How to make a toddler busy board

Once I came across the idea of making a Busy Board for my little guy, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. They looked like to much fun to play with, and fun to make too! I’ll be honest – I am usually more of an Amazon Mom than a Pinterest Mom, but something about this project got me really excited.

Why Busy Boards are great learning tools for toddlers

A Busy Board is a Montessori toy that stimulates learn through sensory and experiments. It helps toddlers learn how to use everyday objects, explore cause-and-effect, and develop their fine motor skills. Its great because they can learn how things work at their own pace. Montessori Busy Boards encourage sensory play which goes hand-in-hand with brain development. It encourages fine and gross motor skills, problem-solving skills, and cognitive growth.

How to make a Busy Board of your own

I am by no means an expert DIY-er, but I worked hard on this particular project and think it came out pretty cute! Below I explain my process step-by-step. And if you head to my Instagram you can see the whole process in action!

Step 1: Search around for some Busy Board inspiration

I had a good idea of some things I wanted to include on my Busy Board, but I had to head to Pinterest for some Busy Board inspiration. It did not disappoint! I was able to get some many more ideas by doing a little research, so much so I couldn’t even fit them all on the board I made!

Step 2: Grab supplies from the hardware store, Amazon, and random things in your house

This step is where you can start to get creative. First, I would make a list of all of the things you need based on the kind of Busy Board you want to make. Below is a list of things you can think about using, but the world is your oyster. There are so many things that you can find around the house to stick on here.

Supplies and objects to consider:

  • ¾” piece of sanded plywood, cut to any size you’d like
  • Chain lock
  • Bolt lock
  • Keys or key chain
  • Door stop
  • PVC pipe
  • LED battery-operated push light
  • Magnet strip
  • Doorknob
  • Light switch
  • Calculator
  • Door knocker
  • Pad lock
  • Zipper
  • Buckle
  • Wood stain
  • Paint

Step 3: Paint or stain plywood board

This is where you can really start putting your personal touch on this thing. I wanted to go with a natural look with calming colors so the stimulation would come from objects themselves. Other boards I have seen were more colorful and had great designs. I used a Natural Classic Wood Stain for a timeless look and then picked 3 paint colors to create designs behind the objects. Make sure you get some painter’s tape if you are going to go this route.  

If you are interested in staining your wood, I encourage you to take a look at this incredibly useful article from Chris Loves Julia that shows how different stains look on 5 different types of wood!

Step 4. Layout your board

Next, I planned out the layout of my board. I planned this based on what I thought Charlie would reach for most and how things fit best. I also deiced to leave a little room to add things as time went on. This ended up begin a good decision because the magnetic strip and LED light were both last-minute decisions!

Step 5: Apply painter’s tape and paint any designs on your board

This was one of the most fun steps for me. I got creative with some of the designs on my board and really had fun with it. This was actually the first time I have used painter’s tape to create designs like this and I’m already looking for more things I can paint. Anyone have a blank wall they want to volunteer?

Step 6: Nail, screw, and adhere your objects onto the board

Once the paint has dried you can finally start putting your objects onto the Busy Board. Some of the items, like the chain lock, the door stop, and the wheel, for example, had obvious ways to screw the items onto the board. Other items, like the PVC pipe and the key chain, required a little hacking and critical thinking.

Bonus! I added a handle to the top of my board so I was able to carry it from room to room. Highly recommend this if you are making a bigger board that may be hard to carry.

The best part about this project is that there is no right or wrong way for this to turn out. If you end up buying a light switch and cannot figure out how to get it on the board, just skip it and go with the easier items.

My little guy loves playing with his busy board. His favorite activities are putting a golf ball down the PVC pipe, playing with the wheel and keys, and “boinking” the door stop. If you end up making one, I would love to see the final result so shoot me an email or tag me on Instagram.

Still not convinced you want to get out the tools to make your own? No problem.

Here are some great busy board options that you can have delivered to your door with in days. And no feeling guilty for ordering instead of DIY-ing! I promise you – your toddler will not know the difference.

Busy Boards Under $50

  1. Busy Board with spinner, zipper, locks keys and more
  2. Small puzzle busy board
  3. A sensory cube to use on-the-go with all of the busy board activities

Busy Boards Over $50

  1. Busy Board with wheel, counting beads, numbers, bells and more
  2. Busy board with wheel, zipper, googly eyes, shoe laces, locks and more
  3. Busy board meant to be used on the go
  4. The most gorgeous busy board option that pulls out all of the stops


  • Corynn
    November 11, 2020 at 1:42 am

    I love this ! I’ve always wanted to make a busy board and now you are setting me up with the tools to do so..

    • sarah
      November 14, 2020 at 3:00 am

      Hey mama! I’m so glad. If you have any questions, let me know!

  • yify
    December 20, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    This design is spectacular! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Barbi Russ Au

    • sarah
      December 21, 2020 at 2:34 am

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂


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