Deciding to move your child from a crib to a toddler bed is an exciting transition for both parents and a child. The decision to switch can come from the constant jail-breaks your toddler performs to get out of his or her crib. If your child is too big or too active to sleep in the crib, then it’s time to transition. A few years back when my daughter was getting too big for a crib, I built her a DIY Toddler Bed.
A toddler bed is a transitional-sized bed for kids over 2 years old. To build this bed I used the mattress that was in the crib and built it considering those dimensions. For safety I wanted the bed to be very low to the ground just in case she falls out in her sleep.
Building your own toddler bed allows you to customize it to match the bedroom furniture and color. Also using solid wood will keep the bed sturdy for a long time. Once your child outgrows the toddler bed, it could be always be sold for someone else to use it.
We had this bed for a few years and it is still solid as a rock. I only had to repaint it to cover crayon and pencil marks.
You also might be interested in a DIY bunk bed I’ve built for my boys.
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.
Step 1 – Cut 4×4 Main Posts for the Toddler Bed
Take regular 4×4 construction lumber and cut four-post pieces to 24″ in length.
Step 2 – Make Headboard and Footboard Panels
First, make the headboard panel. Take 2×3 and cut two pieces to 24″ in length for the top and bottom of the panel. Then cut two pieces to 12″ in length for the headboard panel. Drill two pocket holes on each end of the 2×3 board as shown in the picture. Then with a table saw cut a 1/4″ deep by 1/4″ wide notch in the center of all four boards. This notch will be used to insert a ¼” plywood in the center of the panel. So cut a 1/4″ plywood to 19 1/2″ x 12 1/2″. Squeeze some wood glue inside the ¼” notch and all 2×3 joint connections. Slide the plywood into the notch and attach all 2×3 boards together using 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws. Now repeat this step to build a footboard panel of the bed.
Step 3 – Attach Headboard and Footboard Panel to 4×4 Posts
Measure and mark 4” from the bottom of each 4×4 post. Then attach the headboard panels to the posts using 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws. Make sure the panel is at a 4″ mark from the bottom and flush to one side. Repeat this step to get the footboard panel complete.
Step 4 – Make a Back Panel of the Bed
Similar to step 2, take 2×3 and cut two pieces to 50 ¾” in length and two pieces to 9” in length. Drill pocket holes at each end of the 2×3 boards and cut a ¼” notch in the center with a table saw. Then cut a ¼” plywood and insert it into the notch and secure all four sides of the panel with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws. After the panel is complete, attach it to the 4×4 post with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws. This back panel needs to be set back 1 ½” from the inside corner of the 4×4 post and raised up 4” from the bottom of the post. See picture.
Step 5 – Install the Back 2×4 Matters Support
Take 2×4 and cut one piece to 50 3/4″ in length and drill two pocket holes on each end. Attach the 2×4 to 4X4 post with 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws making sure its 4” from the bottom of the post.
Step 6 – Make the Front Panel of the Bed
Similar to step 2 and 4, make the front panel of the bed. The total length of the front panel is 28” long. The 28″ long 2×3 boards will have pocket holes only on the side where it attaches to the 4×4 post. Attach the front panel to the 4×4 post setting it back 1 ½” just like the back panel. Then cut and attach the 2×4 mattress support and attach it 4” from the bottom. After 2×4 support is installed, use 2″ wood screws to secure the front panel to 2×4 mattress support.
Step 7 – Install Mattress Frame Slats
The bottom of the bed will have 1×4 frame slat boards for mattress support. Cut nine pieces to 27″ in length and place them on 2×4 supports. Space out 1×4 slats about 2 1/2″ between each other. Use nail gun to secure the boards to 2×4 support.
Step 8 – Décor 4×4 Wood Cap
The top of the 4×4 posts will have decor wood caps. You could use a nail gun to secure these caps or just wood glue on the inside. The front of the bed, between 4×4 post and the front panel, needs a board to cover the frame slats. Measure the distance between the post and front panel and cut one 1×6 piece and secure it in place with 2″ wood screws.
Having pocket holes in visible places like the headboard and footboard is not very appealing. To cover up the holes, take a 3/8 wooden dowel rod and cut a short piece to about 2” in length. Dip it into the wood glue and then hammer it inside the hole. Cut off the dowel that is sticking out from hole flush with the board using a dovetail saw. Then with a random orbital sander, sand over the dowel to remove any rough spots. See Dining Table or Kids Step Stool projects that also show how to cover up dowels. Now paint or stain the bed any color you want. You’re done with this simple DIY Toddler Size Bed.