Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to Build a Tabletop Play Station for Legos

My kids have been begging for Legos for probably a year now.  We said they had to wait until the littlest sister turned two.  In due time, she did, so we gave them their first sets for Christmas.  I also got out all my Legos from when I was a kid.  They went nuts.  They're so creative with them, my dad also went nuts and bought them a whole lot more Legos.  Now my six-year-old son spends 95% of his indoor playtime building with Legos.  My four-year-old daughter spends hours with them too.  The two-year-old loves to build towers from two-by-two bricks.  It's great!

But, as we all know, with many Legos come many sore parental feet.  So I built them a tabletop play station that fit on our card table.  They loved it.  And it worked perfectly!  No Legos all over the floor, no parents howling in pain, no lost Legos (or at least, not many).  It was great.  Took me under two hours to build.

And then we outgrew it.  Remember how I said my dad went a little nuts and started buying them more Legos?  Yeah.  By the end of January, they couldn't really play on the table very well.  (Too many toys is not always a good thing, it seems...)  So I decided to build a bigger play station to fit on this folding table we use when we have lots of people over for Thanksgiving or Easter, etc.  Back I went to the home improvement store for more building material.  A friend had loved my first table so much she wanted me to tell her how to make one herself for her kids, so this time, I took pictures.  And now I finally have time to write up the instructions.  Here you go!

What you need:

  • A saw to cut the sides the right length
  • Thin "wood" for the base -- I used whiteboard the first time and that was the best, but it was the wrong size the second time around.  Get the folks at the home improvement store to cut this to size for you.
  • Edging trim for the sides.  I sawed this myself to get it precisely right.
  • Something to sand with.  I don't recommend these squashy sanding blocks at all.  Look how ripped-up it got after making this one table!  Use sandpaper.
  • Hammer and nails

Step One:  Cut your sides to the right size.  You want them to overlap so you can nail them together, and I find the easiest way is like this:

So you want your sides to be the length of a side of your base MINUS the width of your siding material so it will all be flush in the end, like this:

Step Two:  Set up your sides and use one nail on each corner to hold it together so it won't fall over on you all the time.

Make sure you have this upside down so you can put the bottom on top of it and your edges won't be upside-down once you're finished.

Step Three:  Start nailing the bottom on!  Make sure your edges are flush and your corners are square -- check often as you go along.  I recommend starting with a short side and spacing your nails about six inches apart, or closer.

Be not to put your nails too close to the edge or they'll do this:

Obviously, since this table is intended for little fingers, that can't be left that way.  I had no fewer than six nails do that with my second table.  None my first table, but I used a fancier (and more expensive) trim on it that was a little thicker.  Fortunately, I always carry this in my pocket:

So I pried those nails out pretty easily.  I don't know what I'd do without my Swiss Army Knife!  I use the scissors daily, the screwdrivers at least once a week, the blades to open packages or letters... I love it.

Anyway, here's a look at my finished product:

As you can see... my table is warped!  Argh!  Who knew?  Too many moves, or too much time in the garage -- I don't know.  But I transferred the play station to a couple other tables, and it's just fine:

There you have it!  I've saved the smaller table to use for really big jigsaw puzzles when they're older, since it fits on the card table so nicely.  This play station also totally works on the floor too, though more Legos end up on the floor then, and that kind of defeats the whole purpose of saving adults from stepping on them.


  1. that is very nice! My brother-in-law made his son a train table last year. He nailed some of the main tracks to the table so my nephew wouldn't lose them, and its amazing! You are an amazing mom!

    1. Thanks!

      I would have loved to have make a Thomas table when my son was smaller, but we had too small an apartment at the time. Now we have too many Thomas tracks!

  2. The first thing I'd want to do is build a structure that hooks over the edge of the table and start building stairs down to the floor. Or a bridge that spans the entire table. Or a wall to separate my area from my barbarian sister's area. Cool idea.

    1. Well, when you come visit us, you can do that! Maybe all of those.

  3. Looks like a great idea and very practical! I also have a Swiss army knife, I don't carry it with me always, but I take it on holiday. Handy to slice open buns etc.

    1. Thanks! It's working really well.

      I got my first Swiss army knife when I was 12, and I still have that one, though the red plastic part cracked eventually and I had to get a new one to carry around.

  4. I have very fond memories of Legos! My brother and I particularly used to play them for hours: building entire towns and neighborhoods. We each had our own style (and our own shoe-box for "special pieces"). We principally played them in the winter and they'd be put away all summer (my mother liked rotating toys to keep the freshness). Anyhow, like I said, we each had our own style. I liked keeping everything Much The Same and every spring I would pack each house and family and garden up in their own little Ziploc bag ready to be set up come fall. :-)

    So glad your little people are having fun with them! :-)

    1. My brother and I played with Legos until I went to college. We built castles, submarines, and eventually an entire Wild West town that we played with for probably a year. So much fun! It's possible that I'm enjoying having Legos around now almost as much as my kids are :-D


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