Thursday, May 17, 2012

Easy DIY Peg-Board

Easy DIY Peg-Board for your Toddler

I've seen several versions of the Peg-Board Toy out there in the blogosphere.  These fun, creativity- and geometry-inspiring toys consist at the base level of a board containing pegs mounted in a regular grid pattern.  The lucky toddler uses string, yarn, rubber bands, or whatever is handy to make pictures and shapes on the board.
However, most versions of the toy I saw involved starting with a bare piece of wood, doing a lot of measuring and marking, and then hammering or screwing in hardware.  Mine does not!  In fact, if you are OK with a double-sized board, you don't even need a saw!

March 2014 Update: See what I changed a year later

Here's the parts list 
1. A piece of pegboard from the home improvement store.  I found it with the lumber at Home Depot.  It only came in one size - roughly 24 x 48 inches - and cost about $7.50
2. Wooden dowel pegs, 1/4 inch diameter.  These were also at the hardware store, but I had to ask where as they were pretty hidden.  Mine were 72 to a package for somewhere under $3.  You may want two packs.
3. Wood glue
4. Poster board or thin plywood cut to size of pegboard (Optional)
5. An assortment of bright, multi-sized rubber bands. (See below for additional options and our experience.)
We made two boards, and our rough cost each (not counting rubber bands or glue) was $6.50

Step 1
I didn't want to mount this thing permanently on a wall, and I didn't want my kid carrying around something taller than he was, so I cut it in half to a near-square, about 24 inches to a side. (When I say "I," I actually mean my kids' Grandpa.  He's the one with the power-tools!)
This gave me two pieces, one of which I turned into a pegboard for his similarly-aged cousin.

Step 2
Count your holes and decide how frequently to place the pegs.  With only 72 pegs to work with, I calculated that I needed to skip two holes in between each peg.
Ensuring that your work surface is protected, glue pegs into holes.
I found it easiest to apply glue to the peg near the base and slip it into the hole.
Definitely use wood glue: I used plain Elmer's on my first attempt, and my toddler was gleefully pulling out pegs within a day.

Step 3 (Optional) 
Cut a piece of heavy poster board to the same size as the pegboard and glue down to the backside, using plenty of glue.  This should help secure the pegs a little better, and make it look a little cleaner too.

Step 4 (Optional) 
Mount on a wall at your toddler's eye level, or prop on his easel.  We just lean ours against the wall, although we monitor to make sure that it doesn't end up flat on the ground where someone could trip and fall onto the pegs.

Step 5
Provide your toddler with some rubber bands and let him go crazy!

Experience notes:
We've tried standard rubber bands, regular sized hair ties, and the large headwrap sized hair bands I couldn't resist at the Dollar Tree.  We've also tried yarn.
Neither the hair ties nor the headwraps are very good, especially for younger ones.
The standard sized ones are too small: they have very little stretch.
The headwrap ones are better, but because they're intentionally made slippery (so as not to pull your hair), they don't grip the pegs either. I was able to arrange them for my photo-shoot, but I don't think my 3-year-old can manage it.
If you Insist on using hair bands, do yourself a favor and at least avoid the ones with metal joins on them: I can imagine them flying away at speed...
We also didn't use yarn for very long.  It's a lot more complicated: you need to have either clips to attach it to the pegs, or tie loops in the end.  He's not coordinated enough for (finger pinching!) clips, and loops are complicated too: the length has to be just right.  We'll try these options again later, but for now, plain ol' rubber bands are best.

Update 3/2014
It didn't take long before the dowels started coming out all over the place. Apparently tugging on them was simply irresistible to little toddler fingers, and Elmer's wood glue was simply not up to the task. (Have I mentioned that I Hate Glue?!)
After collecting the darned things off the floor for weeks, I finally gave up and put away the board.
Over a year later I found someone who'd made the same basic board, but with 1/4 inch width nuts and bolts instead of wooden dowels. Visit the Crayon Box Chronicles version here.
The hardware cost a bit over $10, but it does actually Work, unlike the glue.  Of course, my now 4-year-old could take the nuts off if he chose, but I've threatened him with permanent loss of the toy should he do so, and thus far he's cooperating.
This same brilliant mommy also used fabric potholder loops instead of rubber bands. While these have some disadvantages - namely that they stretch out eventually and come in just one size - they do have a safety advantage that outweighs any downsides for us at this time.
He really enjoys making shapes on the board, and last night he had an elaborate story concerning what he'd made. He also is beginning to make (or at least ask me to make) letters in addition to geometric shapes. I'm glad I didn't give up on the thing: it really is a good toy!

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