Let me tell you – it’s been a bittersweet week.
Sweet, because Jolie turned ONE last week! 🙂
Bitter, because Colson left for Army Basic Training exactly a week later. 😦
*all the feels*
Before he left, though, we had a project to work on together, which I’m incredibly thankful for – Jolie’s Busy Bench.
We had been toying (pun intended) for a few weeks with what to buy her for her birthday – a cute little reading chair and kiddie bookshelves? Clothes? Money to her college fund?
Colson came up with the idea to make a busy board, and I’m so thankful he did!
*For those of you who don’t know what a “Busy Board” is, it’s basically a sheet of wood with a bunch of things attached that a baby or toddler can play with – you know, all the stuff in real life that they never get to touch, like door handles, light switches, and toilet paper rolls. It’s a great way to work on practical motor skills!*
So, off to Pinterest I went, perusing for inspiration. (er… pinspiration?)
Here were a few of my favorite ideas (you can click the pictures to check out the websites they’re originally from):
My mom and I ended up going to Habitat ReStore, which is a great place to search for random home-ey goodies.
We came across a box, which was about 30 inches across, a foot tall, and was open in the back and the bottom (I had a picture, but alas, in the transition to my new phone, it got lost!).
I thought that might be a good addition to the bottom of a busy box, to provide more stability and surface area for fun playthings!
For the actual board itself, we decided to go with pegboard. This provides lots of flexibility, because we used zip-ties to attach most things, which means we can switch things out as she grows or gets bored. We bought it at ACE Hardware because my brother works there (shoutout, bro). We purchased the biggest size pegboard, then had them cut it down to the size we wanted (did you know they could do that for you?). Then we just nailed it to the back of the box, and BOOM. Busy Bench!
So, after lots of loud hammering and drilling (sorry neighbors), here’s the finished product:
(Jolie had already removed the “O” … I swear I know how to spell her name! 😉 )
Here are the details:
A mini baking pan, found at The Dollar Tree. Number magnets, which can be found on Amazon by clicking HERE. I chose these magnets because they’re big enough that Jolie can’t choke on them (except that #1 still makes me nervous!), and the entire back is a sheet of magnet rather than just a small glued-on magnet that she could pull off and choke on or swallow. We simply drilled two holes in the pan, then used wide-head nails to hammer it in.
A really cute pencil case, again, found at The Dollar Tree (are we seeing a trend here?). We nailed down the back edge of the case, and filled it with little goodies (all dollar store) – Princess necklaces, a kitchen timer, and a calculator. She loves playing with the zipper and pulling everything out!
A really fun-textured microfiber cleaning cloth! Again, Dollar Tree. Nailed down on each end so she can mess with it. The box is a really solid wood, and we used thick nails, so this thing isn’t budging (trust me, I tried!).
Dollar Tree textured paper, which I just taped down to the top of the box then finished off by nailing down the edges with smaller long nails. She loves running her hands along it to feel the texture and hear the sound it makes!
A clock, a ruler, and a tic-tac-toe game, all found at Dollar Tree. The clock was actually one of those “CLOSED: BE BACK AT THIS TIME” signs, but I just cut the clock off. I think it’ll be a great teaching tool when she’s a little older! As far as tic-tac-toe, she just likes to twirl the Xs and Ox around. 🙂 I figure when she’s older, I can teach her how to measure things we’ll keep in the pencil case with the ruler.
My favorite part: the LIGHTS! Those adorable animal push-lights are from (wow, you guessed it) Dollar Tree. They came with a sticky back, but it was way too easy to pull them off and expose the battery pack, so I zip-tied them down as well. That orange light switch on the top right? Hy-Vee, $5. Who would have guessed? Came with a VERY sticky back, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere. And the switch itself is an actual light, so when she flips it, it turns on! Best part of this whole thing, I’m telling you.
Velcro letters! These were actually just glittered wooden letters I bought at Hobby Lobby, so I purchased stick-on velcro, cut it up, and stuck it to the back. The felt was also purchased @ Hobs Lobs, then we just cut it to the size we wanted and nail-gunned it on (let me tell you, nail guns are fun. Too much fun). I came up with this idea because in the future I’d love to use this same board for another child (either mine or as a gift), so this way we can change the name!
Some “tools” to complete her work bench! From left to right (all Dollar Tree): A rolling back massager, a pain brush, a whisk, and a mirror. Let me tell you, that daughter of mine loves mirrors, and she always gives herself a little kiss. ❤ We attached these with some pegboard hooks, secured down with zip-ties. Otherwise those hooks are pretty small, and could be pulled out and swallowed! Not on my watch!
My second-favorite part – the color station! I bought a large pill organizer at Hy-Vee, then used scrapbook paper, stickers, and Mod Podge to decorate the tops. Inside, I put these craft pom-poms to match each color, so she can sort them into the right slot. Make sure to get big enough pom-poms that your little one won’t swallow them! These are 1.5 inches across. I still watch her very closely when she’s playing with them.
The toilet paper roll! ACE Hardware provided the hardware (surprising), then I just found an empty TP tube. My mom sewed together a bunch of fabric squares which I hot-glued to the roll, and viola – a toilet paper roll she can pull on without getting in trouble!
You’re gonna love this one. These little balls are actually cat toys I found at Dollar Tree. They have bells inside, so she LOVES messing with them. I looped them onto these metal things left over from another craft (I have no clue what they’re called – comment below if you do!), then attached the loop with a zip-tie.
And finally – the hardware! We’ve got a chain lock (top left, cut off slightly), some hinges she loves to open and close, a wheel she can spin, one of those doingy things that stops doors, a paper towel holder and some cabinet handles with shower curtain hooks on them, and a tie holder across the bottom which she has never given a second glance even though it’s super cool. All the hardware was from ACE, the tie rack was from Habitat ReStore, and the orange shower curtain hooks were from the Dollar Tree.
And we’ll finish off with a couple of action shots, featuring Gromit the One Who Pees On Everything I Hold Dear:
Here are some tips for those of you who are going to embark on this Busy Board journey:
- Buy or find your board/box FIRST. I made the mistake of going crazy at the Dollar Tree & ACE Hardware first, and there’s a whole bag of stuff that just wasn’t going to fit on this board. Sad day.
- SAFETY FIRST! Our board is completely closed in the back, so the only way she could get to any exposed nails or screws would be to completely topple this thing over and reach her hand up the bottom of the box. On the back there’s only zip-ties, but we’re still planning on keeping it against a wall so she can’t knock it over or some how hurt herself on a zip-tie (which I guess is possible, because toddlers seem to be able to make any situation dangerous…)
- I highly recommend Peg Board and zip-ties, but the downside is that it’s too thin to hold heavier hardware like locks or door doingy thingies. Someone please tell me what those things are called. But you could still put other fun things!
- Go for durability. I kept thinking, “Oh, there’s no way she’ll be able to pull those off,” and then she literally demolished half the board in the first 10 minutes of playing with it. So, assume that your child is going to turn green and become the Hulk while playing with this thing, which is really not too far from the truth.
- Enjoy the process! Making this board was half the fun for me. Watching her play with it just makes the whole process more satisfying.
If you have any questions about this process or are interested in having a busy board made for you, don’t hesitate to reach out! My social media links are to the left, or you can click the “CONTACT KELSIE” link to the left to email me.
Happy crafting, friends!