Introduction: Simple, Elegant Toddler Bed

With two sheets of plywood and a handful of screws, you can make a pretty nice little toddler bed. This design fits a crib mattress (about 52" long), which will last the average toddler well into elementary school.

My toddler just turned two. He's too big for a crib, but a twin-sized bed takes up too much space in his room. There are a lot of toddler beds you can buy that are low to the ground, but I wanted something with A) storage underneath and B) enough height to make diaper changing easy. This is what I came up with.

Step 1: Plan Overview

The basic design is pretty simple. There are five plywood panels (two sides, two headboards, and a middle). You'll cut them out, use a router on the edges (if you want), sand, finish, and screw them together.

Supplies:

  1. Two 4x8' sheets of 3/4" plywood
  2. 1-1/4" wood screws
  3. 1-3/4" wood screws
  4. Polyurethane, paint, or another finish (optional)

Tools:

  1. CNC router with a 4x8' bed (optional*)
  2. Hand drill
  3. Measuring tape
  4. Table router (optional)
  5. Sandpaper
  6. Paint brush

*I used a CNC router because they have one at the TechShop I'm a member of (I made it at TechShop, techshop.ws/). A CNC router is a robot-like machine that uses an end mill (similar to a drill bit) to cut out whatever design you put into the computer. Because of this, my design isn't optimized for cutting by hand. However, if you don't have access to a CNC router, you can still make this bed. Just simplify (remove unnecessary curves and holes) and use a hand-held rotary saw and/or band saw. I'll provide dimensions in the next step.

Step 2: Cut Out the Pieces

There are two patterns which correspond to two sheets of plywood.

I have attached the patterns as vector pdf files. You can use these to generate toolpaths for the particular CNC router and end mill you have access to.

I have also attached V-Carve Pro files of both patterns. These hold the information for the toolpaths I used (with a 3/8" two-fluted end mill). If you have V-Carve Pro, you can open these files and export the toolpaths directly to whatever file type your CNC router requires.

Finally, I have attached a pdf ("layout.pdf") with basic dimensions. You can use this to cut the pieces out by hand if you wish.

NOTE: If you're using a CNC router, cut out the holes first. If you cut out the parts first, they may move around while you're trying to cut out the holes.

Step 3: Smooth the Edges

You can simply smooth the edges with sandpaper if you want. I decided to use a table router and a 1/4" roundover bit to put a nice radius on the edges that would be most exposed.

Step 4: Cut Scabs

To help screw everything together, I cut some plywood scabs. To do the same, you'll need:

  • Two scabs that are 48" x 1.5"
  • Six scabs that are 24" x 1.5"

The simplest way to cut these is on the table saw. Cut five 1.5" strips that are 48" long (the width of your plywood). Then cut three of these in half. This gives you two 48" pieces and six 24" pieces.

Four of the 24" pieces will be used on the four vertical corners of the bed.

Two 24" pieces and two 48" pieces will be used to hold up the center piece (which holds the mattress).

Step 5: Install Scabs

Install the scabs using the 1-1/4" screws. Install screws from the scab side (the inside or hidden side of the bed). Since you have two 3/4" pieces of plywood, the 1-1/4" screws won't quite go all the way through (which is a good thing).

As shown in the first picture, each side piece needs two 24" scabs (flush with the edges) and one 48" scab (with the top edge 27-1/2" from the floor).

As shown in the second picture, each head board needs one 24" scab. The top edge of the scab should be 27-1/2" from the floor.

Step 6: Sand and Finish the Pieces

I used an orbital sander to smooth out the routed edges. I also used it to get rid of scuff marks I'd made while handling the sheets of plywood.

I then finished all the plywood pieces with three coats of clear, water-based polyurethane.

NOTE 1: Water-based finish tends to raise the wood grain. This was especially true on the edges of the plywood. After the first coat of finish, the edges were very rough. After sanding them and applying the 2nd and 3rd coats, however, they ended up pretty smooth.

NOTE 2: For more detail, see my instructable on Refinishing Old Furniture, which has a ton of information on types of finishes, technique, etc.

Step 7: Assemble

Use the longer (1-3/4") screws for the assembly.

  1. Stand the two sides upright. Place the middle on the 48" scabs. Screw down through the middle into the scabs.
  2. Attach one head board. Screws should go into into the scabs on the bottom (black arrows) and into the side piece near the top (red arrows).
  3. Attach the other head board (aka the foot board) in the same way.

Optional: if you don't want any screws showing, you could attach the side pieces by screwing through the scabs and into the head board (i.e. screw from the inside toward the outside). In this case, a wider scab (maybe a 2x2x24" piece) might suit you better.

Step 8: Enjoy

Now you have a solid, nice-looking bed for your toddler. There is a slight railing to keep him or her from rolling off, but of course use judgement with your kid's age and sleeping habits.

Sleep tight!

Comments

author
mdhandyman (author)2014-06-05

Thanks so much for sharing your very well detailed instructions & files! I made a set of 2 for my grandsons at TechShop. One tweak I'd do in the next iteration might be to open up the head/footboards in the lower area. otherwise, it's a great design. I tried using pre finished birch plywood to save time& materials. I had problems with the outermost layer chipping & peeling off! So buyer beware...shop for the good stuff and ask questions. The cnc bit may not have been sufficiently sharp, also. But I feathered out the chips with the sander and I'm happy with the results, as are they! Also, for the finish sanding in the slotted areas, I used a small "drum" sanding attachment on my cordless drill. Made the job less tedious ;-) Thanks again!

temp_-1814114058.jpgtemp_-1609809047.jpg
author
solobo (author)mdhandyman2014-06-05

Very cool! Thanks for posting those pictures. Good idea on opening up the head/footboards.

author
DanaF406 (author)2016-08-16

I'm going to make two of these! I don't have access to a CNC machine, so I will use a router...for the first time. Would you recommend cutting out the plywood with a jig saw or skill saw, and then routering the edges; or cutting with the router? With a 1/4" roundover bit, is it better to use a fixed or plunge router? I can borrow either/both. Any advice appreciated!

author
solobo (author)DanaF4062016-08-16

I would recommend cutting everything you can with a skil saw, then using a router or jig saw (both of which will be a lot slower) for the tight turns. Fixed vs plunge router: I'm no expert, but I think you'd want the plunge router if you need to "plunge" (i.e. start in the middle somewhere). Alternatively, you could use a drill to make a starter hole and then use a fixed router from that starting point.

author
DanaF406 (author)solobo2016-08-16

Thanks!

author
TinyTraveller (author)2015-07-03

Super clean looking, This may be the winner for my daughter room.

author
solobo (author)TinyTraveller2015-07-03

Awesome, post a picture if you get a chance!

author
lokaa.loky (author)2014-12-06

Thank you very much

I will make

author
solobo (author)lokaa.loky2014-12-06

Cool, let me know how it works out!

author
ZaneEricB (author)2014-07-17

Simple and straight forward! I dig it. I am planning to make something very similar to this except the "landing" will not be a bed, it will be just an indoor playhouse...so i guess i will need more support...but great design and build!!

author
solobo (author)ZaneEricB2014-07-17

Sweet, sounds awesome! Post a picture if you get a chance.

author
bonjobish (author)2014-05-12

Fantastic job ! 10 out of 10 for you ! maybe a curtain track and curtains for hide-a-way for a boy or a girl would be a great addition and of course Handy for a quick tidy up too :)

author
solobo (author)bonjobish2014-05-12

Thanks! Good idea on the curtain, I think I may have to do that.

author
mathieulj (author)2014-05-10

Very nice result. Unfortunately my 3 year old still falls out of bed regularly so this is really not an option for us but I am definatly bookmarking this for future reference :).

author
solobo (author)mathieulj2014-05-11

Cool thanks!

author
tim_n (author)2014-05-08

Looks neat - couldn't trust my son in it as he moves so much I'd be hearing a thud and scream every 10 minutes.

author
solobo (author)tim_n2014-05-08

Yeah. There's definitely room on a piece of plywood to make the railings taller, but you might have to use another piece to get both sides cut.

author
Pitini (author)2014-05-07

Love the look and want to try. Can you tell me the type of cnc machine? There are lots about but I need to know what the minimum type of cmc would do.

Thanks

author
solobo (author)Pitini2014-05-08

I used a shopbot alpha (see link below) at the techshop. I think the only requirement is that the bed size is big enough to hold your sheets of plywood (4x8'). If you wanted to cut each bed piece separately, you could get away with a smaller bed size.

http://www.shopbottools.com/ > full size

author
hkaras (author)2014-05-07

this is simply awesome in it's simplicity... but my kids are getting a bit big for this, do you think it would be possible to apply this design to a larger, full size 2 story bed?

author
solobo (author)hkaras2014-05-07

I think you could definitely adapt it. Things I would be careful on when making everything bigger: 1) Make sure the long horizontal section on the side pieces is strong enough (i.e. the vertical dimension is large enough). 2) Consider bracing the bottom corners if you make the bed much taller. Little plywood triangles would do this. So would another mattress-holding piece on the bottom (if you were making it a bunk bed). 3) using wider scabs (say 3" instead of 1.5") to hold the middle piece (which holds the mattress) would help with making sure the extra weight on the mattress is held safely.

If you make it, let me know how it turns out!

author
hkaras (author)solobo2014-05-07

Thanks for the tips solobo, when I get the time and money to undertake this project you will definitly be informed. Kudos to u man! :)

author
jmoore22 (author)2014-05-07

Very nice project. Well done!

It reminds me of a project I did 32 years ago from plans in Popular Mechanics. I built a bed and play area for my 2 yr old son. It was a full size platform bed with a "jail" (as the kids called it) on the end, and a ladder to an upper enclosed multilevel carpeted platform. It had huge drawers under it to store all his toys. It was all 2x4 and 3/4" plywood construction. The door to the jail was plywood. The ladder was 2x4s and dowels. The kids and their friends played in it for hours and hours and hours. The upper platform became a bed for sleepovers. The upper platform was high enough for me to crawl on my hands and knees on. He used it until he was 13. The attached image shows an example of it. I don't have the plans anymore, but I modified the dimensions to fit my room.

PlayBed.png
author
solobo (author)jmoore222014-05-07

That looks pretty awesome!

author
grammers (author)2014-05-06

Looks great! I love the simplicity of your design!

author
solobo (author)grammers2014-05-06

Thanks!

author
industriald (author)2014-05-06

Nice work!

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solobo (author)industriald2014-05-06

Thanks!

author
rafanand (author)2014-05-06

very nice! I built a bunkbed for my 5yr old with a similar design (rounded edges rectagular steps).

author
solobo (author)rafanand2014-05-06

cool! I'd love to see a picture, if you have one.

author
bruno13069 (author)2014-05-06

Awesome DIY! Looks like something you'd pay big bucks for in a kit furniture store. And your son looks like he's having a major blast with it. He's got his own club house under the bed!

author
solobo (author)bruno130692014-05-06

Thanks! Ha yeah, he loves it.

author

It looks great and it looks like your toddler loves it, which is the real stamp of approval!

author

Agreed.

author
seamster (author)2014-05-05

Very nice design! Clean and simple.

author
solobo (author)seamster2014-05-05

Thanks!

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