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My wife and I are all about having toys for our kids that encourage them to think creatively and imaginatively. I found out that type of thing has a name: Montessori education. I also found out it’s ridiculously expensive. For the last few months, my wife has been wanting me to build a “Pikler Triangle,” which is basically a triangular ladder to which you can add attachments. It’ll run you upwards of $100 on the cheap side. I thought that was dumb, so I made my own version out of scrap wood we had laying around and did it for free. Besides being free, this took me about 3 hours all together and I didn’t plan any of it. The following is a step-by-step guide so that you can build your own without breaking the bank. As with any project, your particular needs will differ slightly from mine, so keep that in mind when consider the dimensions. (One side note: this isn’t really a “Pikler triangle” because it isn’t an actual ladder. I think having solid pieces as the base makes so much more sense. You don’t have to worry about kids getting their legs caught, and it makes the toy itself more versatile)
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Screws. I used these screws from Amazon. Square head screws are much less prone to stripping than Phillips head screws (at least in my experience). You may need to buy a square head drill bit. You can get this Dewalt set from Amazon at a good price.
- Wood. I used 11 boards that were roughly 1 inch by 2 inches for the “steps” and two 1 1/2 inch by 10 inch hardwood boards for the base. The important thing here is that you want a hardwood for the base to make it sturdy. Both of my kids can play on it at the same time, so it definitely supports at least 70 pounds. I put my own weight on it beforehand, and let’s just say I weight much more than that.
- 3 “L” brackets
- Child nearby. Like I said, I made this thing on a whim in an evening and the next morning, so I didn’t bother taking a lot of measurements. I just put the triangle base together, brought the smaller kid over, and saw how far up she could get her leg. It was pretty efficient.
- Did I mention screws? You definitely want to make sure that you make this thing sturdy, since it’s designed for kids. That should be a no-brainer, but you know what they say about common sense.
- Circular Saw
- Sand Paper
- Drill/Impact Driver/Both (I didn’t bother making pilot holes, but some of my boards did start to split, so there is that)
- Tape Measure if you want to be fancy
Step 2: Cut Your Boards
Like I mentioned earlier, I built this out of scrap wood, so I didn’t make very many cuts. I had previously cut some slats for another whimsical project that didn’t pan out, so I had some handy 1″ x 2″ x 16″ boards laying around. I had also already cut the big 1″ x 10″ boards, so that was nice. The key for the base pieces is that you want one to be slightly longer than the other. I have one board that is about 1/2″ longer than the other, and it sits on the “bottom” (that will make more sense in a minute). This gives the triangle a nice incline. Again, this was built with scrap wood, so one board is 26 7/8″ long, and the other is about 27 3/8″ long. Your dimensions will need to be appropriate for the age, size, and skill level of your child/children. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how to cut a piece of wood. However, one tip I learned from carpenter was to cut on one side or the other of your measured mark, depending on from which side you measured. If you measured from the left to the right, you want to cut on the right edge of the mark. If you measured from the right, cut on the left edge. The reason for this is the saw blade itself. The saw blade is roughly 1/8″ thick, so if you cut straight down the middle of your mark, you’ll actually lose about 1/16 of an inch. For this particular project, that isn’t super important, but for some more precise projects that 1/16th will add up fast.
Step 3: Sand the Boards
Since this is designed for kids, you want to make sure that you sand the boards down really well. You want to make sure you get rid of any rough surfaces, and round off the edges. If you skip this step, best case scenario is digging splinters out of heels (which isn’t pleasant for either the kid or the parent; been there, done that). Just sand the pieces down. When it comes to kids, you can’t be too safe.
Step 4: Build the Base
Here, you want to attach the “L” brackets to the underside of triangle. The easiest way to do this is to attach them to one board, then attach them to the other while holding it vertically. These were just some simple, sturdy brackets we had laying around from (can you guess?) another project that didn’t pan out. My wife said they were less than $2 for all three. You can go fancy and get the bigger ones if you want, but the weight rating is the important part. Voila, you have a triangle base.
Step 5: Attach the Steps
First, let’s talk about the picture on the right. The bottom two steps are comprised of two 1″ x 2″ boards each. I had just used a single board at first, but they weren’t big enough for my toddlers to really get a good grip. Two boards per step work perfectly. I screwed the first “layer” of the step into the base first, and then screwed the second “layer” onto the first. The top step is just a single 1″ x 2″ board affixed to the base, since it functions as a handhold and not an actual step. Now, I know, it’s not perfectly level. Again, this was I project I decided to do on a whim, so I was just throwing it together. Obviously, if you want to get fancy, you can make your steps perfectly level.
Second, let’s talk about the picture on the left. You’ll notice the two vertical boards. These are crucial. These add support and stability to the base. One screw on each vertical board goes through the “top” of the triangle base. Then, I ran two screws through the vertical boards affixing them to the “bottom” of the triangle base. Besides adding strength, those vertical boards provide a different climbing scenario and let you use less wood to make a step larger enough for a little foot. Then, you can attach two 1″ x 2″ boards for the top two steps, and then two 1″ x 2″ boards for the bottom step.
Step 6: Kick Back and Enjoy
That’s all she wrote folks. If you want, you can sand over the areas where you screwed into the wood. I didn’t bother sanding it until after I had already built it, so I did sand over those areas. I personally would recommend it just to avoid splinters. You can even paint or sand it, but my kids were super excited about their “climbing toy,” so I just left it as is. So far, we haven’t had any issues with it tipping sideways. The only thing that I did not foresee is that our almost-two-year-old almost scooted off the edge when she was figuring out how to climb from one side to the other. That said, I would definitely encourage adult supervision while playing on this, at least until you feel comfortable with your kids ability. It took both our girls about half-a-day to master it, but they still love it.
I hope this was helpful. Feel free to leave your comments below, and let me know what worked and what didn’t work for you. In the meantime, check out some of my other writing and the podcast! You can also like the 1689 Layman Facebook page for more DIY projects.