I told you guys all about how my nephew turned ONE last week (with these smash cake tips!) but what I didn’t chat about is the gift I gave him for this exciting milestone. I wanted to share the entire process on Insta Stories, but since I was trying to keep it a secret from his parents, I had to keep the project under wraps until the party.
But now that the party is over (and the secret is out), I’m excited for the chance to share this DIY project with all of you.
A Personalized Gift for Years to Come
I DIY-ed this mini tool bench for him to enjoy for years to come and am excited to share the process with you guys, especially since it was a lot easier than I thought it would be! Of course I could have saved a lot of time by buying a pre-made tool bench, like this one, but I wanted to create one that looked a little less plastic/colorful and a bit more aligned with her home’s style/decor. That way it would blend in with her home and she wouldn’t feel as bad keeping it out and about 24/7.
DIY Kid’s Tool Bench
If you’re looking to recreate this look, I’m going to break down the process as much as I can. However I think it’s important to point out that there’s not one right way to tackle this project, so feel free to add your own style to this DIY project so it will fit your home or your child’s needs!
- 30″ W x 18″ H x 12″ D Unfinished Cabinet (I bought this one, but you can upcycle one from home rehab places)
- Unfinished Oak Stair Tread (awesome because it has a rounded edge for safety purposes!)
- 1×4 Piece of Oak
- Varnish (optional)
- Paint/Paint Brush
- 3 pieces of scrap wood
- Screws (<1″ & 1.5″)
- Miter Saw
- Two 1×2″ MDF Pieces
- Pegboard Organizer (I used these)
- Kiddie Tools (I bought these)
- Touch Lights
There are a ton of different ways you can tackle this project, and lots of variations you can add to customize it to your specific space. I’m sharing the steps my dad and I took to build this DIY tool bench, but please feel free to adjust the look/steps in order to make your tool bench align with your home!
The first thing you want to do is paint the cabinet. I bought this cabinet unfinished from Lowe’s and painted it Sherwin Williams’ African Gray (#9162). If you’re looking to save money on this project, you can probably find similar sized cabinets at a home rehab store like Habitat for Humanity and still customize it to fit your space. This sized cabinet is the one that goes over the refrigerator, so keep your eyes peeled for that style so that it’s the perfect height for your little one.
Now it’s time to stain the pieces that will eventually become the countertop of the tool bench. I used one coat of this color to get a light, more natural look and later ended up varnishing the top so that it will withstand a little more wear and tear over time.
You can use a regular piece of wood to create the countertop but I chose to use a stair tread because it had a rounded edge that seemed a lot safer for the little ones to play with.
3. Cut Down the Countertop and Attach
I had the stair tread cut down to size at Lowes, with a 4 inch hangover on each side of the cabinet. Before I attached that to the top of the cabinet, we nailed in some scrap pieces of wood to the top of the cabinet so that the tread would have more solid wood to adhere to.
After attaching the scrap wood, we made our marks and flipped over both the stair tread and cabinet and screwed it on from inside of the cabinet (using six 1.5″ screws, one for each corner and two in the middle).
Once that was attached, we screwed in the stained 1×4 (cut to size) onto the back of the stair tread so that it looked like the back of a countertop.
4. Prepare the Pegboard
I bought a 2’x4′ piece of pegboard from Home Depot, and had it cut down to size in store. I also bought two 1″x2″ MDF pieces that would act as supporting straps on the back of the pegboard. Regular wood would work for this part, but I went with the MDF because it was already white and blended well with the white pegboard.
Rookie Tip: Wherever you add the straps on the back of the pegboard, you won’t be able to add pegs/tools in that spot. Therefore the thinner the wood, the better!
Extra Credit: Creating Finishing Corners on the Pegboard
We bought a plastic pencil round border edge trim at Home Depot (in the molding section) and snapped that on the top of the pegboard to make it a finished edge. Be prepared because this step was not hard, but it did take some patience, a hammer, and a little muscle. If we were to do this project again, both my dad and I said we would probably add this trim all the way around the pegboard to really make it looked “finished”.
5. Attach the Pegboard
Once the two straps are connected to the pegboard, it’s time to connect the pegboard to the back of the cabinet. Make sure the screws are the perfect size because you don’t want these screws to poke through the inside of the cabinet, making a dangerous situation for a little one.
6. Varnish (Optional)
We decided to add 3 coats of varnish to the countertop wood so that it would hold up to more wear and tear over the years. We don’t anticipate any crayons or unexpected stains to impact this tool bench, BUT you can never be too safe with kids, right? The varnished top makes cleaning it a little easier too.
7. Add the Tools & Lights
Now it’s time for the fun part! Once everything is secure and dry, it’s time to add the pegboard organizers with the kiddie tools. We had so much fun organizing all of the tools and adding more kid-friendly tools from my garage, like a mini paint brush and some old painter’s tape!
The tools came with bolts and screws, which are both still a little small for my nephew to play with. I love that the organizer came with jars because they can be tightly attached to the pegboard to keep the small parts secure until Owen is old enough to play with them.
We also added two tap on/tap off lights to the inside of the cabinets with velcro. It was a $5 expense that made it look a lot more official!
Extra Credit: Fine Motor Development
I’m also thinking about adding fine motor gadgets for him to play with on the one side of the outside of the cabinet, but I wanted to confirm that with my sister before moving forward. Adding (non-powered) light switches, locks, or anything else he can twist/pull/manipulate would be a simple way to help develop his fine motor skills while keeping him super engaged. The kid loves all of those things, so having some he can actually play with would keep him entertained for sure!
Because Owen is still very young, I chose to take a few extra precautions just to be safe.
I found these “bumpers” that stick to the countertop corners. I don’t think it’s necessary for all ages but I’d rather be safe, especially since this is a gift. They have stick pads inside of them so when Owen gets older it will be easy to remove them.
My sister hasn’t decided where she wants this tool bench to live in her house, but when she does she plans on strapping it to the wall so that there is no chance that it will ever tip over on her little guy. The cabinet is very sturdy and doesn’t seem like it would ever tip over, but you can never be too safe.
I’m happy to report that Owen LOVES his new tool bench. He’s pretty obsessed with opening, closing, and exploring ALL cabinets. So having an entire cabinet that he can freely open, close, and explore is probably his favorite part! He also stays busy playing with the tools, as much as a one-year-old can.
I’m sure he will continue to grow into this DIY tool bench. As he gets taller I told my sister we can always add mini furniture legs onto the bottom of the cabinets to add height. But for now it’s the perfect way to keep him engaged. Hopefully in a few years I’ll have another DIY partner to work with. #DIYerinTraining