Nov 08

DIY Kid’s Activity Table


diy playroom decor

Both of my favorite, way-to-expensive kids stores, Pottery Barn Kids and Land of Nod, sell kid’s activity tables with a built in spool of paper for art and projects of all kinds. I have dreamed of getting one for my kid’s play room long before kids were in the picture for us. However, when actually putting together a playroom, $200 or more for a table that your kids are GOING to beat up seems a little silly. So, I decided to experiment with making my own.


The story of this table started 13+ years ago, when my husband, AMGP, moved to North Carolina to start grad school. He didn’t have any furniture to fill his apartment, so he went to a big store that sells new furniture by the room (the nearest Ikea was 3+ hours away, but he had never heard of Ikea anyway). He bought a bed frame, a pine dresser and nightstand, a pair of olive green couches, a set of composite end tables with pine veneer, and a matching coffee table. Instantly furnished bachelor pad. 

Four or so years later, I moved in with him and being a young grad student as well, I was happy to have a furnished apartment with matching furniture. The couches were reasonably stylish at the time, but I never really liked the pine tables. Here is a old picture from a house we lived in 5 or so years ago. 


When we bought a house, we picked out some new furniture, but still needed the old couches and tables to furnish extra living spaces, including our formal living room. I couldn’t live with those pine tables in our “formal” living room, so I decided to stain them darker. Then I got preggers, and a project full of chemical fumes didn’t seem like a great idea. So, AMGP stained the pine veneered tables for me. It wasn’t easy. He sanded through the veneer in one place and still had trouble getting the wood to absorb the stain. Nonetheless, the tables turned out much more attractive than before.



In our new house, AMGP’s old couches and tables have ended up in the play room, which is a great place for them. But I still dreamed about an activity table for YMGP…  So we made our own. I spent around $15, and it took about 15 minutes. Seriously.


We started by mounting a cheap cafe rod to the table. I decided to mount it to the underside of the table. There were two reasons for this decision. First, I had images of the roll of paper getting unwound like a toilet paper roll or being used as a climbing device if it was in plain view. Second, by installing the cafe rod to the underside of the table, this makeover did no visible damage to the table.


The paper is easel paper from the craft store, it costs around $5 a roll. It is 18 inches wide and is the perfect width to fit between the legs of the table. 

On the other side of the table, we mounted two wide metal paper clips  from the office supply section of Wal-Mart to the underside of the table’s apron to hold the other end of the paper. You could simply binder clip the paper to the table, but the hidden clips give it a finished look.


I need to take a second to give credit where credit is due. The activity table was my idea and my plan, but all the drilling and screwing was done by my wonderful husband, AMGP. As I have said before, I am kinda afraid of power tools. Really, he bought the table, he stained the table, he added the paper roll to the table…. this activity table is really his gift to his little boy. Who, by the way, just learned to say “draw”. 


An old coffee table, $15, and 15 minutes (of my husband’s time) and we have a wonderful new addition to our playroom. I can already see it inspiring creativity in the little guy, which make’s this mama VERY happy. 

Do you and/or your partner have any “pre-marital assets” hanging around that could use a makeover?

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  1. Allison @ Dream a Little Bigger

    I know you’re a smartie pants scientist and all, but dang, Laura, this is so smart!

    1. Laura

      Ha. The funny thing is that this was one of those ideas that made me feel smart… it truly doesn’t happen that often 🙂

  2. Cherryl

    Great idea! I think the only thing I would do differently would be to paint the table with chalkboard paint to give the kiddos another medium. love it!

    1. Laura

      Cherrly, that is a super-cool idea. I probably would need to teach my little man not to draw on the furniture first:)

  3. Linda

    Love this! We did something very similar at our daughter’s wedding reception last year. We used white art paper and covered a long, low kids table, with baskets of crayons scattered about. The children (big and little) left drawings and messages for the happy new couple. A sweet momento and a great way to keep the kids occupied.

    1. Laura

      What a wonderful and sweet idea for a wedding (and congratulations to your daughter). Fun for adults, and something to make the kids feel welcome! Thanks so much for sharing, Linda!

  4. Melanie

    THIS IS GENIUS! I LOVE it! Would love to see you link this up over The Weekly Creative – 6 blogs, a ton of fun!

    1. Laura

      Thanks Melanie! Your link party is on my list.

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