How to Build a DIY Toddler Step Stool with Guard Rail

DIY Toddler Step  Stool with Guard Rail

Is your toddler beginning to master the art of using the toilet or trying to wash hands in a sink? A step stool becomes an essential tool for promoting independence. Kids love to learn new things and do everything by themselves. I created plans and built this DIY Toddler Step Stool with Guard Rail for my niece. Here are the basic steps I did for this project.

  1. First Cut 36” Long Legs
  2. Drill Holes for Upper Step Adjustment
  3. Cut Boards for the Steps
  4. Cut Frame Boards for Lower Step
  5. Sand all Boards for the Step Stool
  6. Nail the Lower Step to the Frame
  7. Attach the Front Board of the Step Stool
  8. Assemble the Lower Step Frame
  9. Glue and Nail the Back Legs
  10. Nail the Front Legs
  11. Attach Pieces at the Top of the Legs
  12. Use Wooden Dowel Rods for Upper Step Support
  13. Clamp Dowel Rods to the Step Board

There are multiple studies indicate that giving your child tools and space to express their independence, directly correlates with the reduction of depression and anxiety disorder. Step stools are one small way to encourage toddlers’ independence.

Types of Step Stools

There are several different types of step stool out there. A simple one-step or two-step is most common. This could be used for getting off the toilet or reaching for a book on the shelf.

But if you want your child to help out in the kitchen, a taller step stool with guard rails is essential for the safety of your child. You don’t want your child to stand on tiptoes and reaching for something with a risk of falling. It’s also important to have a wide step so that a child could stand on it comfortably. But you also don’t want it too wide that it doesn’t fit in your confined space.

Finding a perfect step stool could be a challenging task. You have to consider the size and the cost. Also, for the safety of the child, you want to make sure the step stool is durable.  

With all of that in mind, why not make your own custom step stool that fits your needs. I build this project for my niece since she’s at that stage of always wanting to wash her hands in the bathroom by herself. Standing on the toilet and reaching over to turn on the sink and washing her hands is not a very safe practice. So this step stool should help out a lot.

You could always modify the plans that I created for what you’re looking for. You also might be interested in a single step stool I made earlier, also DIY Sensory Table with Water Ramps for kids.

DIY Toddler Step Stool

Time to Complete

4 hours

Total Cost

$30

Skill Level

Intermediate


Toddler Step Stool with Guard Rail PDF

$7.00

This PDF download includes Cut Diagrams, a List of Supplies, and 3D illustrations with detailed steps to build the project. Measurements are in imperial and not metric. Does NOT include SketchUp/CAD files.

The plans are embedded on the webpage for free, but if you would like to support the website, you can pay a small fee to purchase the printable PDFs.

Thank you for your support!

Toddle Step stool with Guard Rail

If you are feeling generous today, you could give a small tip to help me create more projects. Thank you!

Material List

Note: Lumber dimensions are listed as nominal size.  See lumber sizes for actual dimensions vs nominal.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page as well as links in “tools for this project” and “material list” sections are affiliate links.


Dimensions

DIY Toddler Step Stool dimensions

Step 1 – First Cut 36” Long Legs

First, start with cutting the longest pieces which are the legs. Take 1×4 and cut four legs to 36″ in length.

cut four legs for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
using miter saw to cut wood

Step 2 – Drill Holes for Upper Step Adjustment

From the bottom of the leg, measure 10 5/8″ and mark the center of the middle hole. Then measure 3″ up and 3″ down for an additional two holes (see picture). These holes are for adjusting the height of the upper step. Clamp two of the legs together and drill the holes with  1 3/8″ Hole Saw Bit. Do this for both sets of legs.

drill holes for adjustable step on the DIY Toddler Step Stool
drilling holes for adjustable step of the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 3 – Cut Boards for the Steps

Next, take 1×12 and cut three pieces to 14″ in length. Using a Table Saw the lower step will need to be ripped to 7 1/4″ in width and the front board to 5 1/2″ in width. The upper step will be left unripped at 11 1/4″ in width.

cut step boards for DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 4 – Cut Frame Boards for Lower Step

Now take 1×4 and cut two pieces to 17 3/4″ in length and one piece to 12 1/2″ in length. Then using a Table Saw rip those three pieces in half.  So the width of the boards will come out to be around 1 3/4″. These boards are for supporting the lower step.

cut step supports for DIY Toddler Step Stool
cutting wood on the table saw
wood boards for the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 5 – Sand all Boards for the Toddler Step Stool

Before assembling the step stool, use a random orbital sander to sand the boards. Then take a pair of 17 3/4 pieces and attach one 12 1/2″ piece, as shown on the picture, using Wood Glue and Nail Gun with 1 1/4″ Brad Nails.

assemble the boards for DIY Toddler Step Stool
sanding boards for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
gluing the boards together for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
nailing the boards together for the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 6 – Nail the Lower Step to the Frame

Next place the lower step (7 1/4″ wide board) on top of the 17 3/4″ pieces. Make sure that this lower step board overhangs by 3/4 of an inch. Apply Wood Glue and nail it from the top.

attach lower step board for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
attaching the lower step for the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 7 – Attach the Front Board of the Toddler Step Stool

Repeat step 5. Take the second set of 17 3/4″ pieces and attach a 12 1/2″ piece. Then take the front board (5 1/2″ wide) and attach it to this frame with Wood Glue and Brad Nails. 

attach the front board of the DIY Toddler Step Stool
attaching the front board of the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 8 – Assemble the Lower Step Frame

Now attach these two sections together with Wood Glue and Brad Nails.

attach lower step frame together for DIY Toddler Step Stool
assembling the frame for the lower step

Step 9 – Glue and Nail the Back Legs

Then attach the back legs to the step frame with Wood Glue and Brad Nails. Make sure the legs are flush with the frame in the back. 

attach back legs for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
gluing the back leg of the DIY Toddler Step Stool
nailing the back leg of the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 10 – Nail the Front Legs

Take the front legs and attach them with wood glue and brad nails. Place the front legs right after the lower step. Make sure that the distance between the legs is the same at the bottom and at the top. This will ensure that the legs are straight.  

attach the front legs for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 11 – Attach Pieces at the Top of the Legs

Similar to step 4, take 1×4 and cut one piece to 15 1/2″ in length and another piece to 12 3/4″. Then rip them in half to 1 3/4″ wide. Attach these pieces at the top of the legs. The back and side pieces will be attached with Wood Glue and nails. But the front piece will be attached only with screws. This way you could remove the front piece later if you need to.  

attach rail guards for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
nailing the guard rails for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
screwing the front guard rail

Step 12 – Use Wooden Dowel Rods for Upper Step Support

For the upper adjustable step supports, use a 1 1/4″ wooden dowel rods. Typically this dowel rod is used for hanging close in the closet. Cut two dowel rods to 15 1/2″ in length. 

cut dowel rods for the DIY Toddler Step Stool

Step 13 – Clamp Dowel Rods to the Step Board

Check to make sure the adjustable upper step board fits between the legs. You might want to trim off 1/8 of an inch so that you could easily slide it in and out. Place the step over the dowel rods and mark it where it needs to be attached. Then secure the dowel rods to the step board with a ridged pipe strap clamps and 3/4″ wood screws. To adjust the step, loosen the screws and slide the rods out and adjust to a different height. You’re done with this DIY Toddler Step Stool with Guard Rail.

attach frame on the top of legs for the DIY Toddler Step Stool
using ridged strap to hold the dowel of the DIY Toddler Step Stool
attaching dowel rod with a ridged strap
DIY Toddler Step Stool
DIY Toddler Step Stool with Rails

75 thoughts on “How to Build a DIY Toddler Step Stool with Guard Rail”

    • I agree! My kids love to help in the kitchen, even simple things like mixing a salad. Or peeling boiled eggs, it may not look the prettiest but its a lot of fun for them.

      Reply
  1. I think this would work in a larger size for an elderly person in the kitchen, in their closet. They would have a handle so they do not lose their balance!

    Reply
  2. FANTASTIC!!! Is this strong for an adult? At 63 yrs. I still like doing my own thing around I our home. Last July 2019, I suffered a major stroke, I thank God everyday for my health and thank Him for my hubby who is a retired firefighter with 35 years. He saw all the signs and got me to the ER in time for the tPA. I’m shaky with steps, up and down. And this looks like it would be safer than the step ladders. Thank You!

    Reply
    • Hi Linda. I’m making this item for my grandchild 20-25 lbs. From the instructions that were given I would not say that it’ll support a grownup safely.

      Reply
  3. Great instructions! Simple and fun project. Made one for my grand-daughters 3rd birthday and she loves it. I was considering adding some storage beneath the first step, but was pressed for time. Maybe for the next one…

    Reply
  4. I will be making this on Saturday using Azek materials to avoid painting and finishing. Also easier to keep clan. Any possible downside to using a PVC type product?

    Reply
    • Hi Mark, so far I had no issues with the PVC railing that I’ve built. However, I’ve heard that some PVC pipes disintegrate due to sun exposure. I’ve painted my PVC railing with outdoor paint and should protect it from UV light. But if you’re using PVC pipes that already have UV protection, then you should be fine. One thing that I would change if I had to do it over again, is I would put more decorative caps on top instead of regular sprinkler caps. I’ve seen some awesome looking caps out there.

      Reply
  5. Where do you get your wood. We priced it out at Home Depot and it is $40 just for wood , no nails or clamps. Just wondering as it’s getting pricey

    Reply
    • Hi Fran, I buy wood mainly at Home Depot. Looks like the price varies from state to state. I checked the price in California compared to other states and its slightly different. Also, the price constantly changes, mostly going up. I remember building a bunk bed for kids about two years ago, it cost me around $400 of material, but now it’s probably double that.

      Reply
  6. Thank you for the plans. In process of making one for my daughter and one for a niece. I am going with pocket screws. Its a little more work and probably overdoing it, but we will see.

    Reply
  7. Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!! Just finished the project. My 2 y/o grand loves it. She was excited to be able to see counter top view. The joy on her little face alone was worth all the effort. Thanks brother. You are the best.

    Reply
  8. We started this today and my husband didn’t quite look at all of the cuts necessary so we have to go get some smaller boards to make the support pieces around the bottom step and the top ledge since we don’t have a table saw. But I am excited for my little girl to use it. She loves to “help”

    Reply
  9. Any tips on how this can be adjusted safely without using dowel rod? Can I just nail or screw the step board onto the legs? I don’t really mind it being fixed versus adjustable height but just worried about it being sturdy enough to hold kids weight. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Marie-Claude, Instead of dowel rods you could just use finish nails and wood glue. If you’re using screws make sure to pre-drill the wood, otherwise, the wood might split. Nails or screws will be strong enough to support a person.

      Reply
  10. Looking at the design it seems that there is only about the 1” width of the 1×4 keeping the dowel from moving out. Any thoughts on locks for the sides to keep the dowels from sliding out the sides?

    Any other ideas on support other than dowels? Seems like it might be a pain to slide through the clamps.

    Reply
    • Hi Tom, The clamps hold the dowels fixed, so the dowel will not slide out unless you loosen the screws. You could use screws to hold the step board instead of dowels, but then you will not have an adjustable step.

      Reply
    • To keep the dowels from moving out of the holes in the legs, wrap a hose clamp around each the end of each dowel. If a pipe clamps on the step interferes Skimon with the hose clamp, move the pipe clamp inwards to make space. Once the dowels are in the leg holes, slide the hose clamps to the two ends of the dowel until each hose clamp butts up against the inside of a leg. Then tighten the hose clamp. The thickness of the hose clamp will stop the dowel from sliding through the leg-hole. When it’s time to move the step into a different set of holes, loosen the hose clamps. Slide the hose clamps inwards toward the pipe clamps. Re-position and tighten the hose clamps once the dowels are in their new position.

      Reply
      • Second sentence in the above comment should read:
        “If a pipe clamp on the step interferes with the hose clamp, move the pipe clamp inwards (towards the centre of the step) to make space”

        Reply
  11. Thank you…the best plans, diagrams, pictures I’ve seen, making this an easy project to complete. And this was for my Grandchild. I live in NJ and cost of materials where a bit higher; about 46, not including finishing. You didn’t specifically mention the rigid clamps needed, but I found the 1 inch Oakey clamps from HD fit the 1 1/4 dowel….and they come in a four-pack. Might have to put a piece of duct tape on the inside to make sure they snug up. Here are the slight modifications I made: 1.) first step extends 3/4 inch on the sides and front, with rounded edges. 2.) second step front edge rounded (this was done to both because a square edge step, especially in pine, will easily chip off) 3.) Increased the overall width by one inch. (daughters request) 4.) Bottom step was attached with Stainless Steel screws to make finishing easier.

    I’m also very happy with the finish my daughter wanted…all white with the exception of the steps, which were stained and varnished…..looks very sharp.

    With this being my first grandchild, I’m sure I’ll be repeating this build again and again.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  12. Is the enclosed top rail necessary? In the plans there is the last wood piece you would have to duck under while stepping up, however in the initial photos, that last rail piece is not there. Is it critical to the structure to have it?

    Thanks for the awesome plans!

    Reply
  13. First off I want to say thanks so much for taking the time to put together these plans. This was my very first woodworking project and you made it quite easy to follow along. I did however run into some roadblocks so I wanted to help contribute to those who attempt the project in the future.

    1) Getting the front and back legs straight with equal distance didn’t work out for me. I’m sure I’m just lacking the know-how but I attached them in a similar fashion in the phots and they are crooked at the top despite my best intentions. Any tips for how to complete this step accurately?

    2) I didn’t have a table saw so I used a circular saw. This wasn’t as accurate, and was a challenge halving the smaller pieces but I was able to get it to work. Enough where no one will probably notice.

    3) I purchased the 1 1/4″ dowel rod and 1 1/4″ clamps but the clamps were too big for the rod and didn’t secure it well. I went back and even found another brand with the same problem. Not sure why that is. I ended up using 1″ clamps that seem to do the job. It was just a little tougher pushing the rods through.

    4) I didn’t have a 1 1/4″ hole saw but I did have a 1 3/8″ so I used that and although not tight, the platform seems stable enough and only moves ever so slightly. I think this may be due to the unevenness however in my front and back legs that wedges the platform a bit.

    5) When attaching the front piece with screws, the wood split … on both sides. I screwed it in according to the photos so not sure why this happened. I used longer screws since the 3/4″ obviously aren’t long enough. There was no mention of what kind of screws for this step.

    Thanks again for this project. I feel quite proud I was able to make something for my 18 month old son. Any tips would be helpful as I’m really looking to learn more!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment.
      Sometimes I forget to add details for beginners and assume that people already know the tricks of woodworking. But, good job on tackling this project, especially if this is your first.
      To make the legs straight you could probably use two scrap pieces that are the same length and place them between the legs to ensure the same distance from top to bottom.
      To prevent the wood from splitting, you need to pre-drill a pilot hole before driving in the screw.

      Reply
      • Thanks Viktor for the reply. Drilling a pilot just didn’t cross my mind. I feel quite accomplished building from this project so thanks for playing a part in my introduction to word working. Looking forward to many more projects!

        Reply
    • How did you get the circular saw to work? I’m in the same boat with no table saw(looking around to see if someone has one). I’m worried the board isn’t wide enough…

      Reply
      • Mark, if you don’t have a table saw to rip the pieces in half, you could just use 1×2 board instead. If you take 1×4 board and rip it in half you’ll get 1×2 board. HomeDepot sells 1x2s

        Reply
  14. Hi everyone! Any ideas for finishing the project? I used pine and some have used a non-wax shellac followed by polyurethane. I am going to keep the pine look so wasn’t planning on staining or painting but want to protect the wood from damage especially since it’ll be used in the kitchen. Would love to bring out the natural wood grains as well if possible. Any recommendations? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  15. Thanks for the plans! Just built one yesterday for my son. Ended up finding 3X Pine stair treads did an excellent job for the wood. Cost was about the same, and it provided some nice rounded edges for the stairs, and the top rail.

    Reply
    • If after using a 1 1/2” hole saw to make the holes in the legs you find that the dowels are too loose, try wrapping electrical tape around the ends of the dowels. The thickness of the tape will take out the wobble. Electrical tape will give a little compliance to the joint, and at the same time some grip between the dowels and the holes.

      Reply
  16. Very nice. I just built it from your plan. Easy to build. Thank you for sharing!
    Paid for the PDF after I built it, it was that good! Keep it up. Looking for following you.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark, You should be fine using a finishing nail gun. The difference between the two is the finish nails are slightly larger than brad nails. But they both work.

      Reply
      • Thank you! I went with the brad nailer in the end. I also just bought the PDF.

        Would you have any ideas on how to make the safety rail easily removable so you can put it back securely after the little one gets up on the stool?

        Reply
        • Hi Mark, Thanks for purchasing the PDF and supporting the website.
          You could probably install a hinge on one end of the safety rail, this will allow you to open and close it. Then on the other side, you could install a Latching Safety Rotating Eye Hasp. Once you close the safety rail, you could twist the latch to lock it in place.

          Reply
          • Me again….lol. Question, what if I took the 1x4x6 and cut it in half and then cut the four sections from that? The yellow,brown,orange, and purple sections (from your diagram) could all fit from the one 6’ board. Just wondering, thanks!!

          • Oh no no no, I wasn’t trying to correct you I promise! Your plans are great, it’s just I don’t have a table saw and I’m going to a friends house to cut the 6’ board. Was just worried I was missing something if I got all the the pieces from one board 🙂

  17. Por apurado fallé al mantener los marcos a escuadra 90°. También pinte las tablas antes de aplicar el pegamento. Voy a empezar de nuevo y a corregir estas fallas. El diseño esta excelente.

    Reply
  18. Just finished and very happy about it! Wish I could send or attach pictures on here. Thank you again!

    Any ideas on how to take out a slight wobble?

    Reply
      • It’s wobbling because it’s uneven at the bottom. These were fantastic plans, but I’m still an amateur lol. I used wood glue and brad nails. Would you recommend trying to shave the bottom off or adding something to it?

        Reply
        • Mark, If it’s uneven at the bottom, HomeDepot has adhesive felt pads that you could attach at the bottom. I use these sometimes when I have an uneven table or a chair.

          Reply

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