DIY Toy Storage Bench
Create toy storage and a place to sit with this DIY toy storage bench.
In our constant effort to provide homes for the kids’ toys (other than always underfoot), Dean built 4 minimally designed toy storage benches. The first started as a base for our train table and now stores LEGOs. The second holds cars, animals, and train tracks. The third and fourth live in my daughter’s and son’s room, respectively. The most ambitious is my son’s toy bench, which includes a garage and ramps for his die cast cars.
Recently, the kids’ car and animal collections outgrew our available storage and we needed more space for larger toys, like our DIY Encanto Casita. So, we decided to design a corner toy bench using Dean’s same minimal design of pocket hole joints, routed grooves to hold the shelves, and poplar trim to cover exposed plywood edges and lock the shelves in place. The L-shaped configuration added extra steps of attaching the 2 units together and making a corner storage bin with lid.
We finished previous DIY toy storage benches with either chalk paint or satin finish paint. For this corner bench, we added bright color by spray painting the interior shelves pink, green, dark blue, and light blue. The pops of color look great in our all white room.
We love a good DIY storage project. Check out some of our favorites:
- Under Couch Toy Storage From Repurposed Cardboard
- Mounted Garden Tool Storage Box From Repurposed Fence Pickets
- Sports Equipment Storage From Repurposed Fence Panels
- How We Repurpose Plastic Food Containers
- LEGO Organization Saga – Episode 1: Instruction Book Storage
- LEGO Organization Saga – Episode 2: LEGO Model Storage
Why We Love Pocket Holes
At the start of Dean’s carpentry journey, he researched various joint tools and techniques. He settled on pocket hole joinery for most of his projects. Pocket hole joints can be used to connect boards end to end or at a right angle. A pocket hole is a strong joint, plus it is quick and easy (once you get the hang of the process). Pocket holes don’t require many tools – just a drill, wood glue, clamps, and screws. A pocket hole jig makes the process so much easier and can be used for 1/2″ stock and larger. Make sure to use wood glue.
DIY Toy Storage Bench – Materials
The material list is for 2 benches 48″ long, 22″ high, and 15″ deep, connected to form an L-shape. Materials will vary based on bench dimensions.
- two 4′ x 8′ sheets of 3/4″ plywood
- one 4′ x 8′ sheet of 1/4″ plywood
- one 6″ x 8″ x 3/4″ poplar trim board 1/4 x 3/4
- 1 1/4″ self-tapping screws
- wood glue
- brad nails
- wood filler
- primer and paint
- spray paint (optional)
- tape measure
- straight guide
- circular saw
- table saw
- random orbital sander
- Kreg pocket hole jig
- drill with drill bits and screwdriver bit
- 90° angle clamps
- bar clamps
- router with 1/4″ straight bit
- speed square
- brad nailer
- paint supplies
- putty knife
How to Make a DIY Toy Storage Bench
1. Plan and Measure
Decide on bench size and shelf layout, considering the available room space and toy size. Our toy benches are around 22″ tall, 14-17″ deep and 30-48″ long.
Shelf height varies based on design and storage need. We’ve divided the space in half or thirds, with shelves ranging from 7″ to full bench height. For strength, add vertical supports at least every 20″.
2. Cut and Sand Boards
Full size plywood sheets can be tough to handle on a table saw. We cut the first couple pieces with a circular saw, then switched to a table saw when the sheet was smaller and more manageable.
Cut the top, bottom and all vertical supports from 3/4″ plywood. Measure and mark each cut line using a tape measure, speed square, or metal straight guide. Wait to cut shelves and back pieces until bench is assembled to ensure precise measurements.
Here are some tips for cutting a large plywood sheet with a circular saw:
- Build support under plywood sheet, with support on each side of cut line, so that plywood doesn’t fall down after the cut.
- Set the saw depth and check against the plywood edge.
- Adjust cut measurement to account for saw guide.
To accommodate our baseboard heaters, we cut the bottom back of each vertical so the toy bench top rests flush against the wall. We’ve done a similar, but much smaller, cut on benches resting against walls with baseboard moulding.
To cut out the vertical, we used a router against a plywood template. Create a pattern with cardboard. Trace pattern onto scrap plywood and cut with jigsaw to create template. Test fit on baseboard. Sand template’s cut edges. Place template on top of vertical support piece and cut using 3/4″ flush bit on the router. Repeat for each vertical support.
Skip this step if you don’t have baseboard heaters or don’t mind the bench top sitting away from the wall.
Sand all cut edges and surfaces.
3. Create Grooves for Shelves
If you aren’t too comfortable using a router, practice on scrap plywood to get a feel for speed, placement, and pressure.
Label each vertical support and mark the top to avoid confusion later. Mark and cut shelves on two facing verticals at the same time to ensure consistent shelf height. Line up edges and clamp facing verticals to workbench. To prevent router from bucking at the end of the cut, add scrap plywood behind far vertical and extend router cut into the scrap plywood.
Mark shelf placement on facing verticals using a tape measure and straight edge. Clamp metal straight guide to plywood so that router bit is on cut line (measure and account for the router guide).
Set router depth at 1/4″ and cut groove. Repeat for each shelf.
Sand each routed groove.
4. Drill Pocket Holes
After cutting all pieces and routing grooves for the shelves, drill pocket holes using a pocket hole jig. Our jig provides instructions on which settings to use depending on board thickness. We drilled four pocket holes on the top and bottom of the outside vertical supports, and three pocket holes on the top and bottom of the inside verticals.
Sand edges of pocket holes.
5. Assemble DIY Toy Storage Bench
Measure and mark placement of each vertical on bench top and bottom using a tape measure and speed square.
Starting with outside pieces, apply glue to the edge and secure in place on bench top using two 90° clamps and a bar clamp.
The 90° clamps hold vertical supports square to the top and the bar clamp gives pressure onto the joint. Screw in each pocket hole, then remove clamps.
Repeat with inside verticals, then repeat to attach all verticals to the bottom.
6. Add Back and Shelves
Measure, cut, and sand back pieces from 3/4″ plywood to fit between each set of vertical supports. Drill pocket holes in the each back piece to secure to the vertical supports. Recess 3/4″ so the back pieces align with the back of the vertical supports. Attach with wood glue and screws.
Measure, cut, and sand shelves from 1/4″ plywood. Be sure to include 1/4″ for each routed shelf groove. Test fit each shelf in the routed grooves, then sand surfaces and edges. Apply glue to edges and fit shelves in place.
7. Option: Corner
For our L-shaped bench, Dean created a corner storage cubby where the two bench sections come together. He measured and cut 3/4″ plywood to cover the front and enclose the cubby. Then, he drilled pocket holes to attach the front to the two vertical supports and sanded the holes, edges, and sides. Attach with wood glue and pocket holes.
Using an 1 1/4″ Forstner bit, Dean cut two holes in the corner lid as a handle, then sanded the holes with an oscillating spindle sander (hand sanding works also).
These steps aren’t necessary for a single toy bench.
8. Finish DIY Toy Storage Bench
Cut poplar board into 3/8″ wide pieces. Measure, cut, and sand poplar trim to cover any exposed plywood edges. Attach with wood glue and brad nailer.
Fill holes and gaps along trim pieces with wood filler.
When dry, sand and repeat until smooth (filler tends to shrink when it dries).
With two different kinds of wood (poplar and plywood), this toy storage bench isn’t ideal for stain. Before paining, apply a coat of primer. When primer dries, lightly sand, then wipe dust with tack cloth or rag.
We decided to add pops of color to our DIY toy storage bench by spray painting the interior shelves.
Spray paint multiple thin coats in all directions. Use cardboard to protect against overspray.
For little touch-ups, spray paint on a piece of cardboard for several seconds to form a wet patch of paint. Swipe a cotton swab in the patch, then dab any spots that need touch-up. Repeat as needed.
After the spray paint dries on the shelf interior, paint the exterior top and sides with satin, semi-gloss, or gloss finish. Depending on the paint, two coats may be needed. Chalk paint is another great option. I prefer finishing with poly instead of the wax finish, but that is a personal preference.
I added 2 coats of clear matte polyurethane to the bench top and the spray painted areas. The poly should protect against bangs and dents.
If making a corner unit, attach the two benches together with 1″ screws.
Do you have some toys in need of storage? Let us know if we can answer any questions.
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