Want to build a simple kids desk with storage? The modern DIY desk project I made for my daughter was the perfect addition to her collection of DIY furniture. It has built-in storage on both legs and a gorgeous butcher block top. Learn how to make your own simple kids desk with my free printable plans!
How to Build a Simple Kids Desk With Storage, Including Free Plans!
I kind of outdid myself for Ramona’s birthday present—the DIY dollhouse I made her took me forever to plan, build, accessorize, and finish. And it was worth it. She absolutely loves it. But since I’ve made her Christmas presents the last few years, I wanted to make something for her for Christmas this year.
When she was 1, right around Christmas she got her dollhouse bookshelves I made. Then last Christmas I made her a DIY toddler activity table with Duplo storage and plates, as well as a paper dispenser and reversible topper for drawing. This year I decided to go for a desk. I think it’s something she’ll grow into, to be honest.
Right now it’s really great because it provides some extra storage space. And she was pretty excited to pick out the little lamp for her desk. At this age, she is absolutely tickled with just being able to switch a butterfly lamp and the little desktop rainbow light off and on and off and on. So if you want to learn how to build a simple kids desk with storage, let’s do it!
For more kid-related woodworking projects and DIYs, check out my DIY toddler water play table, modern outdoor table build plans, twin-sized house-shaped big girl bed, DIY gravel/rock play pit, toddler step stool build plans, and DIY rainbow wall decals.
Here’s what I used:
- Poplar for the top and a combination of Metrie project panels (to save $$) and regular old pine for the base. Grab the free PDF plans with all of the measurements by signing up for access to my library of woodworking freebies below!
- Two 11″ fabric cube storage bins from Target (Room Essentials brand—only $4 each!)
- Wood filler
- White semigloss latex paint
- Zinsser primer
- Varathane Matte Water-Based Polyurethane
- Small paint rollers
- Measuring tape, pencil, safety gear
And here’s how to build a simple kids desk with storage!
Step 1: Measure and cut pieces, drill pocket holes
So at first my plan was to do two storage levels: one for a little containers that we’re beginning to collect stickers in, and one for a fabric storage cube to match the desk. Once I got this together with clamps to eyeball it, I decided to run with it. So I drilled pocket holes (placement in a bit) and assembled everything.
However, once I got it assembled and brought it upstairs, I realized that it would be too high for Ramona’s current height. I measured, but I kind of suck at visualizing things and understanding how everything is going to go together. Alas, I wasn’t about to lose this project, so I decided to run with just one storage spot. Let’s pick up there.
Step 1: Build the cubby base
It might sound weird, but I built the entire desk around two $4 fabric cube storage bins from Target. 🙂 I knew we needed more storage for her THINGS. Toys, art supplies, play-dough, slime, blocks, you name it. So I built the left side of the desk’s base to fit two stacked fabric storage cubes. They fit pretty perfectly.
I built this part using pocket hole joinery so they would be nice and strong. And I cheaped out a bit and used Metrie project panels. You can find them at your local big box hardware store. They are basically larger project panels of smaller pieces of wood already edge glued together. The wood isn’t super high quality, but I knew I wanted to paint it, so I didn’t really care.
However, the panels I got had a decent number of knots and dips in them. So any money I spent, I almost certainly paid it back in my time sanding, patching, sanding, patching…until everything was smooth. I also did a coat of primer on the entire base to help prevent any bleed-through on the knots. More on finishing in a bit.
Given the tighter size of this one, I did need my drill’s right-angle attachment so I could reach pocket holes in tight spaces. I have a whole post about how to reach pocket holes in tight spaces that you can check out if you’ve never used a right-angle drill attachment.
It’s a handy little tool to have in the shop. No one likes getting 75% through a project and realizing they can’t reach all of the pocket holes! (Yes, that has been me, and it sucks.)
Step 2: Build the right-side desk base
Next I built the right side of the desk’s base. This leg has a slimmer profile to provide more leg room. But I wanted to fit at least a bit of storage in here. Thinking of those nifty DIY photo ledge shelves we built in the basement, I decided to do a pseudo ledge-type shelve for coloring books and other books.
I created the main structure of these using pocket hole joinery just like the cubbies. Then I added small back-middle and front-bottom supports on each of the two levels. This will make more sense when you see it…but basically the coloring books can lean against the back supports. I attached those with a nail gun.
Step 3: Patching and painting the desk legs
As I mentioned, cheaping out on the lumber meant much more work patching and sanding. I think I did two rounds of patching and sanding, and then I did a coat of primer. There is already a coat of paint on the piece below because I originally was just going to be lazy and paint it without polishing the piece. But I didn’t like the light gray, didn’t like the finish, and HATED all of the imperfections that showed through.
So I got to work patching and sanding, priming, and then rolling two coats of semigloss white latex paint over the pieces. This was just some regular trim/door paint we had in the house from painting an interior door downstairs, and it worked great. I usually don’t work with semigloss paint on furniture projects, but the finish is perfect.
Step 4: Edge glue the desk top boards
I wanted a chunkier top for the desk, so I decided to edge glue 2×2 poplar boards together using clamps (really 1.5 by 1.5, FYI). Check out my post on how to edge glue boards together…same method I used for the butcher block style DIY coffee table we are still using downstairs.
I did this in phases, starting off gluing two boards. Then an hour or so later when the glue began to set up, I’d unclamp and glue on a third. I’d let those dry overnight and start repeating the process the next day. So it didn’t take a lot of time to get the glue ups going, but it took a few days of patience between each glue up to account for drying.
When I was done, the width of the desk top was 13.5 inches, which was perfect! Except it wasn’t so perfect for the planer. We borrowed this planer from my dad’s neighbor, and it could accomodate only 13 inches wide. So we ripped that down a half inch to ensure we could plane the top and get it nice and even.
You could handle this a number of ways—by sanding instead of planing, by using a hand planer, or by finding a bigger planer 🙂 if I could go back, I would probably just change the size of the top a hair to ensure it ended up at 13 inches, but I didn’t know that was going to be the size of the planer I used. Live and learn.
The planer did a great job, but it left quite a few burn marks. This was probably because the poplar is little harder than pine. The blade was also pretty dull, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? A borrowed tool is a borrowed tool. And it did the job for us.
I just ended up having to do a decent amount of sanding with the orbital sander to get everything smooth and ready to go. I them trimmed the ends down using my miter saw to make sure everything was nice and square. Then I gave this several coats of my favorite Varathane water-based polyurethane in matte. This has a great sheen and is very durable.
Once the piece was totally dry, I flipped it upside down and set it on the floor. I then lined up the two legs where I wanted them on the underside of the desk top. I just used 1 1/4″ wood screws to attach the legs to the underside, drilling straight up through the legs and into the bottom of the desk top.
And here’s the finished simple DIY kids desk!
After flipping it over, it was just a hair wobbly, so I grabbed a little felt pad designed for the undersides of furniture. I popped this under the front right corner of the desk, and that did the trick! I’ll have a post coming soon with the chair/stool you see in these pics, too.
Remember that if you want to build this desk, you can sign up below to get access to all of my free woodworking plans I have saved in my Dropbox. Enjoy your build, and let me know if you have any questions!