I went *down* the rabbit hole researching and talking to moms about the best toddler tower for months before we finally decided on THE BEST ONE for us at 11 months old. Now that my toddler is 3 years old we've switched to this toddler learning tower and she's obsessed. This post is a complete guide to all of the questions you may be having too about a toddler kitchen helper (age? safe? Montessori? foldable?) to help you decide what's best for you!
- What is a toddler learning tower?
- The 5 Best Toddler Towers:
- When should I start using a Learning Tower?
- Best tips for using a learning tower with your toddler or kids:
- Learning Tower vs Step Stool:
- What finally convinced me to get our kitchen helper before my daughter turned 1…
- How is a toddler tower different from a montessori learning tower?
- Benefits of a toddler learning tower:
- Are learning towers safe?
- How to choose the best toddler learning tower + what to look for:
- Ultimate List of Best Toddler Learning Towers:
- Best overall toddler tower: Guidecraft Kitchen Helper (good for small spaces)
- Best Convertible Toddler Tower: Piccalio Mini Chef Kitchen Helper Tower
- Best tower for holding multiples + classic learning tower: Little Partners
- Best learning tower for minimalist moms: Sprout Toddler Tower (good for small spaces)
- Best learning towers from Etsy:
- Best Multi-Purpose Toddler Tower to Seat + Desk with Drawer
- Best most affordable learning tower: Simplay3 Toddler Tower (good for small spaces)
- Best learning towers for the DIYer:
- Final thoughts on how to choose the best toddler learning tower…
With this post, you'll know how to choose the best toddler learning tower for your family, including the one's mom's have tested and approved!
p.s. If you're handy, you can also use these plans to build your own learning tower!
TRUST me, getting a toddler kitchen helper is going to change your life for the better!!
Spoiler alert: this is ours and we LOVE it
We'll cover the recommended age for starting with a montessori tower (and what age we *actually* started my daughter in hers), best tips for using a kitchen helper, and of course, the best toddler learning towers for small spaces, multiple kids, affordability, multi-purposes, and from Etsy and Amazon to meet your families unique needs! I want you to feel really confident in how to choose the best toddler learning tower and feature some of the “best in class” options.
What is a toddler learning tower?
A toddler learning tower (a.k.a a kitchen helper tower, Montessori tower, a learning tower, or a toddler tower) is basically a step stool with four sides and a railing.
Some have a built in safety net, some fold up, some are made of wood. We'll cover all of those details in this post though!
The four sides are there to help prevent your toddler from falling. While the height allows your little one to be up at the counter, or a higher surface, with you.
Cheers to not spraining our backs holding our kids!!
CLICK HERE to jump to a detailed breakdown of each of the best toddler kitchen helpers!
When should I start using a Learning Tower?
The recommended age for most toddler learning towers is 18 months and up. Personally, I think it's wise to introduce a learning tower to a 1 year old, if not sooner!
We got ours around 11 months and I wish I had actually gotten it at 9 or 10 months but everyone kept telling me she was “too young.”
Here's my suggestion: do what feels right for you, but be safe.
Every kid is different.
While my daughter has always been on the “small” side physically, she's also been a little bit ahead when it comes to meeting physical milestones. She started crawling at 7 months, walking before a year, so I knew she'd stand just fine in a toddler learning tower, and mama's back could use the break in the kitchen while cooking!
Best tips for using a learning tower with your toddler or kids:
When your baby or toddler is on the younger side:
Because we started her in a learning tower before turning 1 years old, we turned it so the open side sat flush against our cabinets and never left her unsupervised. This way she was covered on all four sides with the safety net:
She couldn't get herself in and out of the montessori tower without our assistance initially, but it felt way safer than putting her on the counter to join the action in the kitchen!
It also felt safer to have her in the toddler tower just outside of arm's reach of pots and pans on the stove top, versus wearing her while cooking and having to constantly swat her hands away.
When your toddler or child gets a little more physically capable:
Turn the montessori tower so the opening faces outward and your child can come and go as they please to foster a sense of independence.
Some learning towers I talk about later in this post have a step stool feature, so your child doesn't have to “hoist” themselves like my daughter in these photos. Those typically don't offer quite as much “coverage” on the sides though. I'll talk more about that later though.
If you have a fussy eater…
R started going through this phase around 15 months or 16 months old where she refused to sit in her high chair for dinner. The learning tower was our saving grace from toddler meltdowns!
It's one of the places I know she'll always eat without having a meltdown. Even now at 2 years old, it's where she eats her breakfast and snacks.
With that said, shortly before her third birthday we introduced step stools around the house to help her get on and off the toilet. Well since then, she decided her kitchen tower was for babies and only wanted to use a step stool; which isn't tall enough for her to actually be at the kitchen tower comfortable (#toddlers). We got this convertible kitchen tower (use code TCM for 10% off) and she's obsessed with it! Now she can eat at the counter or it converts to a toddler table for her to eat at. Just look at her pure joy:
I'll share some more ways to use your toddler tower in a moment, but those are some of my best tips for a more peaceful home with big toddler emotions running rampant!
Learning Tower vs Step Stool:
I remember the first time the conversation about toddler learning towers came up in my mommy and me class and someone said they used to wonder, “why can't I just use a step stool?!”
Then she realized: because you'll have to wait that much longer.
And if you've ever tried to cook dinner with a squirmy 1 year old on your hip, you know, that's just not a waiting game most parents want to play.
Even at almost 3 years old, the step stools in our home don't lift our toddler up quite enough to put her comfortably at the kitchen counter or reach the bathroom sink faucet. Learning towers truly are the best for fostering independence and provide more safety than a step stool.
What finally convinced me to get our kitchen helper before my daughter turned 1…
I saw a friend's insta-story where her 6 (almost 7) year old was still using theirs.
I realized, that while it's a little pricey as far as baby items go, it's one that will be in our family for years to come making it a definite purchase eventually… so why not now?
Worst case scenario it sat there for a few months until she got big enough, best case scenario, I could have both arms back in the kitchen!
And it turned out to be a win! She started in it at 10 or 11 months and we were a much happier family overall thanks to our kitchen helper now that I can cook dinner freely again and she felt a part of the family.
How is a toddler tower different from a montessori learning tower?
It's not. There are a bunch of names it goes by, but at the end of the day, a Montessori learning tower, kitchen helper, toddler tower, etc. are all the same thing.
Some have bonus features like an easel or converting to a desk (we'll talk about those in a moment), but it's all the same main intended purpose: lift the child to counter height in a secure and stable way while fostering the montessori principles of independence and exploration.
Benefits of a toddler learning tower:
A toddler learning tower is a great way to toddler proof your kitchen.
It's the perfect addition for families with toddlers and young children because they want to SEE what is happening and be a part of the action.
Not having a learning tower in the kitchen is sort of like not having a seat at the table. You know what's happening at the table, but you aren't a part of it… which is sad.
Just before she turned 18 months, she turned the tower all on her own so she could start coming and going as she pleased.
That sort of independence is why the Montessori moms and the RIE community (stands for Resources for Infant Educarers, and is sort of the foundation of the “respectful parenting” movement) love them! And why I'm thrilled we got it as early as we did.
The reason many people call it a “learning” tower and kitchen “helper” is because it fosters learning in the kitchen. I always put my daughter up there when I'm cooking and baking. She also uses it to do most of our toddler activities at the kitchen counter.
Since she's right there, I'll let her add ingredients to the bowl. She'll enjoy a nice snack. And she gets to observe what I'm doing.
With her right there, it's a visual reminder for me to narrate what I'm doing so she learns too.
Are learning towers safe?
Yes, I'd say learning towers are safe. Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into it though so that's not a definitive answer (and run from anyone who claims to have a definitive answer on the matter!).
First (and this applies to all baby products) you want to stay up to date on any learning tower recalls.
Second, you always want to check your products to ensure they are functioning properly. Make sure there are no splinters, loose screws, etc.
Third, always supervise your kids.
Lastly, and most importantly when it comes to toddler tower safety: be mindful of what's around your learning tower.
This is important so stick with me…
My daughter likes to be where the action is, so yes, that means she wants to see what is happening when I'm cooking on the hot stove or when I'm using knives.
Whether a toddler is in a learning tower or on the ground, they can get to those items if you leave them near the edge. So make sure you are observant and mindful of how you are leaving/arranging things in the kitchen is a safety tip that applies no matter what.
On that note, as far as the actual learning towers, I always felt safer with the ones in this post over a DIY learning tower, but trust your skills if you want to go the DIY route!
How to choose the best toddler learning tower + what to look for:
When it comes to choosing a learning tower, there are a lot of options. I spent well over a month before we finally decided on this one which we still love even over two years later!
So basically what that meant for us: I knew I wanted something that was aesthetically pleasing that matched out kitchen since it'd be out most of the time.
But I also wanted something small enough we could move around it, and possibly put away fairly easily if hosting a get together or something.
I also was concerned that my daughter would climb it in an unsafe way. Some toddler learning towers have shaped cut outs and I found some reviews where parents said their toddler ended up using those shapes as foot holes and were climbing above the intended standing pad – not great for safety.
Ultimately I went with this one because the slots were vertical (meaning she can't climb them), I liked the color, it provided a well enclosed three sides (key if you're starting a toddler tower before 18 months IMO), and it folded up easily.
In short consider:
- Size/footprint (size of kitchen vs. size of toddler tower)
- Color (it's out basically all the time)
- Safety (any weird cut outs they can climb? is it light weight and possibly going to topple over? Is it fully enclosed or does it have more openings?)
- Functionality (does it fold up? Convert to a weaning table? Convert to an art easel or anything else?)
- Adjustable (can the stander base be lowered as your kid gets older?)
Ultimate List of Best Toddler Learning Towers:
broken down by family needs
Best overall toddler tower: Guidecraft Kitchen Helper (good for small spaces)
Guidecraft Kitchen Helper is the brand we've had for years and LOVE. We have this specific model. Guidecraft comes in a few styles and I don't recommend all their styles… more on that in a moment!
It's easy to clean, comes with a non-slip rubber mat where your toddler will stand, a safety net, and it folds up! Depending on the style, they have a fairly small footprint in the kitchen compared to others on the market too!
It wins best overall simply because it's the best overall option. The height is adjustable and it folds up making it work well for small spaces. It also features the option to enclose all four sides, making it one of the safer options for young toddlers – even though they recommend waiting until 2 years old.
On the note of small spaces, it doesn't have the largest or the smallest footprint either.
This option doesn't have a “step” up to the landing. My daughter at 17 month (and she's tiny!) can lift herself up and in without assistance though.
It's not the most expensive or the cheapest on the list. And IMO, it's the second most aesthetically pleasing on the list. It's a very middle of the road option that sort of gets a little bit of everything which is why we chose it and it wins best overall toddler learning tower!
I do want to reiterate, in case you're skimming this article: get the Guidecraft with the vertical slots or closed sides; not the heart/star/square cut outs.
I heard parents complain about their toddler using the cut outs as foot holes to climb! EEK! Sometimes less is more in a product haha! They do have a couple of other styles too so I'll leave them all below for you to browse!
Best Convertible Toddler Tower: Piccalio Mini Chef Kitchen Helper Tower
We got this one a little before my toddler turned three and she is OBSESSED with it! It works as both a kitchen tower AND converts to a montessori weaning table with a seat. I never thought I'd use a convertible toddler tower (I'm lazy) but WOW is it easy and my toddler LOVES sitting at her table. She even makes us slide baby brother up to it with her.
It's sturdy, but also lightweight enough that she can push it around our house to use the table wherever she chooses. For safety, they have spring locks when it's upright and when it's converted to the table. There's also a little step making it very easy for toddlers to get in and out of. The footprint is actually quite small and I do prefer the smaller footprint of it compared to our Guidecraft.
It's easy to clean and finished in a nontoxic clear coating. My toddler loves to wipe her table down after she eats! It's a much more budget friendly alternative to buying a montessori weaning table too. Plus it comes with a free wooden cutter, for your toddler to safely practice their knife skills.
NOTE: If you are starting with this one for a baby under 12 months, I'd probably add a safety net to the sides as the holes are a little big and really intended for toddlers 18 months and up.
Best tower for holding multiples + classic learning tower: Little Partners
Little Partners is considered the original learning tower.
It's probably the largest on the list and can hold the most weight at 500 lbs, and should handle two kids with ease! There are also a few attachments to convert it to an easel/chalkboard available as well.
It won as the best toddler tower for multiple kids to stand in since the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper has a “double” option and the Little Partners is even bigger than that (and while I love Guidecraft, I don't recommend their “double option” because the shaped cut outs I've already talked about (scroll up if you missed it!).
Like most of the kitchen helpers on this list, it's a well made wooden option, with clean lines making it easy to clean, and the height is adjustable.
Best learning tower for minimalist moms: Sprout Toddler Tower (good for small spaces)
Sprout is an awesome brand for wooden montessori-inspired furniture and toys. They have a super minimalist toddler tower too which features 3 enclosed sides and steps for secure and easy in-out access.
Minimalist families will appreciate the clean lines and natural finish. We love the three adjustable height settings, and that it's free of VOCs, lead, and other harmful chemicals. Plus it has little stairs so your baby can get in and out a lot easier/soon. This further increases independence and exploration!
It's actual kitchen footprint is a smidge smaller than the Guidecraft, but you can't fold it up.
Best learning towers from Etsy:
Okay, I know some people are diehard Etsy fans so I figured I'd include a few Etsy options too.
Here's the thing with getting a toddler tower from Etsy though: keep an eye on shipping costs, dates, and return policies AND it's hella overwhelming.
Seriously, it took me a solid month to pick my Pikler triangle from there! And I went deep down the toddler tower rabbit hole on Etsy too before finally deciding on this one. But you get to benefit from all my research!
Here are some of the top toddler towers from Etsy.
I've vetted these for the best shipping/total price, functionality, reviews, and overall look:
Some are on this list because they are affordable. Others because of their small footprint. And ~most notably ~ others because of their dual functionality.
That last piece (dual functionality) is what makes toddler towers on Etsy unique IMO. Many give you the option to convert it to a table/seat, but with that said, we love the Piccalio for that because of it's affordable price point (use code TCM for 10% off), free shipping, small footprint, and free wooden cutter!
Originally, I decided against a toddler tower that converts to a desk/seak because…
a) I didn't like that it just had one seat. Then I got overwhelmed thinking about finding another seat for a second child to play at it too.
b) I know myself, and know that I probably would never convert it. I figured I'd get a table/seat in her playroom rather than dragging it back and forth.
Now that we have one, I HIGHLY recommend them. They are SO easy to convert and you don't need a montessori weaning table. It really is the perfect little set up for dual use, making it a great bang for your buck! We have this one – but I am obsessed with this one from Etsy. I haven't seen a toddler tower SO beautiful and so well designed for multiple purposes. The desk even has a drawer! The three sides are acrylic, and it has a step up. It's just a little on the pricier side which is why we got the other option.
Best Multi-Purpose Toddler Tower to Seat + Desk with Drawer
Best most affordable learning tower: Simplay3 Toddler Tower (good for small spaces)
Simplay3 Toddler Tower comes in around $89. It's easy to set up and works in small spaces. It's designed to be short enough to slide under a kitchen island counter, and it has the smallest footprint out of everything on the list.
With that said, I do believe you get what you pay for and it's worth going with one of the others on the list.
Wood is much sturdier and healthier than plastic. Many have said this is pretty wiggly/unstable. It's very light weight, which honestly would concern me as my toddler got older/heavier.
Remember a toddler tower is going to be something you use for YEARS, this is an item worth splurging on and I just don't think this will hold up.
Best learning towers for the DIYer:
If you want to make your own toddler learning tower you have TWO awesome options.
First, you can download these plans instantly and get to work if you're handy!
If you're less handy, I'd suggest the Ikea route:
Ikea Bekvam & Oddvar (good for small spaces)
This is what someone in my baby & me class did! They took the Ikea Bekvam stool and Oddvar table to create a DIY learning tower for their toddlers!
Final thoughts on how to choose the best toddler learning tower…
Okay that should cover all your questions to make the most informed and best toddler tower purchase for your family!
Seriously, I don't know how we'd live without ours for every day use in the kitchen and bathroom! And again, so happy to see my friend's 6 (almost 7 year old!!) still using theirs! I know it's a purchase that's going to keep on giving and last so it's worth getting one that makes sense for you!
Here's a quick recap: focus on what your pain points are. Look at what you value, and less on some of the “features.”
Choose one that you like the look of. Afterall, it's going to be out a lot. Most are easy to clean and the heights adjust so don't stress about that.
Choose one that you can easily move around/put away if guests come if that matters to you. Maybe don't get caught up in multiple functions (see discussion above). You'll likely keep it in one place all the time anyway.
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