Stacking Toy Boxes

Toy boxes that stack and store, and can be turned over to be used as a play table.


Projects built from this plan. Thank you for submitting brag posts, it's appreciated by all!

So often when we think of a handmade gift, we consider the added meaning that our loved ones will get from our gift. And that is definitely true.

But something odd happened to me today in the garage, while I was painting these stacking toyboxes for two of the sweetest little girls I know. In the quietness of the garage, I started thinking about their mother, my friend Jen. I thought of how when Grace was a high maintenance baby, Jen would come over with her daughter, and say, "don't worry about me, I'll entertain myself . . . go build. GO!" And she would tow the girls around on sleds in the yard, and keep them happy, color with them, whatever it took to give me a few free minutes. I needed those few free minutes desperately, and my friend recognized that - even though she herself needed a break just as bad, maybe even more.

As I got busier and busier with the blog, Jen still called, asking if she could help, if she could take Grace to playdate in my absence. As I painted those toyboxes, I began to feel sad, because as the last year progressed, I just have not made time for my friends. But my friends have still made time for me. I tried to think of the last time I called Jen, and I couldn't. She always calls me first.

Jen is one of those people that never forgets to ask you how you are doing, that actually truly listens when you talk, and always puts herself and what's she's going through last. It's TOUGH to get her to complain. Over the years, she's made me a better person.

As I painted those toyboxes, it occurred to me in a selfish way, I was getting something perhaps even greater out of this gift by giving it. I had an opportunity to think about my friendship, and to appreciate my friend.

As we approach this gift giving season, I hope you find an opportunity to handmake a gift for a friend or loved one. And as you make it, I hope you take a second to think about how that person has made your life better. It's the silver lining.

The intent was to do a rustic look with distressed stenciled numbers, but in the end, couldn't come up with 8" stencils and with a lack of time, went for my trusty can of Valspar High Gloss Red (premixed) and Valspar OOOOOPS Blue handmixed.  But I hope that someone else takes the idea and goes with it, would be cute!  These toyboxes I would say are medium sized, but very sturdy and easy to carry around.  I could definitely see one for blocks, one for arts and crafts, and one for dolls or so on - and definitely one for books.  Another idea, how about dividing your child's Christmas presents up into toyboxes, and only letting them play with one box a week?  That way the toys will not loose their appeal and finding Strawberry Shortcake's strawberry shortcakes won't be such a chore.

Shopping List: 

1 1×12, 8 feet long
1 – 1×3, 8 feet long
1 – 1×2, 8 feet long or scraps 16″ long
1 – 1/4″ plywood 16″ x 24″
2″ screws
1 1 /4″ screws
wood glue, filler, and finishing supplies

120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
measuring tape
safety glasses
hearing protection
countersink drill bit
Base is 17 1/2" x 26" approximate, Height is 14"
Cut List: 

2 – 1×12 @ 16″
2 – 1×12 @ 24″
2 – 1×3 @ 17 1/2″
2 – 1×3 @ 25 1/2″
2 – 1×2 @ 16″
1 – 1/4″ plywood @ 24″ x 17 1/2″

Step 1: 

Build the Box

As with most storage that we do, start by build a simple box out of 1x12s. Predrill your holes and use glue. Adjust for square – especially if you are stacking. Off square boxes won’t stack right.

Step 2 Instructions: 


Use 1/4″ plywood screwed and glued to the bottom as shown above.

Step 3 Instructions: 

Footer Ends

Now screw the 1×3 end footers on. I overlapped the footer and the box by 1″.

Step 4 Instructions: 

Side Footer

Glue and screw and the footer is done

Step 5 Instructions: 


Now this wasn’t in the original plan, but I found stacking my boxes was a bit tight without some sort of simple cleat. And then I ended up kinda liking the look of it. I just predrilled holes (very carefully with a countersink bit) from the top and attached in place.

Step 6 Instructions: 


Handles are real simple, just find the centers of your holes, drill holes, and connect the dots – literally

Finish Used: 
I used wood filler to fill any exposed holes. Sanded with 120 grit sandpaper. Then primed and painted everything. And it’s not quite dry yet. You could easily add 1 1/2″ diamter caster wheels under there too, and no one (besides your kids and your walls and doorways) would ever know they roll.
Project Type: 
Estimated Cost: 
Skill Level: 


Hi - I have subscribed to your feed for some time now and wanted to write and thank you for providing such great plans and providing us with a great sense of empowerment - that we can do this. I will be sure to send pictures of what I make. Thanks, again.

Ana - Thanks for not only sharing these plans, but the story of your friend, Jen. It's easy to let your friends become the ones that always do the calling, and keeping up the friendship... I will certainly be reaching out to my friends this season...

I was just going to go buy plastic totes to organize the toys. Not anymore! These are so cute AND functional. The perfect thing for our toy room! Thanks Ana for another wonderful plan. You really are the best.

I really love this post- not just because of the sweet toyboxes, but because of the point of what you wrote!
I too have had wonderful friends who have walked with me and stood by me when I was not able to be the best friend back to them. It is absolutely wonderful to be able to give something back and to reflect on what great friends they are!
Thanks Ana- you are not only a wonderful craftswoman you are a great encourager!

Ana, I loved the story about your friend as much as I love the plan for these toy boxes.

I'm a transplant -- I live in Burbank, CA, but I grew up in Seattle, WA. If not for the friends I've made here in Burbank (all of them also transplants), I would not survive being a mother of three with a husband who travels extensively for work. If you're lucky, you find friends who get you through all the times you're feeling lonely, tired, frustrated, sad, dejected, incompetent, unattractive, and hormonal. Thank God for the "Jens" of the world. What would we do without them. :-)

I love love love these boxes and am tempted to adjust the size and add casters so that they will fit under my nieces' beds and then when my sister moves next year we can remove the casters and stack them. Thanks again for your wonderful plans, my sister and I will be building the laundry dressers next week and i'll be building two more sets of the $10 ledges for christmas gifts, so great. I just picked up my copy of freshHOME and saw your interview in the back and loved it, congrats :)

Thank you for this idea! They make cute toy boxes, but I'm sure they'd be great for other storage too. I think I'll make a few for storing craft materials and out of season decorations in my closet.

Hey Ana, just an idea for stencils (which you may already do, who knows) but Freezer Paper works amazing. What I do is print out whatever word, number, ect. I want, then put it under my piece of freezer paper (A couple dollars for hundreds of feet at the grocery store) and trace it. Then I get out my exacto knife ($3 at a craft store) and cut out the stencil. Then you can IRON (turn it as hot as it will go) the freezer paper onto the wood, paint your stencil, let dry, then peel off the freezer paper. I do this a lot with fabric and there is NEVER any bleeding. Additionally, since you only traced the image off the computer paper, you can use the computer paper image again and again. I have a whole folder full of ones I have used just in case I want to do something again in that same size.

It's kind of like magic. Except better.

CUT LIST NOTE: 1/4" plywood on cut list should read 24" x 17 1/2" (rather than 16"). We fixed this by just cutting it to 22 1/2" x 16" and insetting into the toybox which worked just fine :)

Can't wait to get this painted for my little man for Christmas!

slightly smaller version will be perfect for my mobile repair business - i need stacking boxes that will work well with a hand truck - as i need to haul quite a few tools quickly into repair jobs at office buildings & recreation centers, gyms etc...

i'll put the 1x3's at the top of each crate though, which will provide a lip for grabbing - eliminating the need to cut out handles (i hope).

I tried finding durable plastic stacking boxes from the industrial supply companies, but either they were too expensive ($400 for 10 boxes) or likely would break in our cold canadian climate when being moved in winter...seems like wood may be the best solution for me in this case.