My boy is turning 1 in a few days’ time and is always on the move, exploring the world. Be it the potted plant, the TV or the cupboards, nothing is safe from his tiny, curious hands. And since we have little boy transport systems sorted for the next few years, what better to occupy him and provide him with the stimulus he needs than a fully-functioning activity board on a budget?
Granted, if you are doing this I will assume that you don’t need to buy the necessary basic tools and some basic craft supplies – if you do, this will be a whole lot more expensive. I have a tendency to keep useful things for later, so if you have enough space for storage, you’ll find all sorts of useful items.
Here is what I used from my home:
- an old coffee table top
- two old CD shelves (but can just be bits of wood)
- leftover wall paint
- a frame, of which the glass had fallen out and broken
- links from the boy’s baby gym, which he has long outgrown
From my tool box:
- nails in 2 sizes (pin size and with a large head)
- insulating tape
- small and large screws (unless supplied with the items you affix)
- Phillips screwdrivers
- flat screwdrivers
- leftover wall fastening bands
- a leftover metal plate (from another wall fastening set)
From my craft materials
- acrylic paints in primary and secondary colours
- stick-on felt
- thick garden wire
- a key ring
- stick-on velcro
- spray varnish
- glue gun
- black pen
- sewing machine
- metallic sheet
What I bought:
- a tiny cafe rod
- 4 butterfly hinges
- a car cleaning mitt
- a stick-on push light and batteries
- a switch
- a push-down door handle
- a bolt lock
- 50cm x 50cm fabric (fat quarter)
- a ‘ring on a plate’
- 2 pull door handles
- wall painting rollers
First, I prepared the table top by sanding it. Then I coated it twice with wall paint.
Next, I painted the background picture. In need of a theme and wanting to keep the whole thing gender neutral, I chose a house front, complete with door, 2 windows, grass and a water hose. In one of the windows, which would later be covered up, I painted 3 of my favourite Disney characters.
Then, the scary screwing work began. I knew that as soon as I’d started making the first hole there’d be no way back. I affixed the cafe rod, bolt and door handle.
I covered the rough edges of my CD shelves with the insulating tape, then screwed on the hinges. Lacking a drill, I made holes with a mixture of nails, screws and screwdrivers until they were big enough for the two pull door handles, then bolted those on, too. Later, I also screwed on the ring on a plate and the metal plate for a make-shift door knocker.
With the help of a chisel, I made a big enough hole to insert the switch.
Both the push light and the frame were glued on. The frame was also (not in the picture yet) secured with a leftover wall fixing band and two nails.
It was only later on that I realised I’d used the wrong door handle and rectified the problem.
I cut the car washing mitt into pieces and was able to use its 3 parts (including the inner sponge) as materials to be glued into the frame. I also used a bit of stick-on felt, cut to size and glued onto more of the sponge. I cut some ribbon to size and used it to cover up the edges between the materials with the help of my glue gun and nails.
The velcro hooks were stuck into the flower basket, with their fluffy sides stuck to the back of some felt flowers I cut out from yet more sticky felt.
I also stuck a piece of metallic sheet to the top-right corner of the Disney window.
I wound the garden wire around a tube, with about 10cm to spare on either side. The spare wire was slightly bent and fed through two holes made into the table with more nail and screwdriver ‘drilling’. I secured the loops with the glue gun on either side of the holes.
I made a loop of thin ribbon and stuck it between two ovals of red sticky tape. They were then drawn on with the black pen to resemble the outline of a British ladybird. I fed the ribbon through the key ring and fed they key ring into the wire loop.
I then doubled up the fabric for the curtains, cut it into two halves and sewed the edges together. I used the eyelets to make holes big enough for the baby gym links.
And here it is: the finished activity board.
The board can either be used as an activity table or can be fixed to the wall. Although I have taken care to make everything as baby-proof as possible, the front is fairly heavy, so needs to be stabilised, so if you make this, never leave it standing free.