DIY, Projects

DIY – Simple Indoor Toddler Climbing Wall

Being a serial DIYer and having kids is hard. I just want to build everything I see in Pinerest and we are having a tough time deciding where to put them! Just me? I know! Having a toddler that goes from walking to climbing on ALL.THE.THINGS. within days of each other is frightening! I mean, he can barely walk, so what in the world does he think he’s doing, right?

Knowing that we still had several months of winter in Wisconsin and itching to use my power tools, I came across an indoor rock wall DIY and knew I had to have it for Sawyer!

DIY Climbing Gym

Not only do I love having activities for him to express his imagination, but I love any activity that will keep him moving. Let’s be honest — sometimes I just need a break and it’s a breath of fresh air to see him busy for ten minutes at a time! Since I decided to give it a go, the next step was figuring out how to create a safe climbing zone but still get the most out of it for years to come. Staring at the corner of the room it hit me, just rotate the wall! Being only four feet off the ground was a plus for me, and being able to climb left or right would make it more of a challenge as he got older.

Keep them active and ready for a nap!

If you’re thinking you want to DIY this project for your mini climbers, too — Welcome! Without further ado, here are the plans to create the climbing gym and all of the supplies I used. Keep in mind that you may need to adjust the sizing for your space and the dimensions you are comfortable with. I can’t wait to see all of the walls you build, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram once you do!

One happy baby — just admiring his new Climbing Gym!

Supplies Needed:
1 Set of Climbing GripsThese are the ones I used, but there are hundreds of variations available! Always verify the sizing and that the grips are equipped with T-nuts for safe installation.
1 – 4′ x 8′ 1/2″ Birch Plywood
6 – 1″ x 2″ x 4′ Select Pine Boards
30 – 3 1/2″ Wood Screws

Assorted Spray Paint – I prefer the finish of the Chalk Paint (Navy grips), it had a much smoother finish and was full coverage in two coats versus five(!) on the other colors (Perfect Gray / Dark Gray) I used.
30′ White PVC Corner Molding – I purchased these in 8′ pieces to account for the angled cuts and any mistakes I might have made! Depending on your wall size and placement, you could use more or less. Just measure the edges of your final wall to determine the total.
Polycrylic Finish – this is the version I used, but feel free to add a stain or wash prior to sealing with the Polycrylic.

Tools Used:
Stud Finder
Measuring Tape
Finish Nailer

Please read through all instructions before purchasing supplies or making any cuts! In the words of a professional (just a SAHM, here!) Measure twice–cut once!

Step 1 – Prepare Your Space & Supplies! :
Gather Supplies! If you head to Home Depot or Lowes, they will cut the plywood to your measurements. I had them cut my piece to fit the corner I wanted to hang it in. Mark all of your studs with a stud finder at the top and bottom of where your wall will be.

Step 2 – Prep and Install your 1″ x 2″ Boards :
Take your 1″x2″ Boards and trim 2″ from each board. Doing so will leave a gap around the edge of your plywood to attach the corner molding. Once trimmed, measure down 12″ from each end and drill a pilot hole for your screws. Using your stud finder and level, attach the 1″x2″ boards to the wall. After you secure the first screw, make sure to use your level to secure the second screw into the stud. Since this is supporting kiddos–we need to make sure every screw is hitting a stud.

DIY Climbing Gym – The 1″x2″ supports are secured into each stud – 16″ apart (the last one didn’t due to the vent system!)

Step 3 (Optional) – Prep your Climbing Grips :
At this step, if you are wanting to change the color of the grips, you will want to spray paint them in order to dry before assembling. My recommendation is multiple light coats to ensure even coverage.

Step 4 – Prep your Plywood Facing :
Before we apply the climbing grips, we want to prep our plywood! For the sake of efficiency, I recommend staining and sealing your plywood while the grips are drying. If you have skipped this step and are attaching the grips as is, feel free to jump ahead. Before you apply stain or poly, you want to lightly sand the entire surface with 220 grit sandpaper. This opens the grain to take the finish more evenly.

If you are applying stain, be sure to apply the pre-conditioner to avoid a blotchy finish. DO NOT sand in between coats of stain if you are wanting to do multiple coats for a darker finish. Once dry, apply a thin coat of polycrylic and allow to dry following the guidelines on your can. Once dry, lightly sand in between coats of poly with 220 grit paper. This makes a much smoother and even finish.

Arrange your grips for the DIY rock wall before creating the holes for the bolts.

Step 5 – Securing Grips :
Once the plywood is sealed and your grips have dried, it is time to put the puzzle together! Lay out your grips and mark with pencil where the bolts will be going through the plywood. Depending on your stud to stud measurements, avoid where you will be securing the plywood to the studs.

For my wall, the studs were 16″ apart, so I lightly marked this line and made sure the grips were not overlapping this line. The rule of thumb for spacing the grips I chose is 10-12″ apart, but the closer together they are, the easier for little ones to climb. For variety, it is recommended to rotate the grips as well. Set the grips aside and drill the holes using the drill bit provided with the grips.

Once all of your holes are drilled, attach the grip to the face using the bolts and t-nuts supplied. There should also be a bit that was sent with the kit to fit the bolts specifically. As you tighten the bolt, the t-nut will begin to thread into the plywood to have a secure grip. Repeat until all holds are attached.

Step 6 – Installing the Plywood :
Before we attach the plywood to the wall, we want to pilot a few more holes to attach to the studs. Making the pilot hole first is important so we are not potentially splitting the wood in the process. It is also helpful to set the screws into the pilot holes prior to lifting onto the wall. (One less thing to hold!)

Mark each of your stud locations with pencil and pilot three holes per stud – 4″ from the top and bottom and 23″ down (this should be the center of your plywood). Once prepped, set your screws into the pilot holes without going through the back of the plywood.

Next – grab a partner to help you lift! Lift your sheet into place making sure you are lined up correctly with the studs and start to install all of the screws! Yay! We’re on the wall! The hard part is done!

Step 7 – Making your wall Safe! :
Since the edges of plywood are left unfinished, they are prone to splintering, which means splintering into little hands! To avoid this, I chose a white PVC corner molding to add a finished edge. Measure from corner to corner and cut a 45 degree angle on each end. You want the shortest point of your angle to be the closest to your plywood.
Attach the PVC molding to your plywood edge with your finish nailer – You are done!

DIY Indoor Climbing Gym – Complete!

Bonus Tips!
If you have clamps — it is much easier to pilot the holes through your plywood and through the 1″x2″ at the same time. This also means you can line it up perfectly.

If you don’t have a finish nailer – you can also use liquid nails! Just be careful, less is more as you don’t want it to squeeze onto the plywood face.

If you make a mistake on painting the grips or want to paint them after the wall is secured– No Problem! Since the t-nuts grip into the plywood from the backside, once they are installed, you can remove and reinstall the grips at any time.

Order your grips first! All grips are not manufactured the same, and you will want to confirm the thickness of the bolts made for the grips so that you have the right thickness of support beams. For example–if your bolts are 2 1/2″, and you are going through 1/2″ plywood and have a 1″ gap provided by furring the plywood out with the 1″ x 2″ pine, you will have an inch to make up for!

I hope this tutorial helps you! To see the build in action — check out the highlight on my Instagram as well. If you have any questions, please let me know, I’m happy to help!

Happy Building!

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