DIY Chalkboard for Abe’s National Parks Room

How to make a chalkboard for a kid's room: inspired by the National Parks Service's arrowhead logo

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I was always planning to make a bear shaped chalkboard for Abe’s room. Right up until the very day when we were all ready to make a chalkboard. And then I sat down to try to sketch out a bear profile for Dave to cut out, and….I couldn’t get it how I wanted it.

There were too many decisions to make, and, in cases such as this, every decision is another chance to mess everything up and end up with a chalkboard you hate forever. Should the bear stand on four legs or two legs (two leg bear fit the space better, but too scary maybe?) Grizzly bear or black bear? How to find the right balance so the bear was neither too cartoonish nor too terrifying for a toddler?

Then I remembered the National Parks Service emblem (I keep wanting to call it a logo, but everywhere I can find the NPS referring to it, they call it an emblem or a “visual symbol.” I guess logo implies something all commercial instead of noble and democratic and of the people). Each part of the emblem represents a different facet of the NPS:

The Sequoia tree and bison represent vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water represent scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead represents historical and archeological values.

I love historical and archeological values! And we’re kind of short on historical and archeological values in Abe’s room, whereas we already have a bear pillow.

And the shape was way easier to draw. (Except don’t look too close, because once it was hung on the wall, it looked a lot less symmetrical than I thought. Oh well. Still totally pointy enough to kill a bison, right?) It’s certainly not an exact copy, so we’ll say it’s inspired by the original visual symbol of our National Parks Service.

The how to make a chalkboard process is pretty straightforward. I sketched out the shape on a piece of thick plywood that we had left over from some other project (I should have used a ruler more liberally, to help with that whole symmetry issue, but I was just so excited):

sketching out Abe's DIY chalkboard

And then Dave cut it out with a jigsaw (this is the one we have; we bought it to replace the one we killed cutting too many thick plywood projects before. It’s worth spending a little more on a heavier duty jigsaw if you plan to work it hard) and drilled holes in it so we could mount it to the wall with anchor screws. We decided this was the best bet to keep it secure, since Abe was actually going to be drawing on it and all:

diy chalkboard from plywood

Then I painted it with chalkboard paint (which I also already had on hand, making the cost of this project pretty much nothing):

rustoleum chalkboard paint

Before you write on your DIY chalkboard, you’re supposed to “prime” it by taking a piece of chalk and rubbing the side of it all over your new chalkboard, then rubbing it in with a rag or eraser before wiping it back off. Or at least this is what I’ve always been told, so I’ve always done it. Word is you won’t be able to effectively erase whatever you write or draw on your chalkboard otherwise. Of course, this might all be a vast conspiracy by the chalk industry to force you to use more chalk, but chalk is cheap, so why take chances, right?

At any rate, this is what I did next, after letting the paint set for 2 days. I don’t have a picture of it, but you know what a chalkboard covered with chalk looks like I bet. (Unless you’re one of those people who can’t visualize things in your head, in which I case I guess maybe you could google it).

And then we hung it up! This is really the only place it could go in the room….low enough that Abe can reach it, and not right over his bed so that chalk dust gets all over his blankets. This room is pretty packed full these days, and space is at a premium.

diy chalkboard arrowhead

Here’s how that wall is looking now:

Abe's National Parks room with pull down vintage map and diy chalkboard

There are other new things! Do you see them?!

I’ve been casually keeping an eye out for a vintage pull-down school map of the US for awhile now, but I haven’t had any luck thrifting one. So I finally turned to eBay (which I’d avoided for as long as possible because they tend to be very pricey on there) and found one that was less than perfect (most notably, there’s that rip in it, which I need to tape up still) so that it was a little cheaper. I got it for $50 plus shipping. Still not cheap, but I felt very strongly that his room NEEDED one. I couldn’t see anything else in the space. So what could I do?



And I just found that blanket at the thrift store the other day. I wasn’t sure where I was going to put it until I got it home and thought, “duh. Abe’s room. Dummy.” So there you go:


Thanks to everyone who responded last week when I was looking for advice on fabric for the bookcase in here. I think geo bear is the runaway winner, and that’s how I’m leaning at the moment (especially since I didn’t make a bear chalkboard), but I haven’t made a final decision yet. Which means I’m definitely not finishing this room by the end of April. But! We’re getting so close!

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