Introduction: Kids' Picnic Table

Picture of Kids' Picnic Table

This is an easy-to-build picnic table sized for kids up to age 6 or so. I tried to keep it a standard size, with easy cuts and a simple structure. This is my first instructable, so suggestions are appreciated!

Step 1: Cut List

Picture of Cut List

It's a short supply list:

8 Cedar 1" x 4" x 8' Deck Boards
75 Deck Screws (1 5/8")
Sandpaper and varnish or stain
Cut two trapezoidal seat supports, with the longer end at 33". Angle the ends at 22.5 degrees.
Cut two trapezoidal tabletop supports, with the longer end at 17". Angle the ends at 22.5 degrees.
Cut two center supports at 25.5" with square ends.
Cut four legs (parallelograms, if you'd like me to continue to be geometrically proper) at 21", again with 22.5 degree angles.
Cut nine 31" pieces for the table top and seats.

Step 2: Top Supports

Picture of Top Supports

Choose the best-looking top pieces that look good together and put them face-down on something soft. Align the ends and put the top supports and one of the spacers on as shown. Line everything up, put two screws in each end, then flip it over to attach the top.

Step 3: Top

Picture of Top

Center and align the top center board and screw it down to the top support with two evenly-spaced screws at each end. Add the rest of the boards, spaced with nails, or tight against each other. (I made the first 10 or so with spaces, but as they age, I think tight against each other is better.)

Step 4: Legs

Picture of Legs

Line the legs up so that the outer edge of the leg is right near the bottom corner of the top support board and put four screws in from the inside. You might want to do two legs on a side first, then put one screw in each of the other legs in order to turn the table over and level it before putting in the remaining screws.

Step 5: Seat Supports

Picture of Seat Supports

This spacing works well for me: with the table upside down, one scrap piece on end, one on its side, and screw the seat supports on. Make sure they're evenly spaced on each side.

Step 6: Lower Spacer

Picture of Lower Spacer

Put in the lower spacer with two screws from each end. I use 3" screws if I have any.

Step 7: Varnish

Picture of Varnish

Put the Seats on to finish up, then sand as fine as you care to.

I'm in the Pacific Northwest, so it takes six coats of Varnish to make it two years, or you can let the table gray naturally. One thought about natural though - without the varnish, ketchup and mustard stains aren't very wipe-able.

Step 8: Accessorize

Picture of Accessorize

It's all set for a china tea set.

One warning. As soon as your friends with children see these, you'll be making them for birthdays and Christmas for years.


Joe Sh (author)2017-09-13

1" x 4" cedar decking is not available here in Easton, Maryland. Who did you buy from?

I got by with only 6 deck boards, each 8' long.

Lupita36 (author)2017-07-08

I made it and it turned out awesome. All the instructions were easy to follow. My girls loved It.

KimB157 made it! (author)2016-05-29

I made one for my granddaughter, with a few changes. I made the seat and top boards a little longer and instead of supports, I made a small box at the top to be used as a small sand box or for toy storage. This was pretty easy to do, enjoyed it very much.

ChrisR393 (author)KimB1572017-04-02

Nice touch! I'm likely going to do this! Although with 3 boys, I'm going to need to figure out a way to put a solid-yet-kid-friendly latch on both ends.

BenM276 made it! (author)2017-02-01

Easy to follow instructions and these make excellent gifts! I added finish washers for a more industrial look to match the rest of our home. Since I've built this one I've moved to pre-drilling and pre-finishing all of the boards before I assemble. Much better coverage as well. (Please don't mind my other project going on behind this).

Ericschofield made it! (author)2016-09-25

I used 2x4 for the frame. Have to cut the top and seat pieces to 32" to cover the top edges of the legs. I used 3" screws to secure the table support piece and it's solid. I omitted the leg support and this thing is very sturdy. This was a great project!

To add to my post: it only takes 3 2x4 and 3 1x4x8 pieces. Yes, cutting a 96" piece into 3 32" pieces leaves them an 1/8" short from the cut, but still works

howee_daddy made it! (author)2016-04-23

I had some scrap lumber lying around so I made this with the following modifications:

1. I used composite decking for the table top. Easy to clean up and weather resistant. Would have used it for the seat tops too if I had enough.

2. Legs and supports - I used 2x4 just because I had lots of scrap pieces. Plus, it seems stronger.

3. Long supports - Instead of placing a single support at the bottom, I placed one each under the seats. Provides extra rigidity and nothing underneath the table for kids to kick their shins.

4. Length - I made the table top a little longer - 35". In hindsight, I should have gone 40". Seems a bit tight for two kids on each side. (You will have to adjust the length of the supports accordingly.)

5. Seats - I used 1x8 again just because I had scrap pieces. 3 coats of spar urethane.

Comments: I cut the table and seat supports according to the plans. In hindsght, I would have cut the table support long enough to support the full width of the tabletop which in my case was 22". Also, I would have cut the seat supports longer. I wanted the seat tops to be a bit further away from the legs.

Nice easy little project.

howee_daddy made it! (author)howee_daddy2016-09-20

Have since made and sold/ gifted four more of these. Will keep building and selling them!

andus78 (author)howee_daddy2016-06-22

I like your version of this plan. However, you have to be careful of placing the seat tops further away from the legs. The further away they are, the easier the table will tip over if someone sits on it alone or 2 kids sit on the same side of the table with no one on the other side.

howee_daddy (author)andus782016-06-22

Thanks. Your point is well taken. The table I built has some decent weight to it because of the composite decking and the 2x4s. If I had used the 1x4s as called for in the original plans, I think tipping over would be a distinct possibility if two kids are seated on one side even with the seats located as the original designer had intended. I have a six year old and a two year old with a combined weight of over 70 pounds and, thus far, they have sat on the same side without tipping over.

noodlez914 made it! (author)2016-08-13

Thanks for sharing this project. I couldn't find any true to size 1x4 anywhere (1x4's being sold seemed way too flimsy) so I decided to turn this into an upcycle project and cut down my own true to size 2x4 boards from some cabinet pallets I trash picked a couple years ago. I didn't even put in the bottom center support because this thing is built like a tank so I figured no reason to restrict leg movement under the table if it don't need to be there. If it eventually gets wobbly i can always add.

noodlez914 (author)2016-08-02

Could you tell me where you got the cedar 1x4's? I have been to Home Depot and Lowes I find the 1x4x8's of cedar but they are not even close to a true 1".

mtiner (author)2016-06-04

I made it according to plans and it worked perfectly! It is an awesome little table and the kids love it. I am really impressed and plan to build another (I already have 2 boards toward another because like others have said, you only need six 8' boards, not 8) Great project!

brtt485 (author)2016-05-10

Can anyone give me the overall length and width of this table as complete? Thank you!

howee_daddy (author)brtt4852016-05-26

If you follow the plans, the table will be 31" x 33".

AdleyF (author)2016-05-25

how much over hang for the seat supports do you leave for seats. instructions aren't very clear. Also for the table top bracing how far from the edges do you put the bracing, the long side as well the short side.There are no type of measurements for this. Thanks

sgtcyclist (author)2016-04-13

@kputney, I have a question. You say that the boards are 1x4 but deck boards are almost 5.5 inches wide. I assume you ripped them to width? Thanks

KennethH39 (author)2016-04-05

I'm looking to building this table in the next few days, but unless I'm missing something I think it should only take 6 not 8 8 foot boards.

3-31 inch boards per 8 foot board need 9 so there are 3-8 foot boards

2-21 inch boards, 1-25.5 inch board and 1-17 inch board take 1-8 foot board

2-21 inch boards, 1-25.5 inch board and 1-17 inch board take 1-8 foot board

2-33 inch boards out of 1-8 foot board

To me that totals up to 6 not 8, if someone sees what I'm missing let me know!

KennethH39 (author)KennethH392016-04-12

Well a little follow up to my post.

I did make this for grandson this week! I did not have any cedar scraps like the original poster did so I had to purchase materials. Around here the price of cedar was a bit high so taking to guy at lumber yard, nice local place, we decided on using 5/4X4 #2 pine. If you read my first post I had questioned the original poster saying it would take 8 eight foot boards. Well after double and triple checking my figures I bought 6 eight footers. That still left me with enough material and a 39 inch piece of scrap. Then as my wife was worried the little guy would hit his knees on the lower cross brace I eliminated that so another 25 inch piece for future project.

After cutting all pieces used router to round over all edges that were exposed and rounded corners of top and seats. Then I applied two coats of MinXax Spar Polyurethane. Assembled using #8X2 inch deck screws everywhere with the exception of the four screws going into the end grain of the brace under the center board of the top, those were I believe 2 1/2 long to hold better.

After assembling two more coats of the Spar Polyurethane were brushed on and then the final coat was sprayed on to get a better finish. I could have used plain 2X4 lumber to save some money but felt the 5/4X4 gave it better proportions. I did not want to use pressure treated for a couple reasons, first not comfortable with the chemicals used possibly getting into kids food and second not sure I could put a good finish on it without letting it dry for a long time.

ChosenArchitect made it! (author)2016-04-02

Simple instructions and plan on making more! I added some covers on the side where the screws went through the wood a bit and make it look a little nicer. Took me about 3hr to build and 1hr to stain. A few beers later and 2 coats of polyurethane on the top and seats and it was done!

dalesr03 (author)2016-03-09

Awesome. What a nice quick build it was. Thanks

RobertM69 made it! (author)2015-08-09

Great project!!!. Added a few modifications.... rounded edges as well as doubled the support under the table to eventually drill a center hole to add an umbrella. Modified lower cross support to support base of umbrella.

Ticklebot (author)2015-07-17

Thanks for this. It was a fun build.

bjar07 made it! (author)2015-04-03

Fun project to build and my kids absolutely LOVE IT!!!

aayaffe made it! (author)2014-04-16

A wonderful little and simple project for the complete amateur.

Thank you for the instructable.

brad.sutherlin.9 (author)aayaffe2015-02-28

I'm curious, how did you attach the top and benches to the frame? I don't see any exposed screws on the surfaces.

aayaffe (author)brad.sutherlin.92015-03-01

I used pocket screws

brad.sutherlin.9 (author)aayaffe2015-03-01

It looks awesome without any visible screw heads!

karisfa (author)2014-06-22

I am making this today (will update) but I've also created a SketchUp model based on these, with some slight modifications. Just in case anyone wants to make their own changes too, and have something to create a set of plans and BOM from.

tyamat (author)2014-04-17

created a version with some leftover wood. nice instructable! thx!

aaristotelous (author)2014-04-17

i made it also for my nephews... excellent gift for easter. thank you for the idea :)

bricobart (author)2014-03-26

Maybe it's 'mosquito-drilling' but if you had used wood bolts - those with a round top - it would have looked even better. And been more sturdy. But those are details, the kids won't care ;)

kputney (author)bricobart2014-03-26

You're right, Bricobart. This started as a "What should I do with my leftovers" project after building a deck, so the deck screws just stuck as I made more. The screws make it much faster to build, but bolts would look nicer and be stronger.

bricobart (author)kputney2014-03-31

I know that kind of project-start - that's how I built my owl box ;)

Mihsin (author)2014-03-28

Step 6 Lower Spacer. I would position the cross member flat on top to avoid touching tall people's shin bones.

Biodynamic (author)2014-03-27

Awesome table. I now have an extra item on my to do list. Thanks for posting!

Joe Citizen (author)2014-03-27

It wouldn't be a surprise if after the kids outgrow this

Mom grabs it up as a patio end table or plant

stand. It certainly is pretty enough and would have

a great little history.

mholcomb1 (author)2014-03-25

Nice craftsmanship!Do you have a "formula" to make the measurements for an adult table to set up next to it?

kputney (author)mholcomb12014-03-26

Thanks! I'm afraid I've never scaled it up to adult size, but it seems like it would scale well, as long as the screws were taken out in favor of bolts.

Wow, this looks great! It looks like you could have gotten it at a store! Nice job :)

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