything. He needs to be busy all the time. Since we live in a small ~500 Sq ft home, I wanted something that could be used over and over, plus offer a wide range of sensory/play activities.

Step 1: Decide How Much Space You Have!

Picture of Decide How Much Space You Have!

First figure out which wall you want to mount your board on. After measuring my space, I went to the hardware store to see what was available and to price out items. Then I went through my garage to see what I already had in crafting and other supplies. I found a great roll of 2" wide vinyl tape as shown above. I used a 2'x4' piece of 1/2" plywood and covered it with the tape. This took a while and lining up the tape to make it look like this was a bit of a challenge. As long as you don't look to closely, it looks like straight lines, but I'll be honest, it is less than perfect. After covering the board, collect up your hardware and crafting supplies.

Step 2: Head to the Hardware Store

Picture of Head to the Hardware Store

After checking out what you already have, head to the hardware store and go nuts. I bought things like chain locks, plastic tube, chain, sponges, castors, and brushes. I already had the zipper, Velcro, the knob and small wood pieces, light switch box, fringe, and used keys. I came home with all my purchases and started laying everything out. I used 1/2" and 5/8" screws to attach everything to the board and I pre-drilled holes to make sure my items attached properly. I did find that some of the items I purchased didn't work with the board. Also hot glue is handy for attaching things like the plastic tube.

Step 3: Mount It to the Wall and Wait for Playtime to Begin.

This activity board includes a door he can lift, which I put found items from the yard in to surprise him when he opens it, keys/beads on a string, a light switch, a clear plastic tube with a bin at the bottom that he can put pom-poms through, a wood piece that is Velcro-ed to the board that he can remove, a zipper element that has blue and yellow felt on each side - which opens to green underneath, as well as sensory items like scrubby sponges and brushes. My son loves this board and I mounted it at his height to he can get maximum use out of it.

Please note: keep track of small parts as you work, so you don't leave little bits behind that small people can choke on. Also, having said toddler around while trying to build the board or mount it on the wall is a huge distractor. Lastly, I only used hardware that I did not have installed anywhere in my house. I didn't want my son to start practicing anywhere else in the house for at least a while longer.

The total cost of the project was about $100.00 but could be done a lot cheaper if I had scavenged used hardware instead of buying new.


doublelife1 (author)2017-11-16

Hi there, anyone have any advice on how to attach this to a wall (I worry about putting holes in my old walls)? Would you say it's heavy/sturdy enough to lean against a wall? Thanks!

Jenga747 (author)doublelife12017-11-16

Mine wasn't super heavy, but molly bolts work best if hanging from just drywall. This particular wall is all studs, so I didn't have a problem hanging it. If i was worried about wall holes, I would use a hanger system like they use for cabinetry . . . a backer board if you will. Good Luck and hope your little enjoys your board.

Kafukai (author)2015-02-13

This is great for babies. Baby toys are expensive and never been used by the baby.

Try to change the metal ones to plastic, it is just safer.

nathanrudolf (author)Kafukai2015-02-17

What is the safety concern with the metal items? They are not sharp, or lead. The variety of materials makes it more tactile. The cold feel, the ting sound, the weight; all items on interest to the child. There should be items of wood, plastic, rubber, metal, cloth... all for learning about the world around them.

TravisS114 (author)nathanrudolf2017-08-04

Amen nathanrudolf!

boscopsoultrane (author)2015-02-13

i am worried that he will mistake the outlet as part of the play things.

Jenga747 (author)boscopsoultrane2015-02-13

We kept all the outlets covered with toddler safe covers. He can't get them off.

imark77 (author)Jenga7472015-02-17

He can't get them off, "YET".

then again look what website this is at, that might be a good thing.

TravisS114 (author)imark772017-08-04

I don't worry about outlet covers but more about things plugged into outlets as that's how they'll get shocked. When ours was probably a year old and we were at a friends she managed to pull out one of those plugin air stinky things and got herself her first shock. Scary.. not really as I've been shocked many times doing something similar while growing up and getting my fingers too close to the prongs. Needless to say she hasn't gotten shocked since and I've caught her unplugging things only a couple times since and she's more careful about it now that she's had that experience. She's 16 months now.

2bitsatatIme (author)2015-02-14

Hopefully the baby wasn't with you while you were assembling it!

TravisS114 (author)2bitsatatIme2017-08-04

My 16 month old girl is often in the garage while I work on stuff to include her very own busy board as well as me working on our motorcycles or whathaveyou. I have a pair of ear muffs that I'll put on her if it's going to be something loud. My biggest issue is she never puts stuff back where she finds it so I will occasionally have to search for a screwdriver or tool I was just using. The only thing I keep away from her is the wire strippers as they are sharp, dykes she has played with and even pinched her leg once with them, and she hasn't done that since as she learns..

PatrickB8 (author)2bitsatatIme2015-02-17

Why would that matter? I doubt the baby was doing the power tool work...

clarkmaxwell made it! (author)2015-02-17

I found that magnets, old keys (filed down a bit), a small wrench and chains worked wonders. If it's a gift for someone else's child then I suggest a spring type door stopper - if it'll be in your house skip the door stopper (it will drive you crazy).

Instead of filing old keys, go to a locksmith and buy some uncut key blanks. They come in all shapes and sizes.

VeraG12 made it! (author)2017-04-11

You're right, pre-scavenging can cut your expenses to as little as the cost of the screws. Huge fan of busyboards myself, been making them for a few years now. My son adores them. My fave tip is - go bold with the colors!

ElsaH5 made it! (author)2016-08-26

I made this one for my daughter after seeing yours! I'll be selling them on etsy soon!

hemann (author)2015-02-20

Hello! Very nice work!

This is my very 1st comment here. I´ve been following Instructables for over 2 years now. Great work!

I made such a board for my daughter about 6 month ago for developing her motor skills. She is now 1Y3M old. It was a success actually, because I have very little experience on such things, but every body loves it, incl. even parents...And it is still working!

I used 12V battery, Finder timer, and lots of switches, Chint and Rockwell pilot lights, LEDs etc. Also some stuff from hardware store. Not all lights are connected to battery.

My mistake was - I did not thought this all process before I actually started to drill holes ))). Also I did not photo the whole process, so no material for real instructable. May be next time!

Let me assure you that all this wires are covered and maximum secured so no little finger gets in. Also I made a strap for caring it.

Right now it is put against baby cot and secured with the strap.

Thank you.

jimcathers (author)hemann2015-05-30

Wow, that looks great. Some good ideas I shall incorporate into the one I will build. Thanks to the OP for doing the instructable and sharing it.

Cowgirlsnevercry2001 (author)2015-05-12

This seems a bit unsafe

It's a great idea and only as unsafe as the person who builds it makes it. I see nothing unsafe in the OP's photos. Helicopter moms are a problem for everybody everywhere - the rest of us will be raising tomorrow's Makers.

My toddler loves it and plays with it daily. He is a VERY active kid and aside from trying to pull things off the board occasionally, this is probably one of the safest things we have in our house.

HellborN-HarbingeR made it! (author)2015-03-16

I just finished building one for my little girl thanks to your instructable. Decided to add some variation by building it as a 3 piece fold up triangle design with a busy board on the one side and a blackboard on the other. She saw it last night for the first time and I've never seen her so happy before. Thanks for the idea.

Your board looks fantastic! I'm sure your toddler will love it for years to come. I love the blackboard idea.

jmcgarey (author)2015-02-17

Sure! Let's teach our toddler how to defeat every childproof device in the house...

Cool concept though. ;-) My mom always said if I learned to put stuff back together, someday I'd make something of myself.

Jenga747 (author)jmcgarey2015-02-24

I built this board with that fear in mind. Nothing on the board is replicated in my house. We have different light switches. The electrical outlet has the childproof covers, but has also been dismantled on the inside, so even if he was to get it off, the outlet isnt live. I work in consruction and am very aware of cautionary issues. Thanks for the concern. My son loves it.

flurng (author)jmcgarey2015-02-24

That was my first thought as well, not to mention encouraging the child to play with an electrical switch. (Which, by the way, happens to be mounted mere INCHES from a live electrical outlet!)

shootermatic (author)jmcgarey2015-02-17

I agree :)

imark77 (author)jmcgarey2015-02-17

exactly what I was thinking, then again I think i was 5 when I fixed a toaster.

BruceW1 (author)2015-02-13

This is absolutely wonderful. Maybe add some velcro or other temporary fastener so you could either swap things out or let him pull down a favorite soft toy. Did I see a shoe? --- You could make sure the laces were tied in at the bottom. Astroturf and fur. Stick on LEDs to flip on and off. A bicycle bell or a door bell.... okay that last maybe not such a good idea. Lucky kid to have a dad like you (even if this was built in self defense) . Cheers.

Jenga747 (author)BruceW12015-02-24

One of the red wood pieces is a velcro item And the zipper between the blue and yellow fabric unzips to a green piece of fabric.

KeithF3 (author)2015-02-21

My concern is that you are desensitising the child to a clear industry standard warning symbol as well - The yellow and black stripes - I love the idea of the playboard - But will he in the future mistake a warning marking

prickly vegan (author)2015-02-18

I LOVE this! I don't have kids, but I think anyone who has/takes care of them should make one of these. Great learning tool to get their brains ticking along. I hope lots of girls get to play with these! I worked with kids with special needs, and I think this would have been a great tool for that, even as just a 'tiring out' device. We had boards for single tasks, but a big board like this could be seen as more fun or as a reward.
I'm not so safety minded, so forgive me for inappropriate ideas, but would be neat to have some sort of crank on there. Could also have stations for lacing, buttoning and snapping. Who doesn't love snaps? A section with containers with different sized lids... There are so many options. Could even advance the board as they get older and turn into a connected Rube Goldberg device. Again, great idea! Makes me *almost* wish I had a kid. ;)

umdlotus (author)2015-02-18

Commenting on LEAD and METAL vs PLASTIC:
Lead is found in all items, including plastic. A quick internet search can reveal all of the places lead can hide. Metal is not the only enemy.

One link showing some items with lead (i am not affiliated with this site in any way):

Catley (author)2015-02-18

I don't happen to have a small child, but what a fantastic idea! It may be true that it will teach him how to defeat "childproof" devices, but he is bound to do that some day, although in a piecemeal way, surprising his parents every time. At least this way, you'll know which things won't contain him any more--know in advance of his using his abilities in a potentially dangerous way,. And anything really complicated (that requires a code to be punched in, for example) or requiring adult strength--may still defeat the child. Codes can even defeat many adults.

The childproof caps on medicines will presumably still be safe. Even I, a fairly strong adult, have trouble opening some of the "push down and turn" variety.

babybayrs (author)2015-02-17


I have been building a similar board in my mind for a while, just need time to do it.

thundrepance (author)2015-02-17

your toddler looks so adorable, "inspecting"! x^D

paulrobare (author)2015-02-17

Love this - I think I'll make one for my 9-month old tonight!

One important note to the author and anyone who considers making one:

**standard household keys contain large amounts of lead**
(which is very toxic and known to cause developmental problems). Worse yet - the lead in keys tends to express towards the surface more as the key ages.

If your little one is anything like mine, s/he will probably put their mouth all over most of the objects on the play wall. Please take the house key out of the mix.

Great idea - thanks for sharing!

adbkwhitley (author)2015-02-17

Excellent!! It's sort of like a wall-mounted activity quilt. Just be advised . . . by the time he's three, you'll probably find your lights blinking off and on, you won't be able to keep a gate latched, if something has a knob on it he'll try to open it, and, at some point, he's GOING to find a way to shove a golf ball through your garden hose!! :)

Well done, Dad.

da.cappina (author)2015-02-17

Awesome! That won't get boring after a short time, unlike so many other store bought toys.

longp2000 (author)2015-02-17

Jenga, I don't think you realize this, but what you have here is also very, very similar to what children use in physical and occupational therapy after a traumatic brain injury. My son used one of these, albeit on the floor when he was five years old after being in a bad car accident in order to develop his fine motor skills AND this is the same reason you want this to be used by toddlers. I think it is a great idea. I don't know that the metal pieces are a concern as long as you check them for sharp objects and toxic metals. I am going to build one of these for my grandson. The only thing that is missing from what my son used in occupational therapy is four or five plastic bolts with plastic nuts, the kid you use to secure your toilet. There is something about using your thumb and forefinger to turn a nut that helps kids. Man, I can not tell you how great this is. My all time favorite instructable.

megainstructa1 (author)2015-02-17

Not sure I would want to help the child learn how to open bolt locks, but otherwise seems like a great idea

ReeMimi (author)2015-02-17

Love it !

Wired_Mist (author)2015-02-13

Awesome lol

I know my Nephew would love this :D

One of his favorite pass times is turning the lights on and off / Locking me out on the deck >.< I think this could help keep him occupied :)

jgeepers (author)2015-02-13

Like others said, I wish I thought of this 10 years ago when my kids were younger. (To all of us, don't worry we can make up for it when we become grandparents...this will still be a good idea 10 years from now!) I like that it's not plastic and not junk.

detergen (author)2015-02-13

Very, very awesome idea, why it's not mine? ;)

kode1303 (author)2015-02-13

I wanted to make a wall like this a few years ago when our kids were younger, but I never got it done. I am alot better at getting ideas than making them come true. Good job!

tomatoskins (author)2015-02-13

This is a great idea! It looks like he loves it!

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