Kids' Covered Wagon




Introduction: Kids' Covered Wagon

This Instructable turns a plain gardening cart into a kids' Covered Wagon. As well as for cowgirl/boy play, this comes in handy at festivals for transporting sleepy kids.

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Step 1: What You Will Need

  • A 'large garden cart' 37" x 20" can be bought on Amazon
    • A parallelogram steering geometry is more stable than a wagon-like, turntable geometry.
  • 3 x 1.5m lengths of 15mm speedfit plumbing pipe
  • 6 x Speedfit plumbing fixing collars
  • Yellow ripstop fabric for cover: 114cm x 138cm
  • Elastic cord and 4 x toggles
  • Plywood base: 41.5cm x 84cm x 6mm thick
  • Seat cushion sponge: 41.5cm x 84cm x 5cm thick
  • Brown vinyl seat cushion cover: 65cm x 108cm (width off the roll)
  • 2 x side cushion sponge: 20.5cm x 82cm x 2.5cm thick
  • 2 x end cushion sponge: 20.5cm x 39.5cm x 2.5cm thick
  • Check cushion fabric: Approximately 1m off the roll
  • Ribbon for the cushion ties
  • Signage for sides of wagon: 20cm x 86.5cm
  • Nylon string
  • PVA Glue
  • Velcro cable ties
  • 2 x Steel Panel (L)1m (W)20mm (T)4mm for the stabilizers.
  • M5 Nuts/bolts/washers

Step 2: Secure Pipe Brackets

Drill holes through the frame at each corner and halfway along suitable for an M5 bolt. Use this to attach the Speedfit plumbing fixing collars as shown.

Step 3: Add Stabilisers (only Required If Your Cart Has Turntable Steering)

Older carts (like mine) have a simpler wagon-like, turntable steering with both wheels attached to a single rigid axle. With this kind of steering there's a risk of the cart tipping on a tight turn, so stabilisers are needed. Newer cart designs use a car-like, parallelogram steering geometry where the wheels remain at the corners, and instead pivot on the axle. In this case, the stabilisers aren't needed.

  • If you have parallelogram steering (or better), go to the next step.

We add stabilisers to prevent the wagon tipping over on a tight turn. As it comes, the cart isn't stable enough to turn with the weight of a child on the front wheels. Two steel strips are bent into shape so that they just clear the ground but can take the weight and act as skids if the cart tips in their direction. These are bolted to the underside of the cart.

I cut two 1m strips down to 77cm and bent a short length at each end to 90º using a hammer and vice. Drill pilot holes through each end then slowly bend the strip around a tyre to get a nice curve (instead of a fold!). Drill and bolt the end at the cart corner first then clamp the other end adjusting the position to get the correct ground spacing - about 1 inch ground clearance. Once you're happy with the position drill and bolt.

Repeat on the other side of the cart.

Step 4: Add the Bows

Clip one end of the three speedfit pipes into the fixing collars along one side, then arch them over to form bows that will support the wagon cover, clipping them into the collar on the opposite side. Use the velcro cable tidies to secure the bows to the sides of the cart.

Step 5: Decorate Your Wagon

The wagon can be personalised by adding side panels. There are lots of good printing services that will print an image onto plastic display board. We used in the UK at £15 for each (855mm wide x 200mm high) display board. Search online for Wild West fonts for that authentic look.

Plastic display board has a handy 'cellular' structure that allows you to thread nylon cord through it, allowing the board to be easily tied to the sides of the cart.

Step 6: Make the Seat Cushion

The seat cushion adds an essential bit of comfort to what is essentially a hard metal cage. Using vinyl makes it easily washable as well.

Start off by gluing the sponge to the plywood base using PVA - they should be the same size. Lay the vinyl face down and place the base sponge down on top of it. Now stretch and staple the vinyl to the board, working your way around the edge. Trim some of the vinyl from the corners so there's not too much excess material.

To complete the cushion cut a vinyl panel to size and PVA this directly to the plywood board, flattening out any bubbles that appear under the vinyl. The finished seat cushion should fit comfortably into the floor of the cart.

Step 7: Make the Side and End Cushions

To make the four side and end cushions wrap the fabric around the 2.5cm sponge as though you're wrapping a parcel, use a few strategically placed pins to hold the material in place then use a tacking stitch to finish off. Stitch a ribbon to the topside of the cushion so that they can be tied to the frame, otherwise they just keep toppling inwards.

Step 8: Make the Canopy

Use the Ripstop to make a rectangular canopy with a hem all the way round (this is where a sewing machine will come in handy). We're going to add a cord at each end with a toggle so that the ends can be loosely closed. Leave the end hems open at the sides so that we can pass an elastic cord through. Tie one end of the cord to a washer or something similar that can be pushed through the opening and along the hem. Once through, thread on a toggle at each end and tie a couple of large knots to hold it in place. Repeat at both ends of the canopy.

The canopy is held in place by creating a fold across the width of the fabric on the inner surface and sewing along the fold allowing enough room to pass a pipe through. This works just like the loop or fold that you find on tents for the tent-pole. Only the seam should be visible from the outside. Attach ribbons at the four ends of the folds which allow the canopy to be tied to the cart.

Step 9: Cover Your Wagon

To cover your wagon, temporarily unclip the two end bows then thread both pipes through the fabric folds. Clip the pipes back in place then tie the canopy to the cart.

Step 10: Imagination Has No Limits

And remember that old cowboy saying, "Don't squat with your spurs on."

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    9 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 8

    Hi there I'm trying to make the Ripstop cover for the wagon. Can you give me any idea how big the fabric should be to make a good fit. Poles are sorted and other things but I'm really struggling knowing where to start on the wagon cover. Thank you in anticipation . E


    Question 1 year ago on Step 4

    Hi Steve. Not sure if your still seeing messages regarding this post but I'll ask anyway.Firstly just want to say great article and really helpful too.I'm currently using this to convert my garden trolley and just wanted to ask if the speedfit pipe you used was definitely 1.5mtrs in length? As I tried a bit that length in the trolley but it doesn't seem as high as yours does in your picture and it doesn't bow out slightly at the edges like your's does. When I temporarily tried a 2mtr length in mine it looked more like it so just wondered if that's right or just a typo or something. I've enclosed a couple of pics so you can see what I mean. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.


    2 years ago

    Hi there, this looks amazing. I love your instructions they are so helpful and straightforward. I have bought a larger garden trolley 131cm x 62cm. I cant figure out how much ripstop I would need to make the canopy or measurements for the cushions?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    UPDATE: At WOMAD this year (2015) I noticed that most of the garden carts now use parallelogram steering (axle-pivot) geometry rather than the simpler turntable-steering that my cart above has. This doesn't have the same risk of toppling over at the extremes of the turn, so the stabilisers wouldn't be needed.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I love this!!! Am going to try to replicate to transport my kids and kit around Glastonbury this yr. Was the speedfit pipe cut off a reel or did you bend the short pre-cut "lengths" of barrier pipe? I've never used it before and these look like they might be straight non-bendable sections?!

    Any tips for a complete novice?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Exactly - it costs so much to hire these Wagon's at festivals, and they're ideal for transporting your gear onto the site too. I bought 3 of the 2m lengths of barrier pipe (didn't even know it was called that) from B&Q, but they're still quite bendy. Drilling the holes in the frame is the hardest part:- using a centre punch to locate the holes stops the drill drifting off-centre, and work your up through the drill sizes. And please don't be tempted to leave out the stabilizers - they make all the difference. Have a glorious Glasto.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks a million for the advice. Will definitely be putting the stabilisers on. Hope mine turns out to look somewhere near as good as yours or I'm going to be in trouble... the 4 year old is adamant that this is the one he wants!!! Will post you a pic when it's finished if the attempt isn't too shameful.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is an awesome transport! I especially like the tip protection you added on the front wheels. Springy enough to take a little bit of tipping, but strong enough to keep the whole thing from flipping over. I'm curious about how they handle on asphalt: is there a lot of noise from them dragging, or do they sit enough above ground level that that isn't an issue?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your interest Kelsey. The wagon I made for my Niece's boys has the stabilisers riding about 1 inch above the ground so there's no dragging unless the cart tilts. I've pulled the thing fully laden for at least a mile over rough terrain (at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta) with no problems.