How to make a busy board for little ones

Our little Lilly is so inquisitive these days – as are most babies and toddlers! Her current interests include light switches, outlets, cords and other potentially dangerous things around the house! To satiate her curiosity and help feed her rapidly growing brain, Nate and I decided to combine all her favorite dangerous things in a safe way for her to explore. I give you …… the busy board!


Busy boards are a must for little ones learning about their world. DIY-ing it is also cost-effective, highly customizable and a great bonding activity for your family – trust me on that one! Plus, a busy board makes an awesome birthday, Christmas or anytime gift for the little explorer in your life!

If you look online, busy boards run anywhere from $15-$200. Quite the range for a bunch of random things stuck to a piece of plywood! Oddly enough, I was never able to find one with a light switch on it (crucial) and of the ones I did find, none were exactly what I wanted for my sweet little one. I took the idea to the hubby and asked him if it was something he wanted to make with me and the rest is all in the blog!

We began by doing a rough sketch of what we thought we wanted on it. We decided by 1) observing the things Lilly tries to play with around the house that are off limits and 2) thinking of things that would help develop her understanding of the world around her. Since she does have a toy or two lying around the house already, we nixed some of the ideas we came up with to avoid being redundant. Things like a ball drop or a bead noise-maker type attachment were two of the ideas that got rejected since she already has multiple toys with those same features. All the items with the red asterisk were things we had laying around the house, the rest we found at either the craft store, home improvement store or Target. All in all, the cost was less than $30.

busy board 6
Michaels has a variety of letter styles/sizes to choose from.

Here is everything that’s on the board:

  • Light switch/switch plate/metal tray
  • Lock* & closed hook
  • Bell
  • Outlet/switch plate/metal tray & plug*
  • Velcro for letters
  • Wooden letters
  • Homemade peg board*
  • Sparkly star*
  • Old measuring spoon set*
  • Mirror*
  • Felt
  • Pop light
  • Treasure chest
  • Sliding latch*
  • Roller wheel
  • 3/4” thick plywood*
  • Wood stain*

The first thing we did was cut down a 3/4” thick piece of plywood that we had laying around from a project my husband did for work, then sanded it thoroughly! We decided 2’x1′ would be enough but the final measurement ended up being exactly 2’ 1″ x 1’ 6″. Enough to hold all that we planned to put on it but not so big that it would dominate the room. Also, a thick piece of plywood will allow you to drill objects down securely without pointy ends sticking out of the back of the board.

For the board color we chose a stain that matches the wood in the rest of the house. I thought the stained wood would look more refined and blend more with our décor than a bright paint color, plus with paint if you don’t do it right you may have the issue of chipping.

busy board 2
Hubby hard at work!

While you’re waiting for the stain to dry, work on your decorative pieces and getting everything ready to be attached to the board. I didn’t like the idea of the gross metal tray (what is this even called?!) being exposed, so I found some appropriately themed tissue paper I had stashed away and wrapped it a few times around the box, securing it with rubber cement and sealing it with clear packing tape.

This little treasure chest is too cute! I like the idea that Lilly can stash away her tiny treasures (when she’s older and can have such small objects!) in it. Plus, I asked Layla to decorate it for her sister and you can see all the love she put into it. ♥ 

busy board 5

Once the stain is completely dry (give it a few days), arrange your objects in a way that you think would be most practical for movement and accessibility. Then, once you’re happy with your layout, begin to attach pieces securely. We used short 8 x 5/8 screws, Velcro, super glue and rubber cement for various pieces.


I secured the pegs to the back of the peg board using thread, then glued and screwed the peg board down.

Give everything a good yank to make sure it’s all secured, then let your little curious one go to town!

Do you think your little one would like a busy board? Say in the comments what objects you would add to yours!

♥ Mia

2 thoughts on “How to make a busy board for little ones

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