Build an Adjustable Toddler Table that Grows with Your Child

adjustable desk for kids
Photo Credit: Alexander Johnson

Adjustable furniture is helpful for children as they grow and develop. As a parent, Alexander Johnson is always looking for ways to encourage learning, creativity, and independence in a fun, engaging way. 

A height-adjustable toddler table allows the desk to be raised easily as the child grows, ensuring a comfortable fit for years. 

On his Instagram account, @easyalex, he shared his fantastic toddler table hack using an IKEA ALEX cabinet. The more straightforward hack would be to connect two ALEX cabinets with a backboard, but space was limited in their playroom and did not allow for two cabinets. 

So, instead, he opted to attach an L-shaped plate to the back of the ALEX storage unit for a more compact solution that maximizes the available play area.

This brilliant addition created a flexible yet sturdy table for his toddler. We foresee hours of crafting, coloring, and reading on this modern activity table.

Materials Needed:

  • IKEA ALEX storage unit with door
  • Wood boards (pine or plywood work well) 
  • Wood screws 
  • Sandpaper 
  • Paint 
  • Stain 

How to make a height-adjustable kids’ desk

Measuring and Cutting the L-Plate Boards:

  1. Measure the height, width, and depth of the ALEX unit. Note these dimensions for cutting the boards. 
  2. Cut a piece of pine board or plywood for the backboard to the width of the ALEX back panel and the desired length for the tabletop surface. 
  3. Cut a second board to the width of the ALEX side panel and the same height as the backboard. This will form the L-shape.

Attaching the L-Plate:  

  1. Center the backboard against the ALEX back panel. Mark positions for screws through the cabinet back to the board.
  2. Screw the backboard securely to the ALEX back panel. Use the appropriate screw length to secure the back panel without poking through. 
  3. Position the side panel along the edge of the backboard at a 90-degree angle. Mark screw positions to attach it.
  4. Pre-drill and screw the side panel to complete the L-plate attachment to the ALEX cabinet.

Adding the Brace Board:

  1. Measure the inside width and depth dimensions of the L-Plate. Cut a brace board to these dimensions from the same pine board/ plywood material. 
  2. Attach the brace board horizontally against the lower back of the L-plate. Ensure square before securing the brace to the back and side panels.

Making a pegboard

  1. On the backboard, determine the layout for the pegboard holes. Measure and mark the positions for the pegboard holes.
  2. Use a Forstner bit in the appropriate size to bore the holes. Center the drill bit on each mark and drill holes straight through the backboard at a 90-degree angle.

Finishing touches

  1. Sand all wood pieces lightly with sandpaper to smooth any rough edges. This helps prevent splinters. 
  2. Then, paint the wood boards in your preferred color. Alex kept his in white to match the ALEX storage cabinet. Consider using vibrant colors to match your child’s bedroom. Allow to fully dry before moving on to the next step. 

Adding the Height Adjustment Slots

  1. Determine the width needed for the wood strips on the ALEX and L-plate side panels. Then, measure the thickness of the tabletop and determine the height needed for the slots.
  2. Measure and mark the ALEX panel to place the evenly spaced strips.
  3. Cut wood strips to the measurements. Pre-drill counterbored holes at the marks to prevent splitting. 
  4. Sand and stain the wood strips before installing them. The darker wood creates a nice touch of warmth to the adjustable desk.
  5. Screw the strips securely to the ALEX cabinet and side panel.  
  6. Check for even spacing and that the tabletop can be securely seated in the slots before finishing. Test the height adjustability by slotting the desk to different toddler-friendly heights. 

Paint the wall behind the table for a pop of color. Place a comfortable toddler chair next to your toddler-friendly, height-adjustable table to complete it.

Things To Consider Before You Build A Toddler Table:

toddler table

Creating a homemade desk is a wonderful way to encourage learning, creativity, and independence in young children. A DIY toddler table provides an adjustable space just for them that can grow along with your child.

When designing your unique toddler-friendly desk, there are some important factors to remember to ensure it is both developmentally appropriate and safe for little hands.

The primary considerations include safety, adjustability, stability, storage, comfort, and finishing. With careful planning and the right design elements, you can build a desk that will foster your toddler’s growth and spark their imagination. Now, let’s explore some of the key aspects to focus on.

  • Safety – Use non-toxic, smooth materials without sharp edges. Secure joins firmly. 
  • Adjustability – Include slots, holes, or other mechanisms to easily raise/lower the height according to the child’s age. 18-24 inches is a typical height range.
  • Sturdy Construction – Reinforce the frame with corner braces, crossbars, or gussets to prevent tipping or collapse. Screws are safer than nails around little hands.
  • Storage Space – Integrate drawers, shelves, or open space underneath the play table for art supplies, crafts, toys, and books within reach. 
  • Comfort – Test the ergonomics with your toddler sitting. The desk should allow an upright posture without slouching. 
  • Clean-up – Choose a durable finish with a wipe-clean surface. Avoid fabrics or porous materials that trap messes.
  • Customization – Add special features like magnetic/ chalkboards, whiteboards, and toy storage trays for engagement. 
  • Finishing – Seal raw wood edges and apply non-toxic sealant or paint. Sand smooth to prevent splinters.
  • Budget – Consider using affordable, accessible materials like plywood and recycled cabinets.
  • Fun factorInvolve your toddler when possible so they feel ownership over their special space.

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