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State University of New York, Minerva logo State University of New York, Minerva logo Professional Development Program Rockefeller College University at Albany State University of New York

Early Childhood Education and Training Program

A Penny Saved

Instructions to Build a Forward Facing Bookshelf
(click on the images to enlarge)


materials needed
  • 1 piece of Multi-density fiber board (MDF)- 2 feet by three feet and ¾ inch thickness. (Have the hardware store cut this piece lengthwise into two, 3 foot high pieces measuring 1 foot across.)These will be used for the sides of the shelf.
  • 1, 1inx2inx8foot and one 1inx3inx8foot length board. (Ask the hardware store to slice each of these boards into four, two foot sections)
  • 1 large piece of tempered hard board
    (ask the hardware store cut it into four, 8 inch by 24 inch pieces.)
  • Sandpaper
  • Nails. (We used nails for this project but you might want to use screws instead to make it a little sturdier).
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Safety glasses


  1. Sand all of the wood to remove any rough edges.
  2. Start by pre-drilling holes into the 4, 1x3x2 inch pieces of board. Drill holes into the face of the board; one on each end and one in the center, all along the edge of the board.
  3. Begin making the first shelf by nailing one of the predrilled pieces of 1x3x2 wood to the 1 inch edge of a 1x2x2.
  4. Then do the same thing for each of the other shelves.
  5. Drill three holes onto the face of one of the 8x24 inch pieces of tempered hard board along the 24 inch side.
  6. Nail this piece to one of the now put together 1x2x2 and 1x3x2 L-shaped pieces. (This creates the bottom shelf.)
  7. To make the second shelf, drill three holes in the top of the first shelf’s tempered hard board and nail it to the 1x2x2 side of one of the L-shaped boards.
  8. Then connect these to the sides of the MDF shelf by drilling holes in the MDF in each spot where the 1x2x2 and 1x3x2 pieces of wood touched the sides and nailing one nail into each board.
  9. For the next shelf drill three holes through the top of the second shelf’s tempered hard board and nail one of the L-shaped pieces that we had previously assembled into the back of the second shelf. (This formed the bottom of the third shelf.)
  10. Nail the two sides into place by drilling holes through the MDF and hammering nails into the L-shaped pieces of the shelf.
  11. To make the fourth and final shelf, we repeated the steps we followed for assembling the third shelf.
pre-drilling holes drilling nailing pre-drilled wood drilling holes nailing sides finished shelf

Instructions for Bookshelf


  • Bookshelf
  • Paint- 2 containers of same color, different shades
  • Gloss finishing sealer
  • Paint brush
  • Sponge
  • L fasteners
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver (electric optional)
  • Stud finder (optional)


  1. Make sure old paint on the shelf is removed or at least safe to be painted over (lead free).
  2. Paint the shelf in the darker of your paint colors.
  3. Allow to dry.
  4. Take a sponge, dip it into the lighter paint and blot on a piece of newspaper.
  5. Dab the sponge over the shelf to make a decorative pattern.
  6. Continue this until the entire surface is decorated.
  7. Let this coat dry.
  8. Cover the bookshelf with a high gloss sealer to give it a finished look.
  9. Let sealer dry.
  10. Decide where the bookshelf is going to be placed. Find the studs in the wall by knocking and finding the place where it is not hollow or by using a stud finder.
  11. Align the shelf with the wall where the studs are.
  12. Place the L joint with one side against the wall and one side against the shelf.
  13. Screw the L joints into place, placing one at each corner of the shelf.
  14. Place other materials in your center to make it a warm and inviting place for the children to read and relax.

Instructions to Build a Water Table

download a PDF file that has directions to build a water table
(Instructions to Build a Water Table - Acrobat .PDF)