How to Build a Toddler Bed with Bed Rails

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DIY Platform Toddler Bed with Bed Rails

DIY toddler bed with wooden bed rails

Sometimes I have a schedule and plan ahead, and sometimes… I don’t. Last weekend, we decided to have a swing at potty training with Arthur. After 5 kids, the one thing I’m not surprised about when it comes to potty training, is the ripple effect of other behaviors. For Arthur, that meant he started climbing out of his crib for naps and bedtime instantly. After a week of this, I woke up on Friday and decided it was time to build him a new toddler bed. Wanna see how?

Step 1. Lumber

I’m using a combination of common pine, 2×4 boards and a single sheet of plywood I had cut down to size. I’m using the dimensions of his crib mattress which was a standard 52 x 28 inches.

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Cut list:

  • 1×6: 54″ (2), 28.5″ (2)*
  • 1×3: 8.5″ (8), 13″ (4), 23.5″ (4)
  • 2×4: 28.5″ (5)
  • Plywood: 52″ x 28″

* This is to make it the correct way with the longer front piece overlapping the shorter end piece at the corners so the front of the bed is a smooth board… (see my mistake further below…)

Step 2. Make the Platform base

The base of the bed is a frame made out of the 1x6s and cross beam 2x4s for support. Using pocket holes, I attached the two ends of the bed to the sidepieces to make the frame. I made the mistake of cutting the longer piece too short so it sits within the end pieces leaving that corner seam exposed. (Ideally, that side piece would be longer and overlap the smaller end pieces…)

corner detail of platform bed

Next I used pocket holes to attach five 2x4s inside the frame as the support ribs. I made sure that two were close to the ends, and then the center three were evenly spaced.

support for the platform toddler bed

The final piece of the platform frame was the plywood. Thankfully this fit perfectly so all I had to do was screw it into the 2x4s to hold it in place. Because of the lumber I chose,  there should be a little space between the plywood and the top of the frame for the mattress to sit in.

place plywood on bedframe and screw in place

Step 3. Build the rails

I’m using 1x3s and pocket holes for the bed rails which means they are PLENTY sturdy while Arthur is sleeping. If a larger child were to lie in the bed and actively push against those bed rails, they may not hold up to that kind of force, fyi.

using pocket holes to make the bed rails

I built 4 bed rails: two longer ones for the ends, and two shorter ones for the front. One side of the bed sits against the wall so I didn’t bother with rails. If we want to turn the bed around, he can have it with a totally open side in the future.

another view of bed rails with pocket holes

These bedrails are 8 1/2 inches high with two horizontal slats about 1 inch apart. I used pocket holes to attach the slats to the side pieces as shown.

First, I attached the two smaller rails to the front corners of the bed. Then I attached the longer end pieces. Lastly, I connected the end pieces to the each front pieces at the corner with pocket holes. Connecting them at the corner gives them another point of security to prevent the Kreg screws from splitting the thin lumber if too much pressure is applied against the bed rails.

attaching first bed rail to toddler bed

attaching second bedrail to toddler bed attaching end bed rail to toddler bed attaching final bed rail to toddler bed

Step 4. Finishing.

I sanded the bed down and gave it a coat of paint. I forgot to spackle over any knots in the wood, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for any bleed through. I also didn’t bother to fill the Kreg holes from the back. The mattress covers the bottom pocket holes, but you can see the other ones when lying inside the bed. (Arthur doesn’t mind.)

using the homeright finish max to paint toddler bed

To say he is thrilled is an understatement. He didn’t get out of his bed ONCE the first night he slept in it. (We were greeted by him in our bed verrrrry early the next day, but that’s a different problem to solve!) 

toddler bed with bed rails

diy toddler bed to fit crib mattress

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diy toddler bed with bed rails

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  1. Is there a list of all the supplies you used for this? I can only find thw lumber and measurements for that. It wOuld be helpful, i would likw to build this for my soms room but i dont know what size screws or how mAny

    1. Hi there! It’s connected with pocked holes. It’s plenty sturdy enough to keep a child from rolling out of bed. I wouldn’t trust it for a child to hang off or anything.

  2. FIll the pocket holes with wood! They make wood pieces sized for thAt. Glue them in, sand them, paint over them, and you will not be able to tell the holes are there! Just learned that on this project. Thank you so much though for the Idea, i used this on a twin Size bed! TodDler started climbing out of his crib so had to Adapt. This was the best Idea i have found!

    1. Yes!! Would be totally easy!! I got lazy since I knew he wouldn’t be using the toddler bed for that long, but… if I’d made this for our first child I definitely would have filled the pocket holes! 🙂

  3. The base sheet must have holes for ventilation of mattress. You simply cannot not have them. Without ventilation moisture will build up inside the mattress and it will lead to mold.