DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea

I'm going to say right off the top that we didn't reinvent the wheel with this idea. But when my daughter sent a photo and asked if it was something we could make, my response was heck ya and we'll make them for the kids for Christmas! These stuffed animal zoos are an adorable DIY gift idea for that special handmade gift from the grandparents for birthdays or the holidays. They require just a few supplies and are not that difficult to make and I'll show you how.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea


My grandson's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw two large wrapped gifts coming into his house for him and his sister. He was even more excited when he opened it and saw another wrapped gift inside. They got a handmade stuffed animal bought at a Christmas craft fair with Mommy.

The zoos were personalized and painted to match their room decor. My daughter is happy to finally have our grandson's pile of stuffed animals off his small toddler bed and corralled in one place that not only looks adorable but doesn't take up much space in his room.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Gift Idea From Grandparents

The growth chart between the two zoos is another great DIY gift idea for grandparents to make. I made this easy stenciled yardstick growth chart shortly after our granddaughter was born. When our grandson was born almost four years ago I didn't know there were stencils for making these. His handpainted yardstick growth chart took longer to make.

Here is how we made the zoos

Starting with the lumber you will need to build the zoo (photo below based on making two zoos).

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Supplies

Please note the Instructions and Materials List are based on making one zoo.

Measurements for cutting lumber

3/4" Plywood Base = 1 @ 12" x 12"
2" x 2" Uprights = 4 @ 30"
1" x 4" Rails = 4 @ 12 3/4"
1" x 6" Trim = 4 @ 12 3/4"

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Cut Lumber

Zoo base assembly

  • Cut 3/4-inch plywood base 12" x 12".
  • Cut four pieces of 2" x 2" lumber 30" long.
  • Set a 2" x 2" upright on each corner and draw an outline with a pencil. 
  • In the center of each outline drill pilot holes with a 3/32" drill bit on the base. 
  • With a countersink bit drill in the pilot holes. This will be the underside of the zoo base.
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Upright Pilot Hole

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Upright Countersink Hole
  • Working on its side, put a dab of wood glue on the bottom of the upright. 
  • Screw #8 2 1/2" wood screw through the pilot holes into your 2" x 2" uprights, making sure it sits flush with the plywood (as pictured below). 
  • Repeat on all four corners.
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Attaching Uprights

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Upright Installation

Attach bottom rails

Cut four pieces of 1" x 4" lumber 12 3/4" long. Apply wood glue at the contact points and nail them to the plywood base and corner uprights with a 1 1/4" brad nails.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bottom Rail Installation

Attach top rails

  • Cut 4 pieces of 1" x 6" lumber 12 3/4" long. 
  • Make a spacer with an offcut piece of 2" x 2" lumber cut 8 1/2" long (this is the measurement between the two uprights at the bottom). 
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Top Rail Spacer
  • To conceal the top of the uprights, place the top of the rail approximately two inches above the uprights (as pictured below).
  • Working on its side, place spacer between the uprights as you work and clamp together to hold everything tight. Apply wood glue to contact points and nail your upper trim piece with brad nails just like you did on the bottom rail. 
DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Assembled

Prepping Zoo for paint

Fill all the brad nail holes with wood filler. Once dry, sand the entire structure to get rid of any roughness in the wood with 120-grit sandpaper and a mouse sander.

Making them pretty with paint

The interior of the zoo is painted with pure white Behr latex paint that we had on hand. The exterior of one zoo is painted with Rustoleum Chalked paint in Coastal Blue and the other with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Antibes green. Both zoos received three coats of a clear matte top coat.

Bungee Cord Bar Installation

Make a jig for bungee cord zoo bars by cutting a piece of cardboard the width of the space between the uprights. Measure for three zoo bars spaced evenly and mark with a pencil.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bungee Cord Template

Place a screw through a flange type washer (as pictured below) and partially screw it into the uprights at your marked points. Repeat until both the top and bottom on all four sides are installed.

On the top and starting at one end, wrap the bungee cord around the screw and tighten down the washer to secure it in place. Pull the cord down to the bottom while maintaining some tension, wrap around the bottom screw and tighten to secure.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bungee Cord Installation

Move to the next screw beside it, following the steps above, then work your way up to the top and over to the next screw and back down to the bottom, and so on. Cut the cord once that side is complete and repeat for the remaining sides.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Bungee Cord Washer

Personalize the zoo

If you are lucky enough to have a scroll saw, you could make personalized wooden names but we don't so I placed a custom order on Etsy.

DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo Personalized Wood Names

They are painted in contrasting colors that go with their room decor. They are attached to the top rail of the zoos with E6000 glue.

This green zoo is for our grandson.

Green And White DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo

And the coastal blue and coral zoo is for our granddaughter.

Coastal Blue And Coral DIY Stuffed Animal Zoo

Isn't this just the cutest stuffed animal storage organization idea? I love how at only 12-inches square they don't take up a lot of room but at 30-inches high, they can hold a lot of soft toys.

Personalized DIY Stuffed Animal Storage Zoo

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience so you can see what products I used or recommend to make this project. See my full disclosure policy.

For this project you will need:

Materials List

  • 2" x 2" Lumber
  • 1" x 4" Lumber
  • 1" x 6" Lumber
  • 3/4" Plywood
  • 1 package (20') Bungee Cording
  • Personalized Wood Name (found on Etsy)
  • #8 1/2" Wood Screws
  • #8 2 1/2" Wood Screws
  • 3/32" Drill Bit
  • Countersink Drill Bit
  • 1 1/2" Brad Nails
  • Flange Type Finishing Washers
  • Wood Glue
  • E6000 Glue
  • 220 Grit Mouse Sander Pad
  • Mouse Sander
  • Pneumatic Brad Nailer
  • Rustoleum Chalked Paint Coastal Blue
  • Americana Multi-Surface Paint Shrimp
  • Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Antibes
  • Matte Clear Polycrylic Top Coat


Stuffed Animal Zoo DIY Gift Idea


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4 comments

  1. How cute! I am going to show this to my son. He enjoys working with woodcrafting projects.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is so cool. My brother-in-law made one of these a couple of weeks ago for his daughter!!Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Marilyn! They are pretty cute. I bet your granddaughter loves hers.

    ReplyDelete

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