Introduction: Toddler Tool Harness
My son is 3 and has discovered Bob the Builder. He watches every episode he can find when it is TV time before bed whether they are from the library, on Amazon video, or Youtube, he is obsessed. He got some plastic tools for Christmas when he was 2 and has now decided he needs to use them all day every day. The problem was he needed a good tool belt like Bob the Builder has. I wanted to make the tool belt functional for him but also out of things I already had laying around the house waiting to become something useful again. He is also way into Paw Patrol and Rocky recycles everything into something new. That was the goal here to show him that you can do such in real life, and not just on TV.
The harness design was created vs just a tool belt, to help him wear it easier and not have it fall down all the time. I integrated 2 buckles, one at the waist which is like a car seat belt buckle, and one at the chest height to keep the shoulder straps in place.
The project was created from scrap pieces from some old parachute harnesses, parts of a backpack, and scap belts/buckles from old SCBA harnesses (those things firefighters wear to supply them air) and a few other odds and ends.
Step 1: Supplies
Recycled supplies: Total cost - zero dollars
SCBA harness pieces
Buckles and webbing
Metal grommets off of harnesses
Old parachute harness pieces
Hot glue gun and 1 glue stick - the glue didn't hold well
Torch to heat up punch to make holes in webbing
Hammer to flatten edges
5 minute epoxy
Step 2: Size and Modify Pieces
I took some rough measurements on my son's size and started to cut the pieces to length. The belt was the first piece and everything was build off of that. Once the length of the belt was right, the buckle was added and trial fit on my son.
The shoulder straps came next. These had to fit over his shoulder with the pads in the right spot, yet connect behind his neck and not cut in or be too sharp an angle. This was trial and error to get it right. The straps were then attached to the waist belt but left long to adjust properly once fitted.
Metal grommet style screws were added from old parts of harnesses to secure the piece in place. I used a torch to heat up a wood awl to punch or melt really though the webbing. This sealed the webbing so it wouldn't fray but also gave me the custom sized holes needed to put the grommets through. I attempted to use a solder iron but it woudn't stay hot enough long enough to do what I needed. The nylon cooled it too much and gunked it up horribly.
Step 3: Test Fit and Resize
Once the straps were in place, I had to test fit it on my son and find out where it needed shortened and adjusted. The back strap piece needed extended out an inch and the front straps had 8 inches or so cut off. The base of the back strap was also shortened to make the linkage for the shoulder straps fall between the shoulders and not on the neck.
Next, I had to add the chest buckle to keep the shoulder straps in place. I used hot glue and the metal grommet screws to secure it. The buckle was cut off of a backpack. The hot glue pulled apart after a few weeks so 5 minute epoxy was used to secure it again.
Step 4: Add a Tool Pouch
The tool pouch was made from a backpack pocket. I cut off the pocket and attached it with hot glue to the belt. That lasted about 30 minutes of play and it came off. So I re-glued it on and added 2 more grommet screws.
The pouch holds all of the tools great, until he leans over or sits down. Then they all fall out and he gets upset and frustrated. I would too if all my tools dropped all the time. The pouch was modified with some extra strap and a grommet screw through the face which tightened it up to make the tools stay in better.
A hammer ring was added on the side of the belt using a peg board tool hanger. I bent the back piece down and epoxied it in place through the outer belt layer. It works well for his plastic hammer and hopefully soon will work with a small real hammer too.
Step 5: Final Thoughts
The tool harness was not perfect the first go around. I have added things for specific tools and worked to create a better tool pouch. Adjustments were needed all around as this was a custom build not working from plans but using what I had laying around. He has worn it now for about 3 months and we have fixed little things here and there. It is work in progress and will likely get additions for the next year or two.
The belt is adjustable but the shoulder straps are not as much. If I did it again, I would work toward adding a bit of adjust-ability to it but I think I can modify it as I go to still fit him for a few years. He is thrilled with the harness right now though and puts it on every time he watches Bob the Builder. He has worn it for 2 weeks straight while I am remodeling our kitchen as well. He wants to be a helper. The only problem is I can't call him Asher while he is wearing it. He corrects me every time and says "No Dad, it is Bob."
I am happy with how it turned out and it cost me zero dollars to make. I hope this will inspire some parents out there to make their own tool harness for their kids too.