Introduction: How to Make a Toddler Bed Guard

Our predicament:

My son takes naps during the day with my wife, while our niece whom she watches, sleeps in his crib.   Our problem is that when he sleeps in our bed for his nap, he has a tendency to fall out of bed, sometimes even knocking his head on the nightstand on the way down.

We’ve tried everything: pillows, blankets; all piled up next to him, but he is such a toss-n-turner that he works his way right over them and onto the floor. They have bed guards at Wal-Mart, Costco, etc, but they all require a permanent anchor, and since I sleep in this bed at night, I don’t want to have to deal with it.

I came up with the following idea, and it’s far safer and durable than store-bought methods, and it’s simple, effective and cheap. It cost me about $29.00 to put this together and about 4 hours of my time.

It’s basically a PVC construction that slips between the box-spring and mattress on one side of the bed when my son is napping, and I can remove it when I go to bed at night. When not in use, it sits up against the wall and holds my wife’s arsenal of pillows that she keeps on the bed. We’ve found it can also be used on a couch to keep small babies from rolling off if you don’t have a Boppy pillow handy.  What’s also nice is that I can expand upon it when my son goes into a big-boy bed. I’ll just remove the bottom segments and extend them across the bed to another guard for the opposite side. Mulitpurpose!

UPDATE:  I've updated this Instructable due to some comments from concerned members.  I've made two options:  Option A (the original Instructable), which is for larger kids, with larger heads (like mine), and Option B (a new modified model and cutting diagram), for infants, babies and small toddlers. 

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind that this is my method is what I have chosen for my family. I’ve done a lot of work in the past with PVC and have a lot of experience with it. If you aren’t happy with what I’ve put together, don’t make one for your kids. Go out and buy your solution. Remember, I am not legally responsible for what you do with this Instructable.  Just keep your kid from falling off the bed! 

Step 1: What You Need.

To build this Toddler Bed Guard, you’ll need the following:

3 x 10’ sections of 1-1/4" PVC pipe (Yes, they WILL fit in your minivan)
Device to cut the PVC (see ‘Cut It Up’ section)
PVC Cement
Small Wood Screws (3/4” suggested)
Drill bits, and such

For Option A
6 x 1-1/4" 90 Degree PVC Elbows
8 x 1-1/4" PVC Tees
3 x 1-1/4" 4-Way Tees (see below where to get them)

For Option B
6 x 1-1/4" 90 Degree PVC Elbows
15 x 1-1/4” PVC Tees
3 x 1-1/4" 4-Way Tees (see below where to get them)
Steel Wool
Paper Towels
Mineral Oil

I wanted it to be super sturdy, for obvious reasons, so I chose to use 1-1/4” PVC pipe.  There are all sorts of sizes of PVC to choose from, and I chose 1-1/4” for its sturdiness and 4-Way fitting availability.

I had to create the idea and get the design on paper (or in my case, in Google SketchUp). I normally order all of my PVC fittings from Formufit ( I hate to sound like a shill, but I love this stuff, and their products are basically like a giant tinker-toy set for adults. It's a PVC builders playground.  They have even provided some pretty nice PVC Fitting Components for Google SketchUp, which are on their website, or can be downloaded from the Google 3D Warehouse .

Here is a link to the Google SketchUp 3D model that I made for this project (for Option A), and a link to the Google SketchUp 3D model (for Option B), both of which I put on the Google 3D Warehouse. This will let you adjust the dimensions to your own bed/situation.

Step 2: Parts.

In order to build, I needed PVC fittings. I could have gone out to Home Depot to get PVC fittings, but I decided to go with furniture grade fittings which are much cleverer than the standard plumbing-grade fittings, as they have configurations such as 5-Way, 4-Way Tee and 3-Way elbows/corners. Their fittings are nicer too; they have fancy smoother edges and are a pretty gloss white.

For my design I needed 90 Degree Elbows, Standard Tees and 4-Way Tees.  I could have gone with the 90s and Tees as standard plumbing grade, but I am anal, and wanted this too look nice and flashy, so I got all of the fittings from Formufit ( If you want to save some money on shipping, you could easily use standard plumbing grade fittings from Home Depot or Lowes for the 90s and Tees.

The PVC pipe is standard and I purchased it locally from Home Depot (about $2.50 for each 10 foot segment).

Step 3: Cut It Up.

I am lucky. I have a miter saw. It cuts PVC pipe most awesomely. Not everyone does, so you can cut the pipe using a hacksaw, or if you have a couple extra bucks (about $4 at Harbor Freight), invest in a plastic pipe cutter. I suggest the ratcheting type. If you want to make more PVC items in the future, I recommend getting one.

I’ve included a quick chart that shows how I cut up each of my 10’ PVC pipe segments for both Option A and Option B below.

For Option A it’s basically (12) 17” lengths and (12) 5.5” lengths. For Option B it uses (14) 17" lengths and (20) 2.5" lengths.

Cut your pipe up and throw them into a box with your fittings and take them somewhere you can dry fit them.

Step 4: Dry Fit It.

Take all of your fittings and cut up pipe to an area where you can dry fit the parts together before you glue them.   DO NOT smack them into the fittings just yet. Just keep them loose.   THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! You need to make sure that your cuts are correct before you use your PVC Cement on them.

Lay your parts down on a flat surface, and loosely assemble as shown in the attached diagrams, for either Option A or Option B. I’ve denoted ‘T’ as to where you want your Tees, ‘90’ as to where you want your 90s and ‘4’ as to where you want your 4-Ways. When you are comfortable with your setup, move onto the next step.

For Option B, the PVC will go into the first fitting and the second fitting, and will be VERY snug.  I suggest you wait on final assembly before you dry fit Option B.  Dont worry if the Option B diagram makes the guard look huge, its not, its just an exploded view.

Step 5: Clean the Pipe (Optional).

If you are an anal-retentive goody-two-shoes like me, you don’t want those ink markings all over your PVC pipe and you want it to look nice and white. You can do this with steel wool and acetone (wear gloves and do this outside or in an open garage!) Here’s how you do it:

1.Take some steel wool and put some Acetone onto it.

2.In a circular motion, rub the steel wool/acetone combo onto the pipe and quickly wipe away the excess ink and dirt with paper towels.

3.Repeat for each pipe segment.

The acetone will evaporate, and will not remain on the PVC pipe, so don’t worry about it affecting your kids.

Step 6: Cement It.

Time to glue! Since you have dry fit your cut pipe and fittings, take everything apart and prepare to use the PVC cement by taking everything outside or do it in your garage with the door open. PVC cement is stinky stuff and can make you dizzy if you do it in a non-ventilated location. And huffing is bad.

Apply the PVC Cement to BOTH the outside of the pipe and the inside of the fitting. Then insert the pipe into the fitting and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat this for each connection point as per the design assembly.

Step 7: Screw It.

I wanted this thing sturdy, so I chose to not only cement it, but to also put screws into each of the fittings, just to give me that added protection.

I drilled holes at each point where the fitting meets the pipe, and on both sides of the fittings for extra security.

I wanted it to be clean (see comments about me being anal), so I chose to use a countersink bit to make an indentation at each end of the fitting so that my screws would be flush.   This is optional.

Next, using my drill and a Phillips bit, I put small ‘set screws’ (3/4” Wood Screws) into each of the holes on each side of the fitting.

Step 8: Make It Pretty (Optional).

As I mentioned above, I chose to use the glossy, furniture-grade fittings from Formufit. Off the shelf PVC pipe is not a true white and has a dull finish, so I wanted it to match my fittings’ glossy look. The best solution for this is to apply a VERY LIGHT coat of mineral oil to the PVC pipe between the glued and screwed fittings. Then buff with a dry paper towel. The difference is amazing and it actually looks great.   See my after and before images.

You could also use ‘tire-shine’ or car wax, but I don’t recommend it since this is a project that your kids will interact with. They have chemicals in them. And the mineral oil works just fine, just not as long as the others.

Step 9: Use It.

To use, just slip the lower PVC segment between the mattress and the box-spring. If you just place it between the two and push with your needs, the PVC will slide right in. When not using it, remove it and set it up against a wall.

Another optional item would be to put a mesh-netting over the whole thing for very small children, such as infants. You can get the mesh at JoAnn Fabrics or Wal-Mart in the sewing/crafts section.

Now keep those kids off the floor!