DIY: Family Growth Ruler

In 18 months my little Bean has sprouted too quickly. It goes by so fast folks. Lily is so tall she’s in the 98% for height and typically when people find out her age I get a big WOW combined with bugged eyes. Maybe she has a future in basketball or as a model…

As parents we try and savor each and every precious moment, and with time flying at warped speeds I feel that at each blink she is sprouting another half inch. My family used the inside of our pantry door as a growth ruler for my brother and me. At that house I was already in middle school, but my brother, Alex, was still in elementary school. Over nine years that door jam filled with so many pencil/pen marks from my brother, me and many of our friends. Our family eventually moved to Nashville leaving that sweet memento behind.

There are many items out on the web that keep track of your child’s growth and I grew smitten with the oversize rulers. Mike and I know that this home will not be the one we grow old in (still crossing fingers for a better housing market) and when we do move we can bring the keepsake ruler with us!

This is a pretty simple project but it takes time to complete. You will need the following materials:

Wood (Lowe’s or Home Depot sell pre cut wood)
Wood stain and sealant (I purchased a stain with sealant, 2 steps in 1!)
Paint brush
Paint mixing stick (you can get these for free, just ask the store!)
Sand paper (I used my mom’s sanding machine to make it easier)
Painter’s tarp (I just used 2 large plastic trash bags to paint on)
Ruler or yard stick
Ball point pen
Black Sharpie or black paint pen
Painter’s tape
Number stencil (you can buy one at Joann Fabric, free hand it or print your own)
Hanging materials (hammer, 2 large d-ring hangers w/ screws, picture hanging wire and 1 safety hanger)

Step 1:  Prepping the wood.
We purchased our wood from Lowe’s for only $8.97. To get the gigantic ruler look I went with a piece that was 72 inches long and 9 inches wide. One day we hope to have another child and if that child is a boy we made sure the ruler was tall enough for him! Counting our baseboards our ruler is a little over 6’3’’.  Now if you have no wall space in your house you can purchase a skinner piece of wood and attach it to the inside of a pantry or closet. To prep the wood for the stain you must sand down the surface. This will help the stain adhere to the wood and prevent your child (and you) from getting splinters! I borrowed my mom’s sanding machine to make this step easier. Make sure you wear protective eyewear if you are using a machine. Make sure you sand all sides (except the one that will be against the wall). To make the ruler have a realistic look I sanded the edges and corners a bit harder giving them a bit of a rounded edge.  Take the towel and wipe the wood down to clean off all of the dust.

Step 2: Apply the stain.
To make it easier I purchased a stain with sealant. Before you start applying it make sure you mix the stain well with the mixing stick. Lay the wood down on a painter’s tarp or you can use two plastic trash bags like I did. Apply a thin even coat of the stain, making sure you follow the direction of the grain.  Allow the wood to dry for six hours until you apply the next coat….I told you it takes some time! The stain has a strong smell so I suggest you do this outside. Keep applying coats until you reach your desired color.

I purchased Minwax Polyshades in Pecan Satin. After two coats I thought it was too red so I decided to start over. So I re-sanded the wood and used Olympic Maximum in Canyon Brown. The second time I only used one coat because even after sanding the wood had color from the first staining. Even after 8 hours the stain wasn’t fully dry so I used two old rags and rubbed off the wet areas. I LOVED the way it turned out using the rags. Some areas have a darker hint giving the wood a realistic/vintage look.

Step 3: Mounting this to the wall.
If you have baseboards it’s important to mount the ruler first so you can figure out where to start your ruler’s markings. If your ruler will be touching the ground you can skip this step until the ruler is complete. To hang our ruler we attached 2 large d-ring hangers to the back of the ruler and then fastened picture hanging wire to them. Just to be safe with used a three pronged safety hanger that could hold 75lbs for the wall. Our ruler hangs in our laundry room and the wall doesn’t have a stud and the three pronged safety hangers are great for walls with no studs. If your piece of wood is really heavy (ours isn’t) I highly suggest you find a stud to hang your ruler on.

Step 4: Making ruler lines.
Once your ruler is mounted on the wall take a ruler or yard stick and measure from the ground up to 1 foot and make a mark with a pen. Take your ruler off the wall and lay it on a table or kitchen counter. Using the mark you left go ahead and measure out the remaining feet and inches making small marks all the way up one side of the ruler. Once those marks are made you are ready to make the ruler lines. I made 3 inch lines for the foot marker, 2 inch marks for half a foot and 1 inch lines for each inch. I used a ball point pin to make the lines first and followed over it later with a black Sharpie.

Step 5: Stenciling the numbers.
You can purchase number stencils at a craft store, but I didn’t like any of the ones at my Joann or Michael’s. You can also free hand it, but I have horrible handwriting. So I opted to make my own. To do this I opened Illustrator (or you can use Word) and created numbers 1 to 6 to a font and size I liked and printed them. Cut each number and attach them to the ruler using painter’s tape. Carefully trace over each number using a ballpoint pen. Go back with a black Sharpie or black paint pen to fill in each number.

Step 6: Hang your ruler on the wall and measure out your child’s height!
Lily is currently an only child, but we placed her initials next to her marker to distinguish it from any future siblings. Make sure you write the date too! I haven’t done it yet but I plan to mark all the heights from each of her doctor’s visits including the marker of her birth height!

And there you go…a simple but lengthy DIY project that you will use for years. We will be able to take this ruler whenever we move in the future and one day I hope to add the marks of my grand children!

View Comments
  1. Jenn commented:
    August 25, 2014 Reply

    Is it necessary to seal the numbers or lines at all with anything? They won’t fade over time?

    • Amy Romano commented:
      September 6, 2014 Reply

      Hey Jen! I use a pencil and press it into the wood to make a small grove to mark the kid’s height. I then take a marker and go over the indention for it to show up. So not only can you see all the different height you can feel all the marks if you rub your hand over the ruler!

  2. Shannon commented:
    January 7, 2016 Reply

    Thank you for the tutorial! How did you end up handing it so that its flush with the wall? Thanks!

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