Providing young children with a place to sit, play and eat outside helps parents avoid the all-too-common problem of video game lethargy, and a child-sized picnic table can be just the thing. This pint-sized picnic table offers a great place where your kids can get away and be creative while enjoying the fresh outdoor air. Before you know it, your child will be asking to have his or her lunch at the picnic table whenever it’s not raining.
Building a child’s picnic table requires certain tools and basic carpentry skills. Because this job requires the cutting of pressure-treated wood, safety gear should be worn at all times, including work gloves, heavy-duty work boots, ear and eye protection and a good quality respirator or air mask.
Tools and Materials: What you'll need
- Miter saw
- Power drill and bits
- Measuring tape
- Exterior-grade deck screws (sized 1 and 5/8-inch and 2 and ¼-inch)
- Exterior-grade wood glue
- Waterproofing stain
- Paint brushes
- Band clamp
- (4) 8ft. 2x4 pressure treated cedar boards
- (3) 8ft. 5-1/2in.x5/4in. pressure treated cedar deck boards
Building a Kid's Picnic Table
Step 1: Purchasing the Lumber
The instructions for this child’s picnic table will utilize pressure treated cedar lumber because cedar lasts very well in outdoor environments. When making your purchase, have the lumber center cut the 8ft. deck boards in half for you. This will give you (6) 4ft. lengths of cedar deck boards, of which you will use five for this project.
Step 2: Building the Apron
The apron is the frame on which the table top sits, so this needs to be the first piece built. Start by cutting your 2x4s to length. You will need two 40-inch lengths and two 24-inch lengths. Use the miter saw to make a 45-degree miter cut at each end of the four boards. Keep in mind that the lengths of the boards (40in. and 24in.) needs to remain true from tip to tip on the longer side of the boards when making your miter cuts. Next, cut four 1 and ½-inch wide, flat-edged spacers from a spare length of 2x4.
On a large flat surface, like the floor, assemble the apron. Place a spacer between each joint and use the band clamp to hold the apron together. Check the corners for plumb using the square and make any adjustments necessary.
Cut (4) five-inch mitered corner braces to fit inside the corners of the apron. Pre-drill pilot holes (with countersink) in the braces, apply wood glue to the cut ends and secure the braces to the apron with 1 and 5/8-inch deck screws.
Step 3: Cutting the Legs to Length
For this picnic table, the legs need to be 29-inches in length. Choose the most presentable 2x4s to serve as the legs as these will be exposed. Cut (4) 29-inch legs.
Step 4: Adding the Legs to the Apron
With the braces in place on the apron, you will see that there are slots created where the legs will be inserted. Add wood glue to all mating surfaces and slide the legs into place. If the fit is tight, you can tap the leg with a hammer and wood block to help seat it. Set the wood block on the top of the leg and then hit the block with the hammer. Do not hit the leg directly with the hammer or it will be damaged.
Make sure the leg is flush to the floor and level before you secure it permanently. Drill your pilot holes and secure the leg to the apron by driving (2) 2 and ¼-inch deck screws through the apron brace and into the leg. Follow this step at each leg.
If wood glue squeezes out from between the wood pieces, simply use a damp cloth to wipe the excess away.
Step 5: Adding the Table Top Boards
Since you already had the lumber yard cut the deck boards, you don’t have to worry yourself with that task. Choose the five best-looking pieces of deck board to serve as your table top.
Stand the picnic table on its legs and use the measuring tape to find the center on each apron short side and mark it with a pencil. Then, measure 2 and ¾-inches out from each middle mark and place a mark there as well. Set a deck board on the apron and align its edge with the second set of marks you made. Position the board so that an even amount of board overhands each side of the apron. This should be roughly three inches on each side. Drill your pilot holes with countersink and secure the deck board to the apron using 1 and 5/8 deck screws (two per side).
Continue to add boards to each side of the primary board using a ¼-inch spacer to leave a small gap in between them. The two outside boards should be screwed down into the top of the legs. This is necessary for maximizing the structural support of the legs, so double check your screw spacing so you definitely hit the leg.
Step 6: Trimming the Ends
While the lumber yard does an excellent job of cutting wood, there’s always a chance that the deck boards may not be 100% perfectly aligned on the table top. That’s OK, because the fix is an easy one. Just run a chalk line or draw a straight line using a square along the ends of the boards. Cut away the excess with a circular saw and use sandpaper to soften up the ends.
Step 7: Finishing the Child’s Picnic Table
Apply your choice of waterproofing stain to every surface of the picnic table, following the directions on the can for the best results. Use a rag to clean up any drips or runs and then just wait for the stain to dry.