Apartment-friendly DIY Growth Chart for Kids for Under $20

When I was growing up, my parents would have my sister and I stand against the kitchen door frame and mark our height. I probably bugged them to death asking them to measure me, so I could see how much taller I’d grown. As Baby and Monster grow, that same experience was something I wanted to share with them…but living in an apartment, that isn’t easy. You can’t mark on the walls, and you can’t easily mount something to them either. So, I decided to make my own DIY growth chart using some scrap wood and paint.

A sunflower-themed growth chart for kids

Since the scrap wood I was using already had a coat of white paint, I decided to go with white. I also decided to spruce our growth chart up a bit and make it fun by adding a decorative sunflower motif. I also added three loops to hold the three colors of sharpies we’ll use — blue for Bubba, red for Baby, and green for Monster.

What You Will Need

All totaled, this DIY growth chart project cost me less than $20. Here’s a quick material list with costs:

I also used a handful of tools to make this project happen. Many of them made the project EASIER, but weren’t totally necessary. Here’s what I used:

  • Circular saw
    • You won’t need this if your piece of wood doesn’t need cutting.
  • Sheet sander (sometimes called a palm sander)
    • If you don’t have this or another electric sander, you can sand the wood by hand. It’ll take longer and require more elbow grease, but the end effect is the same.
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
    • If you don’t have this, you can use a ruler or yardstick.
  • Wire snips
    • I only used these for clipping the artificial sunflowers. You might be able to get by with normal scissors.
  • Carpenter’s square
    • If you don’t have this, any straight edge or ruler will work, but the carpenter’s square helps you keep things lined up.
  • Sawhorses
    • If you don’t have these, you could build this easily enough on the ground. Having it raised just saves your back and knees.

Getting Started

Scrap board

I started with a scrap piece of wood, a little over 7 feet long. I chose a 1in x 6 in board, although one end of it had lost a couple inches of width due to a previous cutout. It’s covered in old paint, has a few screw holes, and there’s a slight warp, but I don’t mind those imperfections. They’ll just give the end product some character.

The first thing I want to do is cut off the wide edge to give the board a uniform width all the way down. I’m also going to trim a few inches off the bottom to make it an even 7 feet long. You can see I’ve already marked off the bottom edge after measuring 7 feet with my measuring tape.

Scrap board cut down

After my cuts, the board looks a lot more uniform. My right wrist is a little weak from an old injury, so the circular saw wobbled a bit near the end. I’m not worried about it — the wobbly cut isn’t super obvious, and I’ll hide it later with some decorations.

Next up, I want to sand down all the rough spots. This board has several screw holes, residual old paint, and caulk. I used a sheet sander and slowly worked my way across the whole board (including the end tips and edges), first with a fine grit sandpaper, and then with an extra fine. The sanding didn’t get the board completely smooth, but I don’t need it to be — I just wanted to knock off the rough stuff and give me a smooth surface I could paint.

Painted white board

Since my scrap board already had white paint on it, I decided to just freshen it up. I found about a quarter can of Valspar semi-gloss white paint in the garage, so I used that. One coat was enough. I just brushed it on, then left it to dry on the sawhorses for about an hour and a half. I left a box fan blowing across the board to speed the drying process.

Giving the paint another half hour or so to dry would have been ideal, but I was somewhat pressed for time when I was building. It was still dry enough to proceed to the next step.

Ideally, I’d have used a matte paint — it’d be easier to mark than the semi-gloss, but I used what was free and available. Feel free to paint your growth chart any color you like (although I’d recommend lighter colors to make it easier to mark). You could even go with bare wood and use a light stain.

Growth chart measurements

What good is a growth chart without measurements? Now that the paint is dry, time to add some. To do this, I just used my measuring tape and a black sharpie. First, I used my carpenter’s square to mark a line across the width of the board at every foot. Then I just freehanded little notches for each inch. I left every 6-inch mark a little longer as a better visual aid.

At this point, this DIY growth chart is technically done. We’ve got a 7 foot board marked with feet and inches, so you could mount this to a wall or keep it freestanding and use it to measure your child’s growth. But I felt my growth chart looked a little plain, and I wanted to make something pretty and fun for Angela and the kids.

Pen loops

Angela and I decided we wanted to use a different color for each child, so I decided to add three pen loops to hold sharpies. I stuck them on the upper end of the growth chart to make it harder for grabby little preschoolers to get hold of them.

To make the pen loops, I just used about 3 inches of this sunflower ribbon I picked up at Walmart. I folded the ribbon in half, then tacked it in place with a shiny decorative nail. I considered putting a nail in each corner, but I liked the look of just one nail, so I tacked down the other side of each loop with superglue.

NOTE: if you decide to do this, pick up one of the superglue bottles that includes a brush applicator. It helps!

When I was picking up the ribbon, I happened to come across some artificial sunflowers. I figured I’d be able to figure out how to work them in, so I grabbed them. Figuring out what to do with the sunflowers honestly became the trickiest and most time-intensive part of the whole build.

First, since I’d had to cut some off the width, my board was a little narrow — I didn’t want to cover up too much of the board with sunflowers, or I wouldn’t have room to mark the kid’s heights.

The sunflowers came as a bouquet held together with plastic stems. I used a pair of wire snips to clip off two of the flower heads plus a handful of the leaf clusters. First, I tried simply supergluing the flowers and leaves in place, but that was pretty disastrous. Whether it was the semi-gloss paint or the plastic the flowers were made out of, the superglue wouldn’t stick. The only thing I succeeded in gluing down was my thumb to the board. I’m still picking bits of glue off it.

When the glue didn’t work, I decided to go the tried and true route of hitting things with a hammer until it works. I simply nailed the flowers and leaves in place with more of the shiny decorative nails.

Once I had the flowers and leaves scattered along the length of the board, I used the green sharpie to freehand sketch a stem growing the length of the board. Adding a few little flowers helped tie the 2D and 3D elements together.

As you can see from the photo above, we’ve already put our DIY growth chart to use. As of this post, Monster is a tad over 3 feet tall, and Baby is right at 3 feet, 7 inches. Bubba wasn’t home yet, so we couldn’t get his measurements.

A sunflower-themed growth chart for kids

And there’s our finished product! I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Total build time was about five hours, but an hour and a half of that was waiting on paint to dry, and another 30 minutes was spent wandering Walmart looking for decorative ideas. If you actually have a plan instead of winging it like I did, you could finish it in a lazy afternoon.

I like that this is a freestanding growth chart. The current place won’t be the last place we live together, and likely the next place won’t be either. We want to one day build a cabin of our own, but we may skip through a few different lodgings before we get there. Since this is freestanding, we can take it with us anywhere we go. And since it’s just a thin board, it’s easy to stash up against a wall or behind a piece of furniture.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever built a growth chart for your kids? Want to? Tell us about it in the comments.


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