How to Shop for a Toddler Bookshelf

This article is about IKEA, but most of the principles detailed here apply to any furniture store. When shopping for a bookshelf at IKEA, remember two things. One, do not head straight to the children’s section. Look over the entire store for workable options. Second, do not drop your child off at the in-store play area. You will need to size furniture to your child.

Two photos of the LEKSVIK shelving unit sitting on a blue carpet. The top photo shows the bookshelf without books. The bottom photo shows the bookshelf full of books.

Yes, this means the unit you buy might be "adult" furniture not painted in crazy kid colors. Everything your child touches doesn’t need to be an epileptic explosion of color.

Look for a storage unit with 3 shelves within 3 feet of the floor, each less than 1 foot deep. There should be a backside to the unit, unless you add 1 or 2 inches to your measurement of the shelf depth—counting the distance between the bookshelf and your wall. The idea with these specifications is to provide ample book storage within your child’s reach.

My daughter loves having a space of her own for books, visible and accessible at the same time, much more so than with a bin or sling shelf.

You can buy a bigger shelf, say 6 feet tall, if you want a piece of furniture your child will still be using when he or she is 6- and 16-years-old.

However, consider two safety issues. One, if your toddler is a climber, a tall bookshelf makes for a long fall. Second, the taller and thinner the shelf, the bigger the tipping hazard.

Plan to secure the bookshelf to wall studs with brackets and cables. IKEA sells this accessory in its children’s area, and it should be found at any good hardware store. They are pervasive here in California due to earthquake safety issues.

These measures can prevent the bookshelf from falling, but a sea of books and toys could still come tumbling down. It would be wise to keep any shelves above your child’s head empty, or stocked with soft plush animals that won’t harm if dropped from high above.

You are probably thinking it’s a good idea to browse IKEA’s web site to scout for a bookshelf. Forget it. The furniture is organized in designer groupings, rather than by size and function. You could waste an hour on the web site and not discover many good products which are easily noticed simply by walking through a physical store.

That’s what happened when I found our bookshelf, a LEKSVIK wall-mounted shelf. I didn’t browse for wall-mounted options on the web site, but when I saw the LEKSVIK on the ground in a floor display, I knew it was the perfect height for my daughter.

This article was going to be all about the LEKSVIK I bought in November for a non-sale price of $40, but today the same shelf sells online for $95. Ummm, huh? I’m kicking myself now because I wanted to buy a second due to our growing book collection.

My LEKSVIK has wooden boards that, upon closer inspection, are each comprised of up to 5 boards glued together. These boards have a good number of knots that have been filled. The product is hardly heirloom quality, but was still a good, practical deal for $40.

In any case, the moral of this story is that children’s stores aren’t the only solution. Look around at all of your options to see what might fit your child’s needs.

See previous:
Sling Bookshelf by Kidcraft. This shelf couldn’t hold our ever-growing book collection. Today our sling bookshelf stores a small chalk board, Aquadoodle, Magna Doodle and a felt board.


3 Responses to “How to Shop for a Toddler Bookshelf”

  1. thordora says:

    Can I have your kid too? none of our kids books look that good, on or off the shelf. They’ve been eaten over, chewed on, dragged, bent, etc. Loved, but man, I’m glad we got a huge box free.

    January 4th, 2007 at 2:49 pm

  2. Kristin says:

    I just bought the Ikea Expedit bookshelf ($79.99) and 8 Quantum industrial parts bins (17.5 x 11 x 12.5, 4 red, 4 blue — $8 each) that fit perfectly in the horizontal bookshelf. Excellent, roomy, durable and attractive toy storage!

    January 12th, 2007 at 1:07 pm

  3. RookieMomHeather says:

    I think I found this great article last year when you wrote it and again now when I need it for two boys and a mounting board book collection oozing out of shoe boxes in three separate rooms. I think you’ve talked me into the grown-up furniture. Too bad I was already at Ikea once today!

    March 22nd, 2008 at 2:17 pm

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