DIY Travel Lap Tray

DIY lap tray

Between road-trips, carpools and a million errands, kids spend many hours of their life buckled up in the car. Our recent Summer road-trip inspired me to create a DIY Lap Tray that could work for crafts, activities, snacks and even a nap on-the-go. Now that I have one made for Clare, I want to make one for everyone, including myself!

DIY lap tray DIY lap tray

Ready to learn how to make a DIY Travel Lap Tray? I think this one could be our next great go-to birthday gift!

DIY lap tray

Gather ye supplies:

A cookie sheet. This 10″x13″ worked well

1.5 yards fabric total (or 6 pieces 4″ taller and 4″ wider than the outer edge of the cookie sheet – 2″ all around) I used Nursery Versery and The Birds & The Bees.

Cotton Webbing (or your strap of choice) 1 yard.

1 – 12″ zipper. I love these colorful metal zippers from Zip-It Zippers

1/2 yard medium-weight interfacing

2′ Sticky Back Velcro

DIY lap tray

Follow our zipper pocket tutorial, placing the zipper exactly centered on the fabric.
DIY lap tray

The pocket should be 1″ smaller than the front fabric all around.

DIY lap tray

Cut 2 – 18″ lengths of cotton webbing. Seal the end either with glue or a serger.

DIY lap tray

Sew the ends to the right side of the pocket front, 6″ from side edges. Repeat on one of the pieces set aside for the pillow side.

DIY lap tray

Fold the bottom edge under 1/2″ and press. Repeat on the piece of fabric that will be the “back” of the pocket.

DIY lap tray

Align these two pieces right-side facing and sew around both sides and top, leaving the bottom edge open.

DIY lap tray

Place the other two pieces of fabric right-side-facing with the handle tucked inside and sew all the way around except for a large opening at the bottom, 8″ or so. This is your pillow side.

Cut two strips of Velcro to fit along the sides of the bottom of your cookie sheet. Remove the paper and stick the rough side to the bottom of your cookie sheet.

DIY lap tray

Peel off top paper of Velcro and position centered on the “pillow.”

DIY lap trayDIY lap tray

Pull the “pillow” away, taking the Velcro along with it.

DIY lap tray

Sew the Velcro in place through the hole in the bottom of your pillow. If it’s too tight, open up the hole a bit.

DIY lap tray

Find a curly-haired helper to stuff your pillow. If you can’t find one, a straight-haired helper will work just as well. Don’t pack it too much!

DIY lap tray

Sew the opening of the pillow closed. Your needle might be sticky from the Velcro and need replacing.

DIY lap tray DIY lap tray

Tuck the edge of the pillow into the open bottom edge of the pocket. Pin well.

I thought that I might have to hand sew the two sides together but it was surprisingly easy to machine sew. I think it depends on how full the pillow is stuffed.

DIY lap tray

Add reinforcing stitches to the top of the handles.

DIY lap tray

Now hit the road! You’ve got crafts covered!

DIY lap tray

Style covered!

DIY lap tray

Naps covered.

DIY lap tray

Activities covered!

DIY lap tray DIY lap tray

And snacks covered! Everything you need to keep them from going crazy if it’s not already be too late…

DIY lap tray

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107 Comments

Missy

this is awesome! This might just be my next weekend project. Now I’m SO glad I didn’t buy the $20 lap tray I saw in the store a few weeks ago.

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Sumé

Absolutely too awesome!! Def doing this! Just a question or 2 (sorry…sloooow)….. Why 6 pieces of fabric? (2 for pillow, 2 for pocket…….??other 2? Or is the pocket one 4 layers? And the interfacing ….would that be 2 layers…1 for each side?

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Jacinda

yeah, the last two are for the inside pocket so they can just be something cheap, I used old sheet. The interfacing if for those 2 layers (as described in the zipper tutorial. If you want to add interfacing to the outside layers of the pocket, feel free. It will make it stiffer.

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Sumé

Thank you! Should have read the zipper tut before asking!! Already bought the tray….sooooo excited to get started….

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Erin

i made mine for 2$ with a cookie tray and pillow case from the dollar store cant add another dollar for the thread and velcroe that i already had and 3$ is way cheaper than 13(plus i still have another pillow case to use)

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Trina

LOVE IT!! This will be perfect for all the trips our family has been taking lately-usually 2+ hours. With hubby preaching I’m always looking for ways to keep the kids quiet while he studies(in the car). I might have just found my solution.

Thank you Prudent Mamas!!!

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aJ

Cute! My daughter LOVES her cookie sheet – plays with it most days. I have linked to this post at ajperspective.com/blog – Thanks for sharing!

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Erin

I made one last night for a birthday present today, I actually used a pillow case to make mine it was so cute wish i had remembered to take a picture, but i was cutting out my laminated pictures for the magnets min before we left this morning.

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Allyson

I love this idea and can’t wait to make one! Thank you for the tutorial 🙂 I’ve posted a link on my website: thesunshinemoms.com/

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Heyyomomma

These are great! I am already planning to make 2 of these for my kids.

My only problem is that I’ve never made a pillow before. How much pillow stuffing do I need to purchase?

Thank you so much for the tutorial!

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Rachel

Question: What is the purpose of putting the zipper exactly center? Wouldn’t it be easier to get things like coloring books,etc. in and out by putting the zipper towards the top closer to the handles? Or closer to the pillow side so they can reach the pocket easier when they are using it as a desk?
I love this project! I’m starting on two today for my kids. Thanks for the ideas!

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Claudia

I thought the same thing and then I saw that when it lies on the child, the handles are toward the bottom, and when it is carried, the handles are toward the top. So I guess that it why…

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Jabba

Great tutorial – thanks so much! I just finished one for my sister in law, I’ll send you a link after I give it to her.
One more thing to note – nothing sticks to Teflon! Super glue worked great to get the velcro to stick to the cookie sheet.

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Emma

Hi. I love this, just got started (with a few small differences like extra pockets). Very inspiring. Just one thing though, got stuck (literally) sewing the sticky back Velcro onto the pillow. The gluey stuff from the back of the Velcro clogged up the sewing machine really badly. Any hints about how to avoid this? The pictures suggest that yours wasn’t done by hand so maybe I’m just missing something!

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Jennifer

Wow! This is exactly what I have been looking for and it’s taken me a while to find it. I knew someone was smart enough to have made a DIY travel tray tutorial and here you are! Thanks!

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Kim

This is awesome. I want one myself….but I think I will use a piece of wood that I can sit my laptop and kindle on. Wow you are very creative indeed. Making one of these for my little man and I think a couple (with wood top) for my grown son and daughter-in-law. Thanks so much for sharing.

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Tara Schroeder

This is incredibly unsafe. In the event of an accident, all of those things on the lap will become flying projectiles.

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Lynn

This is a really cute idea! Kids always need something to occupy their time while travelling. For those of you who have concerns about safety, I would suggest using a metal tray as opposed to aluminum, or painting the inside of an aluminum tray with Magnetic Paint, and attaching a magnet to the bottom of sippy cups/water bottles/snack bowls, and including magnetic playthings (magnetic letters, fridge magnets, etc). You can even glue magnetic strips to the back of books, coloring books, sketch pads, etc. to prevent them from sliding around.

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debbie

Great idea! Only changes I will make is to paint the tray with chalkboard paint and magnets on the things will rest on the tray including a box of colored chalk.

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debbieE

Great idea! Only changes I will make is to coat the tray with chalkboard paint and add magnets to the items that will sit on the tray.

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Daniel @ Best Lap Tray

Wow, that is one of the most detailed guides on how to build a travel lap tray yourself i have ever seen. The pictures help along as well, thanks for this great tutorial Jacinda.

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Amber

So I’ve been trying to make this today, and for the life of me I can not get the ‘sticky’ back velcro to stick to the tray. I’ve tried filing the back of the tray to give it a rougher surface, I’ve tried hot gluing it on, if I can ever find it I’m going to try super gluing it. Given that it’s apparently a very effective nonstick tray, I’m not holding high hopes. Any ideas? I need to have two of these made by a week from now for our 12 hour road trip with a 5 and 3 year old, I really don’t want to have to go buy two pre-made lap trays when I just bought everything for two homemade ones.

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Christina McSorley

I had the same problem. I’m trying super glue on the velcro. I have 4 and 8 year old sons and we leave for a road trip in two days. One done last night and one to do today. Thanks for sharing this great idea and tutorial!

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Laura

I hope you figured it out! I plan to sew magnets into the pillow cover to hold the tray on instead of velcro.

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Kristie

Although this is very “cute” the amount of danger here is incrediable! First having all that stuff in her lap in an accident will just fly in her face. Also the tray it self will fly either straight in her face or worse, get smashed straight into her tiny fragile stomach. Just think of you sitting in the front seat and having a cookie sheet across your lap. You get rear ended hard, you fly forward and the cookie sheet essentially goes right through your stomach. It’s the same in the back but worse as she dosnt have much protection between the front of her belly and her spinal cord. Just a bit of FYI since you are advertising this product.

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Meghan

Great in theory, but I would not use in car, maybe just for around the house or once you get to a destination. We have the commercial one, and while somewhat flimsy and flexible, that’s the point. It’s meant to collapse on impact in case of an accident. I can only imagine the damage this could do if pushed into stomach or flying around. Please think about that before using this product in the car!!

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nessa1282

Has anyone used this on a plane? Or suggestions for something to use on a plane? I’m flying from the east coast to the west coast with 5 kids and I’m looking for stuff to do on the flight

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MammaCass

I just made one each for my DS and DD and they absolutely love them. In fact they both wanted to take the pillow to bed with them….very cute! I did make one adjustment and added a hanging pocket to both the left and right side. I included ribbons on the bottom of the pocket so that these could be folded up and tied inside the bag. I also added some Velcro dots to the top corners so that the bag folded together stays nice and compact. Thanks for the inspiration and looking forward to our big car trip next weekend with these trays.

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Karly

4 yr old in the car for 10-12 hrs with nothing to do? Or a lap tray that actually works? The odds of getting in a car wreck are much smaller than potential odds of an absolutely miserable day stuck in a Honda Accord with a bored, winey 4 yr old with the vocabulary of a 10 yr old. I mean, my other option would be benadryl… SO. Lap tray, here i come!

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Marisa

I think the safety issue can be mitigated by not velcro’ing the tray to the pillow. Then, in the case of an accident, the tray will just slide off their lap. Make sure the tray isn’t too wide to fly forward and fall onto the floor and I’d think you’d be fine.

Granted, that means the tray is likely to slide off their lap, right? But a big book in a kid’s lap could pose the same risk, and I haven’t noticed anyone claiming you shouldn’t let your kids have a book in a carseat.

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Becs

I actually would say you shouldn’t let your child read a big book in the car. Although it would be nice for the child, it just doesn’t seem worth the risk. I recently read this story about a boy who was badly injured because he was hit in the face by a sippy cup in an accident. It might seem silly, but it’s worth considering.

I don’t think you can just assume the tray will slide off of the child’s lap, because it might not. In the article about the boy with the sippy cup, the author points out that to calculate the force at which an object will hit you, you have to multiply the weight of the object by the speed you’re traveling. That’s why a sippy cup did so much damage.

I couldn’t find the news article again, but here’s a blog post about it: http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/120581/almost_deadly_sippy_cup_incident

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Martyna

Velcroed or not, in case of a hit, it wedges between the baby and a front seat. Baby carriers have a warning on them not to leave the handle in carrying position in the car for the same reason.

This could be cool around the house, tho. Playing with magnet board snuggling on the sofa or sitting on the porch?

Never in the car…

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Christina

Although this is really cute and looks like a great idea, it is extremely dangerous for use in a vehicle. If in a accident the cookie tray could cause serious damage to the abdomen or chest. Similar products on the market are soft and flimsy for a reason. Please think about this before allowing your child to use this in the car.

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Diana

I have a question about how big the pocket is. I bought 1/2 a yard, but it seems like a very small pocket. I read the pocket/zipper tutorial, but still not quite understanding. Any pointers? And how big is the pocket?
thanks

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cenaless lose weight quick

Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better!

Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this post
to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
I appreciate you for sharing!

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25 DIY Travel Projects

[…] Cover Row 6: Recycled Container // Tissue Holder // Headphones Holder Row 7:  Eye Mask // Travel Lap Tray // Travel Candle Row 8: Headphones Holder // Straightener Cozy // Eye Mask Row 9: Travel […]

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Michelle Molloy

I just made a no see version with an old sham and hot glue. I had a piece of egg carton foam that I folded over and tucked into one of the flaps. Hopefully it will hold up! 🙂 thanks for the detailed idea!

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Donna Winterfeldt

MAY I say NO no NO to the. cookie sheet for the activity tray in the car. Can you imagine what would happen to your child if there were and accident and that cookie shee would be forced into her/him at 60 mph. Use a kindergarten nap mat. One purchase and you have 3 available stiffen with cardboard if needed.

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Betty Y.

I absolutely agree. Great for the bed but a big NO NO in the car. This would cause serious damage in an accident.

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Kimberly

Brilliant and adorable! Absolutely not safe for travel. A little more money for a soft lap tray is worth the safety of everyone in the car, who knows where a large flying metal object would end up? I wonder about a redesign with a substitute material? Thank you for sharing your tutorial, thedetails are great.

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Ztatsylime

whoa, hold your horses, this is not save!! the cookie tray could cause serious injury to your child if your in a car accident. buy the ones in the store or use a slightly stiffer foam, that way they will compact around your child not be forced into their abdomen.

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Lynn

Remind me to never go on a car trip with some of you! How boring it must be in your automobile, if no one can have a cup/book/toys/tray!! The cold hard fact is that it is unsafe to even put your child in the car and drive around to begin with. As someone up there said, the odds of being in an accident are far less than the odds of going insane on a car trip with a bored and cranky kid. Lighten up, folks! When I was a child, we rode in the car with — *gasp* — NO seatbelt! And often, we would — *gasp* — STAND UP in the seat to look out the windows. And guess what else? We rode our bikes with — *gasp* — NO HELMET! Trust me on this: if God decides he wants to call one of his angels home, it’s going to happen whether or not he/she has a lap tray. If God decides there is still work for that angel to do on earth, then He will guard him/her against injury from the lap tray.

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Matthew

Sorry Lynn, I’m not going to trust you on this because — *gasp* — there is no God planning out every human being’s existence. There is, however, a sense of responsibility that every parent owes their child. If you have the opportunity to provide your child with a safer alternative why wouldn’t you? Amazon currently has a travel tray for $15 that is made of materials that give under impact Sorry but this diy project, while clever and well executed, doesn’t make for a safe travel product.

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Adrienne

Matthew: Yahweh (your creator) loves you whether you believe he exists or not. He knows how many hairs are on your head. He cares about every detail of your life. You bring him glory even in your unbelief because HE is just that powerful. I would much rather have the safety of my children in the hands of this powerful, loving creator than solely in my own flawed hands.

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Merrianne Geisdorf

Great idea! I made one for my 7 year old granddaughter. Will be trying it out on a road trip next week. She helped make it and is excited to use it.

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Travel Lap Pillow | Casa Azul Studio

[…] Last night while looking for ideas to take on the plane for my 4 year old, I found this awesome tutorial from Prudent Baby. Last week we made the chalkboard with the alphabet letters and finding this was just perfect for our previous project. So this morning I went to my little studio  to find any scrap fabric to make this awesome travel pillow. I’m not a seamstress by any means and it sure didn’t turn out as cute as the original but it works for us. Here is the Tutorial […]

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Laura

Thank you for this! We have a big trip coming up and I really want lap desks for the kiddos, but don’t want to drop a bunch of $ on them. I started to sit down and plan one out when it occurred to me that surely someone else has done this already…I was right, and you’ve done it so beautifully! I love your design and think I’ll stick to it fairly closely, however I think I’ll add a pencil pouch and I plan to sew a few strong magnets into the pillow cover to hold the tray on instead of using velcro. That will also allow the tray to be flipped over for when a smooth edgeless surface is preferred (ie: when my older daughter is drawing or reading). I’m excited, my girls will love these!

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Alert GPS Blog

[…] lap trays so they can easily color, draw, and play travel games.  Here is a great tutorial from Prudent Baby for a DIY lap tray.  Some of their other favorite lap activities include reusable sticker pads, […]

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Aino Welch

You really want a metal tray in front of your child??? In the event of a crash, it could be a hazard. Replace the tray with a piece of foam core poster board or a used political sign (Corrugated Plastic Board). In a crash they will bend or break and leave your little ones safe!

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Sarah

I love this idea and plan on making one. Before I start hacking up fabric can I confirm what is needed? Assuming I use a 10×13 cookie sheet, I should cut 6 pieces of fabric that measure 14 x 17? Is this correct? But what does that 2″ all around refer to? Do I need another 2″on top? I am a little confused. Help please!

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Ashley

I really love your Travel Lap Tray. I want to make one for my 17 month old for our long 7-8 hour road trip this summer and years to come. Do you have a pattern you could send me? Also, I don’t have a sewing machine so do you think it’s possible doing a no sew version?

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Makayla

I love this tutorial. I’ve been looking for easier ways to keep my kids entertained in the car and keep their stuff on their laps instead of the floor; probably gonna go a cheaper route and visit the dollar store for the tray part, and put some stretchy cupholders and a way to tie it to the seat but wonderful tutorial and idea thank you for this!(:

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Lynn Calvello-Perez

Aloha,
I’m a mother of 4, Tutu of 3. I’m sure all of you are great parents, as shown by the comments on the dangers of using a metal cookie tray in your car. I can appreciate both sides of the argument. I would suggest using a plastic cutting board, which still provides a surface for drawing, eating, or playing games.
Although I will be making these for my 2 oldest grandsons, ages 5 and 3. I picture the weight of items stored inside the pocket, which hangs from the child’s legs is considerable, and believe the cookie sheet unlikely to flip up and hit the child in the head? For that matter, any felt pens, crayons, pencils, etc. could also pose a threat of injury during a crash, yes? I promote creativity over the ipads I see parents handing out to each child every time I fly, 99% of the time to watch movies and play video games. They are not being used as a learning tool, sorry to say. Please don’t beat me up here! I am 60 years old, had 4 kids but raised 6 total. I can speak from my years of experience. Wish I had these ideas when my van was filled with fussy children.
Mahalo for this tutorial.
Lynn

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Susan

These reviews are very entertaining! As a grandma, I have seen many iterations of “safety.” Also, many points of view about God! From your reviews, I can tell your age, as well as your political and religious preferences. Lighten up! Today, too many are too critical about too much. Make it or not, but for heavens sake, get off the backs of others!! And more importantly, my Velcro won’t stick to my nonstick cookie sheet. Working on it.

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