Under the Rainbow: Modern Minimalist Waldorf-Inspired IKEA Baby Gym Hack

We rarely keep our baby activity stuff in the baby's room. Whether it's a swing, bouncer, a boppy, a bumbo, an exersaucer, or a baby gym, it tends to live in our family space, aka the living room.

Not until Noa did I realize that seeing plastic, cartoon-animal, baby-themed items all over my otherwise pleasing-to-my-eye living room slowly sucked the life out of me and made me feel like I had somehow lost myself in a sea of baby identity (that sounds overly dramatic, but whatevs). For most of these items, we simply eliminated them altogether as they were never the magic with my babies. 

But for the things were knew would be used a lot and would mainly stay in the common areas,  I tried to shop for more theme-neutral, minimal/beautiful, and natural (re: wood) items that would still do the job of entertaining a baby. Oh hey, those tend to be really expensive--if you can even find them at all. Hint: you're probably not going to find a wood exersaucer and should just go put your baby in an actual tree instead if you can't compromise on that one.

With a baby gym, everything I found that wasn't crazy, light up, polyester plastic tended to be $60-$200, and still was never really giving me the style I wanted. 

While on our many IKEA visits, I would see their wood baby gym, LEKA and be sad that it was ohsoclose (minimalist, birch, very interactive, AND affordable at $30!), and yet still not ideal (dark primary color scheme, snake spiral-hypnosis artwork).

And then I remembered, "Uh-doy, I DIY like whoa. Why not convert this bad boy into my dream baby gym?!"  So I did that. Like 7 months ago. And then forgot to tell the internet about it, and here were are. 

Here's how I got there:

-White Spray Paint (Satin or Glossy)
-White Acrylic Paint
-Different Color Felt or Other Textured Media
-White Nylon Cord: 1.5 yards
-3 Wood Circles (I used hardwood branch slices; a large dowel would work too) with about a 2.5" diameter and .5 to 1.0" thickness

-Drill with 2 Different Width Bits
-Hot Glue Gun
-Duct Tape

Unpack your box (it's IKEA, so it will be nicely disassembled for you already!). Find the two red base legs and give them a good sanding all over. This will take off the glossy finish and allow your spray paint to grab on. Wipe dust off with a damp rag.

Grab your spray paint (DONT USE FLAT...i regretted this and had to add a clear gloss) and go to work laying down a few nice, thin, even coats until the red is all gone (if you're a stickler for primer, use that too/before!)

When your legs are completely dry, assemble the gym according to the IKEA directions (DONT DOUBT THEM, THIS LEADS TO RUIN!). 

Let's cover up those primary designs with some lovely white.

You now have a lovely gym frame with some spinning spiral snakes ready to whisper parseltongue to you tiny babes and hypnotize your little ones into opening the Chamber of Secrets. #EnemiesOfTheHeirBeware.

Get your sandpaper and rough up all the 4 plastic spinning shapes.

Use some paper or cardstock to make a little apron to keep the paint off the wood frame 

Tape the gap closed to complete the paint-catcher little drop cloth.

At this point if you'd prefer to spray paint these, you would just tape/paper over EVERYTHING except for the plastic spinning toys. I used acrylic craft paint so I could stay inside with my tiny baby. Get painting.

May take a few coats. Basilisk blood does not take to being covered lightly...just ask Mr. Filch.

In between your coats, start cutting out the designs and shapes you are going to want on your spinner elements (4 surfaces),

Once your paint is dry, you can hot glue the shapes into place in the arrangements of your choosing. Here are my 4:

Now to attach the toys! Get your wood shapes. I was going for a very Waldorf-esque natural look with wood and rainbow colors, so using this massive hardwood branch segment we found on the side of the road ended up perfect replacements for the toy "stoppers" that IKEA had used chunky plastic circles for.  We tested that it would be hard enough by turning Layla loose with a shovel on it. SOLID.

Whatever you use for your "stoppers" will  need to be thin and narrow enough to fit through the 3 slots on the birch frame (the blue and red spans below) so you can take them in and out, but large enough so that the baby won't pull them back through while they are flapping the toy around underneath.  

Jesse used our miter saw to chop 3/4" thick slices that would fit the bill (hand saw would work too since its just 4 small cuts). We left them a little large and then sanded down where we needed to so they would fit through easily and still be secure.

Get your drill and two drill bits. With the SMALLER (skinnier) bit, drill a hole all the way through each slice right in the middle. Then take your fatter bit and drill on top of this hole, but stop only 1/3-1/2 of the way through each slice. You will end up with a hole that your cord will go all the way through, but a little shelf that your knot will be tucked atop, but not able to pass through.

Cut your nylon cord into three equal lengths (leave them longer than you'll need for now). Tie secure knots in one end and thread through the hole. Pull hard to make sure your knot is big enough to keep from slipping through when tugged on. If not, keep making the knot bigger. When it's the right size, use a lighter to melt the nylon which will permanently set the knot in the right size and clear up and frayed ends. (I am frayed knot!)

Tie the other end of each cord length to the toys of your choice. I chose 3 Haba toys for their colors and features.

Just tie them on wherever makes the most sense and melt those knots in place (it should still be very easy to swap out toys if you want to update which 3 are in the gym). Now yer rockin'!

Quick, stick an infant under there! (this was back in March)

It's trippy under the rainbow.


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