This DIY Kids Workbench is suitable for a variety of ages, has a chalkboard top for extra play, and includes FREE printable plans!
Last week, my friend and I built a goat milking stand in her garage, while simultaneously chasing around her 15-month-old daughter. It was a ton of fun, but you know what I thought would make it even more fun? If her daughter had her very own DIY kids workbench to play at!
While 15 months might be a little young for workbench set, I figured if we planned it right, the tool bench could be something she grows into.
(Plus, I am philosophically opposed to any child thinking building is only for boys. Am I brainwashing kids from the cradle? Maybe.)
Note: This blog contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)
Ideas and Planning
Since I was making this for a child so young, I really wanted to make sure it was something that would both be fun now and yet still relevant in 1-2 years. There are a couple of ways I accomplished this:
- There are two lower shelves in this plan. The lowest shelf holds a box of scrap wood. At 15-months, stacking is still a lot of fun.
The scrap wood pieces I grabbed are a variety of basic shapes- rectangles, squares, triangles and trapezoids, that can be stacked in interesting ways. When she gets older, the scrap pieces can be used as “building material.”
- The DIY kids workbench is built with the tabletop at 24″ tall. This is a little tall for her right now, but her mother assured me that we can put a block or stepstool in front of it for her to stand on until she’s tall enough.
- I intentionally chose an interactive toolset that had large pieces. There are a number childrens’ toolsets available on the market. Some are realistic. Some have screws and nails that can be attached to other pieces.
At the moment, large play tools are what is age-appropriate, but in a year or two, I want her to have an interactive experience. Thus, the toolset I chose has large tools, but also contains screws and nails that interact with the top. For now, the smaller pieces live in the toolbox underneath the workbench, but someday….
- I painted the top with chalkboard paint, so it can be drawn on with chalk. I was doing everything I could to make this an entertaining toy, so my friend could get some work done in the garage!
Paint is the only finish I used on this project. For more information on this choice, grab out my Fabulously Finished Reference Bundle, designed to ensure always get a perfect finish!
Materials and Tools
- (4) 2 x 2 x 8 Foot Boards – For the frame
- (1) Half Sheet of 3/4″ Plywood – For the shelves and top
- (1) 2′ x 4′ Pegboard Piece – For the back
- (1) 1″ x 2″ x 8′ or Thin Scrap Wood – For securing the toolbox top
- 2 1/2″ Pocket Hole Screws
- 1 1/4″ Pocket Hole Screws
- 1″ Screws
- 2 1/2″ Screws
- Wood Glue
- Battat Builder’s Toolkit (or other play toolset)
For the full cutlist, cut diagram, including all dimensions, download the free DIY Kids Workbench printable plans!
DIY Kids Workbench: The Process
Step 1: Cut and Prep All Frame Pieces
Cut, sand, and add pocket holes to all 2×2 pieces that will make up the frame. For cut diagram, exact dimensions, and pocket hole placement, download the free printable plans!
Step 2: Build Sides
Lay out each the side pieces on the ground as shown below. I faced the pocket holes toward the middle of the structure, but it would probably be better if they faced down.
Notice that the long pieces are on opposite sides. This ensures that when the kids tool bench stands up, my pocket holes will face the inside of the structure, and therefore wont be seen. This is a non-issue if you faced your pocket holes down as I mentioned above.
Attach the middle pieces to each of the legs using 2 1/2″ pocket holes screws and wood glue. Be sure to clamp each joint securely before driving screws.
Step 3: Connect the Two Sides
Balance the sides on the long legs, so that the sides are perpendicular to the ground. Lay two middle pieces between the sides, making sure the two new pieces have the pocket holes facing down.
Clamp to secure, the attach each piece with pocket hole screws. Then flip the frame over, and attach the two front pieces using wood glue and pocket hole screws.
Finally, stand the workbench either upright or on its front, and attach the remaining two back pieces using wood glue and pocket hole screws. The pocket holes should be facing the back of the structure as to not be seen.
Step 4: Cut and Install the Lower Shelves
We held off cutting the shelves in step 1 because they go in the middle of the frame we built. Because of this, they need to be very accurately sized, else they may not fit.
While I’ve provided approximate measurements in the free DIY Kids Workbench Plans, you should definitely measure your space before cutting.
Once you’ve measured and cut the 3/4″ plywood shelves, add pocket holes to the back. I added three pocket holes on each shorter side, and four on each longer side, as shown below.
I 100% eyeballed the pocket hole placement. Nobody’s going to see them, and it doesn’t affect the structural stability of the workbench.
You’ll note that I painted the frame and shelves before moving on. I thought that would make it faster, since they were going to be different colors. But honestly, it really slowed things down, and I’d recommend painting the piece at the end, not in the middle like I did.
Start by attaching the upper shelf to the frame using 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws. I started with what I thought was a clever setup:
But honestly, it was easier to just lay the tool bench on its back and use my hands to make sure the plywood was aligned with the frame.
Step 5: Prepare Top
Once again, this piece needs to be measured to fit the frame you’ve built. If in doubt, cut a little bit to be sure the top fits around the frame.
Once you’ve measured and cut your top, add pocket holes to all four sides of the plywood. If you’re embedding a pre-built piece into the top, and the piece comes close to the edges, make sure to shift your pocket holes as necessary.
Since I embedded the Battat toolbox top into the the workbench, I had a bit of extra work to do. I started by tracing the toolbox top on my plywood.
Then I drilled a hole in each corner, and cut out the rectangle with my jigsaw.
After I had a general rectangle cut, it took me another 10-15 minutes of trimming the cut (still with the jigsaw) to get the toolbox top to fit.
Once I knew the toolbox top fit, I took it back out, and attached the plywood piece to the remaining frame pieces (with 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.) This allowed me to lay all the pieces flat on the floor, which wouldn’t have been possible if I’d already secured the toolbox top.
Finally I secured the toolbox top. Since the sides were angled (the top footprint was smaller than the bottom,) it would be difficult to pull the top out. Therefore, a little glue on the sides and some scrap wood pieces screwed underneath the toolbox top were all that was necessary to keep it in place.
I actually ended up removing the Home Depot paint stirrer in the middle; it could be seen from the top of the workbench, and I didn’t like how it looked.
Step 6: Install Top
Place the top in its spot on the frame. Mine fit snugly, so I was able to make sure it was level in the upright position, then turn it on its back to drive in the pocket hole screws.
Then I turned the DIY kids workbench upright, and drove one 2 1/2″ screw from the top down into each front leg. I was careful to countersink these screws so that they could be covered with wood filler, sanded, and painted.
Finally, to make sure the 2x2s surrounding the top were connected to the main frame in the front, I drove one 2 1/2″ screw through each front leg and into the 2×2 on the front of the top.
Step 7: Attach Pegboard
Truthfully, I did this before I attached the top, because I was waiting for the paint to dry, but I think attaching it last makes the most sense otherwise. Lay the kids tool bench on its front, place the pegboard in place on the back of the workbench, and drive a 1″ screw into each corner of the pegboard.
If you have a brad nailer, add brad nails along the sides of the pegboard for extra support. If you don’t have a brad nailer, adding more 1″ screws works as well.
This plan uses a ton of pocket holes. Is there a pocket hole jig you’d recommend?
I have the Kreg Jig 320. It’s small, so for a project like this you’ll be moving the jig around and reclamping it pretty often, but it’s budget-friendly and gets the job done!
Do you have a video tutorial of the DIY kids tool bench?
Yes, I do! Check it out on Youtube!
What paint colors did you use?
I wish I could tell you! The light blue frame is a mix of some white paint and some dark blue paint, all of which I already had in the basement…
The black shelves/top is chalkboard paint.
Do I have to use the same toy toolbox you did?
No, not at all! Feel free to use any kids tool set you want. You don’t even have to embed part of it in the top of the bench if that doesn’t make sense.
I am obsessed with how cute the kids workbench looks. I thought it’d be a fun toy for the garage. I didn’t think it’d look adorable enough to take inside. I was wrong.
I haven’t had the chance to deliver it yet, but I think it’s going to be very loved!
And hopefully, it’ll be entertaining enough to give my friend a couple more seconds to get something done without being interrupted!