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Making a Children’s Activity Table

A few years ago my wife and I decided to settle down and start a family. As the parents of two small children I can say unequivocally that my opinion about most kid’s toys being seriously overpriced has been borne out.

It first started when we were looking for an activity table for my daughter to play with. We were looking for a kids table that had a storage compartment inside it for all of the art and craft supplies. Looking in the shops, we found that while there were tables available, they generally cost hundreds of dollars and weren’t really very sturdy.

Making a Children’s Activity Table
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Of course, this then lead me to think that with a little effort I could do a lot better for myself with a lot less money. As I was going to build it myself I decided that I’d also add a couple of features so that the table top would double as a blackboard and the removable storage tray could also be filled with water in hotter summer months.

So, how did I build it? Well, after deciding on the design, the first step was to go to the hardware store and choose the removable tray. As the table frame was to be built specifically to fit the tray, it was important to get the tray first.

Once I had the tray, I then bought enough 40mm square pine timber to build a frame around the tray as well as enough for the four table legs and another section that was long enough to build another rectangular frame for the table top.

Testing the table

Other than the timber for the frame, the other things I needed were a piece of 9mm fibre board to be used for the table top, a tin of blackboard paint and another pine plank to be used to make a chair to go with the table. All up, the materials cost less than $60 with the most expensive bits being the paint and tray.

With all of the required materials, the next step was to measure and cut the 40mm pine so I could build the frame. The design I chose to use would simply screw together so there was no need for any fancy joins. The table top was to be big enough to fit snugly over the top of the base without needing any special fasteners or hinges.

Measuring the table rails was easy; I simply measured the plastic tray and added 100mm to the length and width. This would allow enough space to screw the rails together with enough overhang to support the table top.  I chose to make the table legs 550mm tall, just the right height for a toddler to sit at comfortably.

After cutting the wood to length, the next step was to drill the pilot holes for the screws. My aim here was to use 40mm wood screws that I would counter sink 20mm into the rails. This would mean that there was a good strong join while keeping the screws away from little fingers.

With the frame screwed together all that was left to do was sand it down to make sure there were no splinters or sharp edges. After that, it was time to paint. As I didn’t have any waterproof coloured paint handy, I just used some normal water based paint we had handy and gave it a coat of clear varnish once it was dry.

Paing and assemble the table base
The table top frame

With the base complete I then moved onto the table top. The first step here was to measure and cut the rails. The measurements need to allow the inside edge of the table top frame to fit around the tables base. Once again I used counter sunk screws to fix the frame together.

Now that the table top frame was together, the next step was to get out my Router with a 10mm square bit. This was used to cut a ledge around the inside edge of the frame that will allow the blackboard to fit inside and be screwed into place. After the inside was done, I then went around the outside edge with a curved bit so as to remove the sharp angles.

The ledge that I’d cut out then allowed me to measure and cut the fibre board to size. The initial cut was actually made slightly too large and then sanded back. This allowed me to ensure a tight fit. Once the board was the right size, all that was left to do was pre-drill some holes for the screws that would hold it together before giving the pieces a final sand and paint.

The finished table top
Making a Children’s Activity Table

With that, the table was complete and my daughter couldn’t wait to start playing with it. Of course, that’s not the end of the story though. I still needed to make a chair to go with the table but that’s a story for another day.

The details on how this was done can be found here.

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