Toddlers are very curious and have so much energy that sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to keep them engaged and learning without using an iPad or a TV. Meal time is always a tough one in our home. Many times it’s up to one parent to get the meal prepared, ready and served while at the same time keeping the little one(s) entertained.
This can be a frustrating time for everyone involved to say the least.
And that’s where the Learning Tower comes in.
Getting a learning tower changed the way we went about meal preparations in our home in such a drastic way that I have to share it with the world.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you will know that I am a very picky customer. I analyze and overthink every decision, especially if it means bringing a small piece of furniture into the house (or kitchen); and it wasn’t any different with my toddler learning tower experience.
I ended up buying a few different models and testing them all for a few weeks to see which one we liked the best. It turns out there are so many different styles and types of kitchen helper towers that it’s possible that the one we loved is not the right one for someone else.
In this post I will share with you my experience with learning towers and will make sure to highlight all of the features that I believe are important in each of them.
What is a learning tower?
A learning tower – which is also often referred to as a Montessori tower, kitchen helper or toddler tower – is a small wooden structure aimed to provide your toddler with a safe platform to stand on where he can see and reach at the countertop height and be involved in all types of adult activities.
If you’ve ever tried to cook a meal while caring for an energy-filled toddler you can already see how the kitchen helper tower may be useful.
The Montessori tower really helps in keeping your toddler safe, engaged and learning all while you are able to interact, teach and even get some chores done at the same time. Picture yourself chopping vegetables for your next meal while your toddler watches and “helps” (more like “plays”) while standing at a safe distance yet still sharing the same countertop.
There are many different types of learning towers. Some have steps while others require the parent to palace the child on the platform. Some have all 4 sides fully closed with walls, while others only have guard rails around 3 of the 4 sides. There are models that collapse, some fold flat and even convertible learning towers that turn into a table and chair for your toddler to draw on.
The options are endless but the main idea is the same.
Learning towers allow you to safely raise your toddler to countertop height and let them experience countless activities right by your side and at the same level as you and me.
Why do parents of toddlers need a learning tower?
One thing I’ve learned as a parent is that every child is different so there isn’t one solution for all parents and kids. A kitchen helper tower is a great tool to encourage open-ended play and creativity in toddlers but it’s not necessarily for everyone.
I would strongly suggest a learning tower to any parent who:
- Struggles to get meals together because the toddler keeps asking to be entertained or picked up
- Spends a lot of time in the kitchen and wants to have their child nearby and involved during these precious times
- Have kids that need constant attention and will not play alone for long
- Are looking for different way to engage their toddler
There are so many ways you can use your learning tower that they could fit so many different types of families.
Learning towers are also very versatile. They can be used not only in the kitchen but also in the bathroom, garage or anywhere with a workbench. They are perfect for arts and craft, snack time, washing hands and so many other activities.
Are learning towers safe?
Your toddler learning tower is only as safe as you, the parent, makes it. Every kitchen helper tower out there will require adult supervision so the responsibility is still with the parent to make sure that your child is safe on it.
One thing is for sure, learning towers will be safer than having your toddler stand on a chair or stool.
The flat and wide platform on the kitchen helpers will ensure your child has a safe and large space to stand on. The guard rails are perfect to give them a secure place to hold and clearly mark the edge of the tower.
Some models come with additional safety features such as fully enclosed sides, anti-slip surfaces, and others.
Even though toddler learning towers are safe, they are not made for children to be left alone on so make sure to always be close by and watch your little one at all times. As kids grow they will become accustomed with the tower and much more confident so they will require less supervision.
When can my toddler start using a learning tower?
Every learning tower has different age limits but most are made for kids to start using at 18 months or 2 years of age. Most models that are made for kids 18 month old have fully enclosed walls since many toddlers at this age are still not strong walkers yet.
I personally got my first learning tower (the Little Partners Limited Edition Learning Tower) when my son was 15 months old because he had been walking since 10 months and was an already strong walker.
If you go for a model with open sides you may want to make sure your toddler is a very good walker and is able to stand in one place for extended periods of time.
Always make sure to check the manufacturer’s suggested minimum age before buying any learning tower.
What are the best features to look out for on a learning tower?
Kitchen learning towers come in many different forms with very different features and options. It’s important to decide what it is you want the tower for before buying one.
Here are some features and options to consider:
- Walls or rails: Walls provide a safer environment for you little one but usually don’t allow for kids to get on and off on their own. Older kids will prefer models with rails and an open side they can just walk up on.
- Steps: Normally, models with rails and an open side will have steps to allow your child to walk up directly onto the platform. This option is great for older kids and toddlers that are very strong walkers
- Chalkboard or white board: chalkboards and whiteboards give you an additional activity to be done when kids are not on the tower.
- Wheels: A few kitchen helpers have wheels to make it easier to move them around.
- Collapsible: Learning towers can be bulky, especially in small kitchens. If you have a small kitchen it would be important to consider a collapsible or folding kitchen helper to make storage easy and save some space when not in use.
- Convertible: There are some really cool designs that allow for the learning tower to convert into a table and chair. This allows parents to double the functionality of the tower and get much more use from it.
The best learning towers
The best budget learning tower
The KidWerks kitchen step stool for kids is our favorite budget tower because it’s stylish, height adjustable and really well designed. It comes in four different colours to match any kitchen, it has three different heights where the platform can be installed (12”, 16” and 20”) so it grows with your child and it’s compact enough to fit almost any kitchen.
Unlike a few other learning towers on this, the KidWerks kitchen step stool allows your toddler to enter and exit the platform on his own which is great once they are comfortable with walking and going up and down steps. If you have a young toddler I would still suggest placing him on the platform and watching assisting him on and off as needed.
The Kidwerks kitchen learning tower is also very sturdy. It’s made of birch plywood and which makes it strong and durable.
The Kidwerks tower measures 36″ X 19.5″ X 16.5″ and it also comes with anti slip pads included.
The most spacious learning tower
Little Partners makes amazing learning towers and step stools of all shapes and sizes but one of our favorites is still the Original Learning Tower. In fact, the term Learning Tower is trademarked by Littler Partners so you know they live and breathe these kinds accessories.
The Little partners original learning tower is perfect for parent looking for a spacious platform. The Little Partners platform measures in at just over 23” x 33” and it’s one of the largest in the market for single learning towers. In case you’re looking for a double learning tower, Little Partners also makes one that can fit two kids comfortably.
This amazing kitchen helper tower has a four height adjustable platform as well as a bunch of accessories you can add on to make it really fun for kids.
On top of it all, the Little partners is probably the safest learning tower of the bunch. It’s tested to 500lbs and rated up to 250lbs so even I could stand on it if I wanted.
If you have the space in your kitchen, the Little Partners should be your top choice.
For more info on the Little Partners learning tower, check out our full detailed review of the Limited Edition Learning Tower.
The best collapsible/folding learning tower
The guidecraft kitchen helper stool stood out to us because of the ability to easily fold it and store it away. If you have a small to medium size kitchen and still want a spacious kitchen helper, the Guidecraft Classic kitchen helper stool may be the right fit.
This cool looking learning tower has a two height adjustable platform at 14” and 17” from the ground as well as a spacious standing area measuring in at 20″L x 21″W x 37″H.
The brilliant thing about the Guidecraft kitchen helper is that it folds flat while standing so it’s really easy to store away when not in use.
If you’re wondering whether you could fit a small piece of furniture into your already tight kitchen, the Guidecraft learning tower will make your choice easier.
Best learning tower with chalkboard
Some learning towers are just learning towers, others like the ComfyBumby bring a twist to the game. Not only can you lay the ComfyBumpy kitchen step stool flat on the ground and use it as a desk but it also comes with a HUGE chalkboard that is so much fun for kids to play with.
If you’re looking for a kitchen helper that will double as a play table and chalkboard for arts and craft, the ComfyBumpy is a great choice.
The ComfyBumpy kitchen helper is ATSM certified, built with birch plywood and it looks really clean and nice in any decor.
It has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee so don’t be afraid to give the ComfyBumpy a try.
Best convertible learning tower
We love the Wander Child convertible activity tower because of its clever design. It doubles as a table and chair as well as a learning tower so you can use it in many different ways to keep your kids entertained and learning.
There are a few other models that also provide this folding functionality but the Wander Child does it best. The top section of the tower folds down and the step becomes a bench while the bottom of the platform is not the table. Really cool!
The Wander Child activity tower is sleek, well built and has amazing reviews. Take a look at this cool product on Etsy if you’re looking for a learning tower with a little twist.