How do I make a busy box for my baby?
June 12, 2013 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me make a big box of awesome.

My ten month old baby loves velcro, textured fabrics, soft books with little surprises in them (like, say, a kitty cat hidden underneath a lift-up flap), rattles, flowers, butterflies, latches, switches, hinges and, above all, anything electronic with buttons he can fiddle with.

What I'd like to do is to fashion a box out of wood, paint it, cover portions with pieces of fabric, and then affix to it the aforementioned thingamajigs. I have a good idea of where and what sort of thingamajigs to get to affix to the box and how to make some others, but I have some questions:

- Is there a place where I could purchase a prefabricated cube or box for this sort of thing?

- If not, what dimensions should I make the box? Would a hardware store cut wood to order? Home Depot? Or would a craft store be more appropriate, or maybe an art supply store? I'd like it to be heavy and durable, both so that he can pull himself up on it and so that it won't fall apart. We don't have a saw but we do have tools like hammers, power screwdrivers, hardware, etc.

- What sort of paint is best for this kind of thing?

- What's the best kind of glue or other sort of adhesive to use to affix the things to the box? Should we use screws, nails, etc.? What kind?

- Any cautionary advice?

Any ideas on how to achieve maximum fun appreciated. Say, if you can help me figure out how to spring load a heart behind a little door without using a metal spring, or how to make the buttons do something unexpected when you press them, that kind of thing. All ideas welcome.

Thanks for the help. I'm biting off more than I can chew but I'm committed to making this silly notion a reality.
posted by TryTheTilapia to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
-Something with a crank he can turn, preferably something that turns visible gears.

-Small squares of different textured fabric (check out the scrap bin at a fabric store): fur, burlap, satin, tulle, corduroy, leather, velvet.

-Cutout holes of different shapes, especially if he has something of that shape that juuust fits through the holes.

-Short segments of rope he can tie together in knots and bows (as he gets older).

-And a push button that pops in with one press and pops out with two presses. Those fascinated me as a kid.

Put the box on wheels and it will be just about the best thing ever.

Just make sure that the box is VERY WELL SANDED. I wouldn't paint it at all, just leave it as very well sanded unfinished wood. (My dad made my brother and me a lot of wooden toys growing up, and painting them would have been sacrilegious.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:03 AM on June 12, 2013

Yes, you can buy a prefab wooden box at the hardware store.
A bigger box would have more space and also be a good sturdy thing for a baby to hold onto.
Screws are less likely to fall out than nails.
You know those wooden boxes with thick wires with beads that you see in dentists' offices? They are popular for a reason.
Don't have it make noise unless you want to hear that noise over and over for five hours straight every day.
A key (firmly tied to a ribbon) and lock that opens a little door might be fun, but maybe too advanced right now.
posted by steinwald at 8:08 AM on June 12, 2013

If you buy a pre-fabricated box, I'm not sure how you'll know whether the wood was treated with any chemicals that you don't want your baby exposed to. For example, if the box is from China, it may have been fumigated (due to US import laws). I have no idea whether that leaves any chemical residue.
posted by Dansaman at 8:29 AM on June 12, 2013

If you buy one of these wooden boxes be sure to buy some sandpaper to prevent splinters. Also, instead of of attaching things with glue do it with screws, then you can change stuff. Just make sure they cannot come loose easily.

Do you have any friends or relatives nearby who have basic carpentry skills and a little free time? It's not a big job and someone who knows what they're doing can build it from scratch in less than an hour. Consider hiring a local handyperson for an hour.

This sounds so much more wonderful than all that ubiquitous plastic crap with obnoxious noises.
posted by mareli at 8:35 AM on June 12, 2013

Any cautionary advice?

Don't spend too much time/money/effort on this project because when you have an 11-month-old, you might have a baby with a completely different set of interests.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:55 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's a great project. If you can find an old wooden drawer, that would work, or a wood tray that you could put on legs, like a tiny desk. Add a switch, esp. if it can safely light a small led bulb. I'd use Gorilla glue, which is quite strong, or white school glue, which is not so strong, but is non-toxic. As baby grows you can add different stuff.
posted by theora55 at 10:28 AM on June 12, 2013

At my kids' pediatrician's office, right on the front of the (tall) receptionist desk are a bunch of tiny little doors that close with different types of mechanisms (latches, locks, other things I can't recall) and behind each little door is a fun picture. Each little door is about 6" square, and it keeps the kids occupied while I'm checking in and paying. I'll see if I can find a photo of it.

Somehow, that should be part of the box.
posted by pyjammy at 10:33 AM on June 12, 2013

Ah, found a picture.

Here's a similar toy, also.
posted by pyjammy at 10:34 AM on June 12, 2013

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