*And we don’t own a cat….
There is a very small window of time in a baby’s life where you can lay them under a baby gym and they are completely content with the world. It’s sometime after they realize that they don’t have to be held for 24 hours a day…and sometime BEFORE they realize that they can roll to the opposite side of the room and grab your coffee mug that you put on the floor yesterday morning. It is a GLORIOUS window of time. You can leave the room to get the laundry from the basement to fold, while your baby happily bats at the toys hanging above his adorable little head.
When I realized that Max had finally reached this point, I was excited to get him a baby gym, but funds were tight. At that time, we were planning on me taking the year off and staying home with Max, so we were very careful about spending any extra money. I had a Home Depot gift card tucked away from our wedding, so I whipped it out when my dad was in town visiting, and we took Max on his very first trip to the hardware store. I spent about $10 buying dowel rods, PVC pipe elbows, and some rubber leg tips…and that was all I needed to make a baby gym.
After our trip to Home Depot, we drove down the street to the Dollar Tree and my dad and I had ourselves a little heyday picking out toys to hang from the gym….judge all you want…but we ended up picking the majority of objects from the pet section. I mean…why not? Everything in that section jingled or squeaked, and it was bright and colorful. And it was all so cheap that I could buy a variety of toys to switch out on the gym from time to time. After picking out several jingly cat toy balls with little paw prints and fish all over them, we headed home to put together Max’s first official “toy.”
DIY Baby Gym
- Two 1/2″ PVC Pipe 3-Way Elbows
- Two 7/8″x48″ Wooden Dowel Rods
- One 3/4″x48″ Wooden Dowel Rod
- Pack of four 3/4″ Anti Skid Rubber Leg Tips
- Cut the 3/4″ dowel rod to the desired width (I cut mine to about 32″…actually I did a terrible job cutting, so my dad had to fix it for me. You can ask the nice folks at Home Depot to cut it for you and most times they’ll do it for free!) This will be your top bar that you hang toys from (i.e. Dollar Tree cat toys…)
- Cut the two 7/8″ dowel rods in half so they are both 24″ long. These will be your legs.
- Twist the dowel rods into the PVC pipe elbows.
- Add the rubber leg grips to the bottom of the legs.
- Voila! You’re done. If you want to make it secure, and don’t plan on taking it apart, you could totally glue the dowels into the pipe fitting. But since we were moving, I opted not to glue it so we could easily pack it and move it around with us.
Considering this project cost me less than $12 total…I’d say it was a win. I also love that it’s natural wood and not the cheap-looking plastic. I considered painting the PVC pipe elbows…but ended up not, just because of the time. It would have made this gym look even nicer, though!
After I built the gym, I remembered we also had a few baby toys from a shower that someone got us, and I hung those on the gym for him to play with as well. But of all of the toys…it was the ones from the Dollar Tree that grabbed Max’s attention most…especially the bendy flower and the blue cat toy ball.
I’m going to be honest though, guys. I’m glad I didn’t spend a ton of money on a baby gym…because Max only played with it for about a month or two before he started rolling away from it and getting in to other things. Now we hang his favorite cat toy ball from his Baby Einstein jumper. He still bats at it like it’s his job. And that bendy Dollar Tree flower accompanied him on many a road trip as it hung from his car seat. And we used the dog toy microphone as part of his Halloween costume this year…
…our poor child.
…but then again…no. Not our poor child. I’m excited to teach Max how to be resourceful as he grows up, and how it’s not always necessary to have the hottest trend toys…because honestly…how much of it gets used only a few times and then never again? Most kids are completely happy with the simplest of things. It isn’t until we start to teach them that they need more, more, more…that they start to believe it. My brother and I were given many toys throughout our childhood…but the ones that I remember playing with the most…were the blocks my dad made for us out of wood scraps from his carpentry projects, the Fisher Price Little People, and the knick-knack toys from Happy Meals. We would build houses out of blocks for the people, and use the Happy Meal toys as extra “props” for the houses. We literally spent hundreds of hours of our childhood with these three things. My desire for Max is to be able to have the chance to engage in creative, innovative, and imaginative play as he grows like my brother and I did. So I’m okay with a few cat toys and dowel rods every now and again….