Build and Paint a Toy Cradle
A Toy Cradle for a 2 Year Old's Birthday
When our second granddaughter was looking at her two year birthday it seemed like a good idea to design and make a baby doll cradle just her size but we needed to think the project through carefully.
After a little research the decisions for making our design were child's play. By following these guidelines you will also be able to easily make a cradle for a child.
Deciding the Size and Design
Because our little CW is so young we wanted to design it so it would not be too large or too “rocky,” yet it needed to be large enough and to look stylish enough for her to use as she grew through her toddler stages.
The size needed to be able to hold a good size doll baby because she has her mother’s girlhood dolls to play with, but still, we needed to keep it small enough for her little hands to manage easily.
Once we started drawing sizes for the project on paper, Grandpapa worked out just the right scale. His calculations produced a cradle design with an overall measurement of 17" long x 12" wide x 12" high.
Creating the right paint motif could help it look more “rocky,” keeping it safer for her as she toddled around during play time. Painting a one-of-a-kind cradle for her was going to be great fun for Grandmama!
Cutting Out and Assembling the Cradle
While there were several ways the cradle could have been designed for assembly, we chose a simple way to keep it as light as possible since we would be mailing it to the PNW. Keeping it uncomplicated also allowed us to finish it quickly.
5 Easy Pieces to the Project:Click thumbnail to view full-size
This design has 5 basic pieces--2 ends cut from 1x12 pine board, 2 sides and a bottom cut from 1/2” sandply plywood (cabinet grade material) so that giving the project a nice finish would be a fast, easy process.
The sides and bottom were simple rectangles, 2 sides 16” long x 5” wide and 1 bottom 16" long x 8" wide--see the first and second photos on the right of this paragraph.
The 2 end pieces were initially cut in a trapezoid shape of 11 1/4" long, 12" at the bottom, and 10" at the top. Those top corners were rounded off and the wider bottom corners were cut to allow the cradle to rock, yet not so much that it would be too tipsy for her--see the third photo.
Grandpapa used a small power sander to nicely round off the roughly curved corners on the ends. He then knocked off the sharp edges on all the pieces so her tender skin would not be damaged by sharp wood corners.
He used a router to cut slots into the ends to fit the bottom and sides so the pieces could be securely assembled into one unit, but that method is not absolutely necessary. The pieces could simply be stapled, screwed, or nailed in place.
Drilling holes for countersinking the screws, glueing the pieces, then adding the finish screws put the toy together sturdily. Clamping all of the parts in place to give the glue extra strength left us waiting on drying time so it could be finished.
Once the glue was dry and the cradle was hand sanded, he used wood putty to fill small holes and nicks. After the putty dried a final sanding meant that Grandmama could begin her fun...
Painting the Toddler-Sized Babydoll Cradle
The raw wood required a primer and I decided to put two coats on this project since there were a couple of small knots in it, giving each coat a light sanding after they dried. Then I went back with a third coat on top of the knotty areas.
While the primer dried I made three heart shaped patterns for the insides and outsides of the end pieces. See photos below.
• The first pattern piece was a rocker design with a heart shaped top to use on the outside ends.
• I used the same size heart shape to make a full heart pattern piece for the ends' insides.
• The third pattern piece was a copy of the full heart that I scalloped along the outside edges. This piece would be used as a guide later in the painting process.
Painting Process for Doll CradleClick thumbnail to view full-size
After the primer was given a final sanding I used the first two pattern pieces to outline designs on each side of each end piece (as shown in the photos).
Then I painted the cradle a medium-dark sage green using an acrylic craft paint, lightly painting the second coat over the heart shapes I had drawn on the primer coat.
Once the sage was dry I used a cream colored acrylic paint to fill in the outlines. Two coats were required and each needed to dry thoroughly.
I then used a glossy white acrylic to outline the cream colored hearts to give dimension to the basic design. This outline is much less noticeable in real life than in the pictures.
The third pattern piece was placed on top of the painted heart shapes allowing me to pencil in the scalloped areas, not closing the heart’s bottom on the outside of the ends--note photos.
The scalloped design was the base for beginning a vine design. As shown in the photos, the brown bare branches looked a little scary!
Various greens were used to add life to the bleak branches. First, I painted a dark green along the edges of the brown. Then, dark green leaves here and there were grown into the design as the vine developed.
A medium green to added wisps and curlycues throughout the branches, as well as a few highlights to the leaves. Finally a very light sage was used for the final leaf highlights and to accent a few of the vines.
The key was to go for a natural garden look that gave an impression rather than a look of perfection in the design. Seeking a relaxed yet controlled overgrowth for these hearts gave it a nice outdoor feel.
Painting faux slats on the sides was easy enough, but time consuming so I decided that doing the outsides would be good enough. I forgot to take pictures of that process, but I measured approximately 1” spaces, painted them white, then put a hint of shadow on each slat using the cream.
For contrast I decided to paint the bed area of the cradle a very light sage, hardly distinguishable from the cream in the photos. On the bottom, underneath the cradle. I painted a bright, whimsical bird to watch over her playtime.
At this point, I sponged a white glaze over the entire cradle, working in small areas to give a thin, translucent, cloudy appearance to the painted design. A bit of glazing gives depth to the layers of a design, adding even more life to it.
Finally, the entire cradle was sprayed with a clear coat to protect the acrylic paint surface. Two light coats were applied according to manufacturer’s instructions.
A Look at Painting Vines:
Finishing the Birthday Cradle
With the clear coat dry, a light sanding readied the cradle for it’s mailing box, which we had to make to fit. But first, the cradle needed something soft!
When my granddaughter’s mommy was a little girl a friend quilted her a small wall hanging of pink hearts. It made the perfect lining for this wooden project!
Of course, even though my little granddaughter already has baby dolls, I couldn’t send an empty cradle--it had to have “someone” in it. I’m planning my next hub around a super easy doll baby in a blanket that traveled across the country in this cradle.
Beautiful Cradle Design
A father shares his motivation and design for a sweetheart of a toy cradle.
A Doable Toy Bed Project!
Perhaps you are unable to build a toy bed to give as a gift. Don't despair! Unfinished doll cradles and beds are available. Personalize one like this from Amazon and your project will be just as special.
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