If you have a young toddler, you may be considering a toddler learning tower otherwise known as a kids kitchen helper or montessori stool. They can be an investment, which is why I went back and forth for a while if I should get one. Now that I have one, I wish I had gotten one sooner! Let’s go through the ins and outs of a learning tower, and decide if it’s right for your family. Lastly, decide which is best for you from all the options. Because there are lots of different types to choose from these days!
What is it??
It’s a stool with rails around the top so your toddler won’t fall. It’s a safe way to have your blossoming baby at counter height. It gives them the independence to climb up and down like a stool does, but with parameters that keep them safe from falling off. They can help you cook, or just watch, play with a toy on the counter, finger paint, play with water at the sink, etc. etc.
What are the benefits?
Independence, safety, confidence and skill development. My second son Ellis loves loves loves to “do dishes”, meaning he fills all the cups with water and dumps them out- over and over while also soaking the counters. 🙂 He is also really attached to being held or being involved. With my first son Miles, I could give him an independent activity on the floor or his play table while I cooked and he’d be good. My second on the other hand just can’t stand not being in the mix, rightfully so.
I decided to get one for the peace of mind it gave me. I could walk away for a second or be wrapped up in a recipe and not have to worry when my son was doing his masterful dish washing. *sarcasm* But who knows, maybe this is the start of a wonderful and helpful dish washing son. A mom can dream!
While I bought it for safety, it’s opened up a lot of other ways we can connect. Our kids do need lots of play. But they also need to learn about the real world and the things we do on a daily basis. Since a lot of time for many families is in the kitchen, it’s a perfect way to get them involved young. In this case, the work is the play! You don’t have to worry about how to keep your toddler entertained while you prepare meals. They can be right there with you.
Right when your son or daughter are confident walkers and can climb up a few steps. Or when your child turns 18 months. It is ideal between 18 months- 3 years old. My first son Miles is a little over 3 and 1/2. He recently became too big for it, but he’s pretty tall and wearing 4T already.
Which to Buy?
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Yeah, you could technically use a chair but why? You have so many options now for a safe option and piece of mind! The level of confidence your toddler develops when they feel safe is extraordinary. Let’s look at your top choices so you can decide which would fit your family and space best.Little Partners Learning Tower
Most popular and the leading tower by far. Lots of benefits including a few different colors to match your kitchen, height adjustable, can fit two kids, and you can buy adjustments to make it into an easel later. Cons are that it is large! And not collapsible. As a friend of mine put it, make sure you put rubber around the bottom to protect your toes after constantly running into it. This would matter if you are in a condo or have a small kitchen. Also it’s pricey at $179. Many rave that it’s worth the price and will give you many years.
A little smaller and collapsible, which cannot be done with the Little Partners Learning Tower. Which makes it a better choice for smaller spaces so you can store when not in use. Has a chalk and whiteboard already on it, making it also an interactive toy for your toddler. Height adjustable as well! Cons expressed by owners are that the quality can be questionable and only comes in white or natural. It may not hold up for as many years as advertised. $149
Some criticism about the original Guidecraft kitchen helper are that adventurous toddlers use the shape cutouts to climb. This model solves that problem as the slats don’t create “steps” for them. All depends on your child’s personality and which you prefer. This one also has the darker wood stain which the original does not. $149
I’ll round out this list with two DIY options, but the next few options are from Etsy. The site can give you lots of options in style, color and look without having to construct it yourself!
Very cool feature of also converting into a table for your little one! 4 color options and clasps can be gold or silver. Cons are you may have to wait a little long for this item because they are made to order and the shipping costs make it as expensive as the original learning tower. It’s also not height adjustable but the table feature gives it an extra “role” in your house. $107 but shipping can be pretty expensive.
This is one of the cutest ones in my opinion. It is very customizable with lots of color choices, wood stains and patterns you can add. Uses the Ikea Bekvam stool as a base and has excellent reviews. I almost got this one because I loved the aesthetic and craftsmanship. Cons are there is a little bit of assembly- putting the top and bottom pieces together and the height is not adjustable. $114 plus $10-20 shipping.
What sets this apart from the other Etsy towers is that the bar in the back comes out. This is great for when your child gets older. You can use it a lot longer than learning tower age range. There are different wood stains and paint color options, as well as the ability to laser engrave your child’s name. $89-$185 depending on color choices and how many names you want to engrave. PfeifferMade2014 Montessori Kitchen Helper (Etsy)
This is the one I bought! You can pretty much get it painted any color you want. There are some customizations with adding rails or not, and you can personalize it with your childs’ name. I originally fell in love with the look of the DIY tower that is listed next. This one looks very similar to that one and it’s fully assembled. I was a little boring and got white because I wanted it to match my older son’s IKEA stool. Downside is the height is not adjustable. $90-$127 depending on color stain and personalization.
You know I like a good DIY project. And I think it took me so long to buy a learning tower because I kept going back to this post and thinking of undertaking this project. But decided that I am just not at the wood cutting/power drill level of DIY yet- maybe one day! If life wasn’t as hectic and I had a garage at the time, this could have been fun. Instructions are super simple and you can see that many have made their towers from this tutorial and loved it. $20-$30 to complete.
Lastly, one more DIY project. If you’re up for a little extra DIY and want a tower that looks more like the original learning tower, this post is for you. Again, very easy instructions but doesn’t use a stool as a base so the entire piece is custom.
If you are really wanting a learning tower and these all seem to be out of your price range, make sure to look on Craigslist or Facebook parent resell groups. They are great for resale!
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