How to make a DIY toy storage shelf for toddlers

DIY toy storage chest

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Are you sick of toys laying all over the place?  I know that I definitely was!  I had purchased several foldable storage bins and had them as organized as they could be.  After a few months of slightly working, I figured I needed to change things up and come up with a better solution.  I looked on Amazon and found some storage shelves that could possibly work, but found that the quality was lacking and probably wouldn’t last very long.  I decided to take things into my own hands and make a DIY toy storage shelf how I wanted it.

DIY Toy cubby

This project will take roughly 4-5 hours (8 hours if you factor in paint and epoxy to dry) to complete and will cost around $100.

The following is a list of tools that you will need to complete the project.  I would like to mention that several of them are optional and are not “NEEDED” per se but definitely make the job easier.

Tools Needed

Tools Needed for DIY toy storage

Painting Tools Needed

Here is a list of materials that you will need.  I found most of everything at Home Depot but you can pick up the odds and ins at your local hardware store or Amazon.

Material List

Step by step instructions for your DIY toy storage shelf with cubbies

Now you know what you will need let’s get started. I found it easiest to cut all of the pieces upfronts and then assemble them.  The following is a cut list and diagram.

Plywood Cut Diagram for DIY Toy Cubby (Drawing not to scale)

Toy cubby plywood layout

Toy Storage Cubby Cutlist (Drawing not to scale)

Toy organizer cut list

Step 1.  Cut your pieces to size

Start by taking your full sheet (4′ x 8′) of plywood and ripping it down into smaller pieces so that it is easier to work with. 

To do this I would place the plywood on a large table and measure the width that I needed and then rip the plywood longways.

I ended up with (1) section that was 14″ wide, (2) sections that were 12″ wide, and (1) section (scrap) that was 10″ wide.  All of the sections were 96″ long.

For some awesome tips on how to rip a piece of plywood with just your circular saw check out this awesome video on YouTube.  Once you have your pieces ripped into more manageable sizes you can use your circular saw to cut the majority of pieces to size.

For the more technical cuts with angles, like with the sides and middle dividers use a jig saw.

Step 2.  Drill all of your Pocket Holes with your Kreg Jig

Using a Kreg jig or a pocket hole jig will make this process very easy.  I used pocket holes to join all of my pieces of wood together. 

For a quick video on how to use a Kreg jig check out this one that I found on YouTube. See the following diagram to see where I drilled holes in the dividers.

Kreg jig Pocket holes

Every joint had at least two pocket holes for attachment.  I would drill a hole at every corner for the “sides” and “shelves”. 

You’ll be able to better visualize this when we get to the assembly process.  Once you have all of your pocket holes drilled you are ready for the next step.

Step 3.  Give all of the pieces a very light sanding

Next, I recommend giving all of the edges of your freshly cut pieces a quick sanding.  I used a 120 grit sandpaper with my orbital sander, which helped speed the process up. 

The orbital sander is not a necessary tool but is definitely a good one to have in your arsenal.  Once you have everything lightly sanded you are ready to start the assembly process.

Step 4.  How to assemble your DIY toy storage cubby

To start assembling your toy cubby grab your “bottom shelf” and a “side”.  Use the #6 x 1″ wood screws to fasten all of the sections together.


Make sure your space in between each divider is 11″.  The easiest way to do this is to measure from the inside of the side panel and make a small mark. 

I did this on both ends of the side panel and then drew a line in between my two marks.  By doing this I knew right where to put my dividers.


I also recommend using a square to make sure that you are putting the dividers in straight.  Continue by adding the remaining dividers and the other side panel. 

Once you have that done your toy organizer should look like the following picture:


Next, you will want to add the “middle shelf” with the “hinged shelf” already attached; to the toy organizer that you have built to this point.


You will need to screw the shelf to the side with the pre-drilled pocket holes.  Don’t forget to attach the “bottom dividers” to the “middle” shelf as well. 

Again, I recommend using the square to make sure that your dividers are straight up and down.  You can also use a level.  When completed you should be at the following point.


Things are coming along now.  Next, add the “middle dividers”, similar to how you added the bottom ones.


Make sure that you have 11″ in between each divider and that they are square before screwing them down. 

We are getting close to finishing off the assembly portion of this one.  You should now be looking like the following image.

Middle dividers added to toy organizer

Next, you will want to add the “top shelf”.  This is pretty self-explanatory and will look like the following when completed.

Toy storage with top shelf

Finally, you will want to add the “top back” piece.  Once again you will attach this piece with the pre-drilled pocket holes that you drilled earlier.


That wraps it up for the assembly portion of this DIY toy storage project!  Next, we will be adding some fine details that make this project different from the other toy cubbies out there.

Finished assembled toy shelf

Step 5.  Adding the magnets to the hinged shelf

To make this project different from other DIY toy storage cubbies I decided to make a hinged shelf in that could open and close. 

This adds a little extra bit of playroom for your child all while making it easier to get some larger toys in and out of the cubbies.  To keep the hinged shelf closed I used some super strong neodymium magnets.

Let’s get started with how to add these awesome magnets.

First off, you will need a total of 8 magnets.  I put magnets in the “sides” and each of the middle dividers.  Start by drilling the holes where the magnets need to go.


Getting the magnets to line up is super important so that they can properly stick to each other.  I found it easiest to pre-drill the holes where I wanted the magnets to go. 

To do this I would line up the two pieces of wood and drill through both pieces.  This showed me where I would need to drill out bigger to fit the magnets.

The next step is to drill out the holes bigger so that you can put the magnets in them.  You want to drill a hole that is just slightly bigger than the magnet.


Be careful not to drill too deep.  You do not want to go all the way through.  The hole needs to be just deep enough so that the magnet can sit in the hole flush with the surrounding wood.


Step 6.  Epoxy the magnets in place

Once you have drilled your holes and have checked to make sure that your magnets fit you need to secure them in place.  To do this I used a 5 min fast setting epoxy.  Using the epoxy is easy and quick.

Make sure that you have some nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol and a cotton hand towel handy.  Most likely you will get some epoxy on the wood and will need to clean it up quickly. 

Just gently wet the towel with the nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol and wipe the excess epoxy off.  No damage will be caused to the wood or magnets.

While the epoxy says that it takes 5 minutes to cure I found that it takes a bit longer, to the tune of a couple hours.  After the epoxy dries you are ready to move on to the next step!

Step 7.  Paint

I used chalk paint because that was the look that I was going for.  Chalk paint is slightly different than other types of paint and can get some getting used to. 

For some great tips and tricks on how to use chalk paint and wax check out these videos from the master herself Annie Sloan.  How to use chalk paint and How to use chalk paint wax.

You can use whatever you’d like though.  If you want to stain it then stain it.  If you want to use latex paint then use latex paint.  Let’s not make this portion more difficult than it needs to be.

Step 8.  Add the back panel

Once painted, waxed, and buffed you are ready for the last step, adding the back panel.  For the back panel, I chose to go with a 1/8″ thick plywood. 

By using a thin piece of plywood I wouldn’t be adding too much unnecessary weight.  The dimensions that you will need to cut are 35″ x 30.5″. 

I purchased a 4′ x 4′ panel which made the piece very easy to cut and handle.  Don’t forget to paint one side of this back panel!

I would like to mention that the back panel will secure everything up and make the toy cubby very sturdy.  Up until this point, it may have felt a bit wobbly.

To secure the back panel all you need to do is use a brad nail gun or hammer and some 1/2″ brad nails and tack the panel into place.


I found it helpful to draw lines on the back of the panel to help line up where I needed to put the brad nails.  That way I ensured that I was getting a solid connection every time. 

I didn’t have to worry about shooting a nail into nothing.

That’s pretty much it.  All you have to do now is open up the storage bins and fill everything up with all the toys that your kids don’t always deserve!

Finished DIY Toy Storage Cubby

Let me know if you have any questions about the DIY toy storage cubby project!  Are there any other projects you would like me to figure out and tackle?  I’m all ears and would love to hear.

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DIY Toy cubby
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