Last Updated: February 21, 2023
A learning tower or kitchen helper is a stool with an enclosed platform so toddlers can safely reach a kitchen counter. Learning towers are great for helping toddlers with independence in a safer way! So here’s everything you need to know about the best learning towers for toddlers and young kids, and how to choose the best one for your family, home, and budget.
As your little one grows, they suddenly want to help with everything and be where the action is. They go from being buckled into a highchair, to suddenly climbing precarious stools and chairs. And around one year or 18 months, it’s great to give these little wiggle worms a safe way to access the kitchen and be where you are. And that’s where a toddler kitchen helper stool comes in.
Here’s the highlight reel for what learning towers are best for different situations. And jump below for the full comparisons, descriptions, and pictures.
- Best Learning Tower for Small Kitchens: SDADI or Sprout
- Best Montessori Learning Tower: Sprout or Guidecraft or Little Partners
- Best Learning Tower for Two Kids: Guidecraft Double
- Best DIY Kitchen Helper Stool: DIY IKEA Stool
- Best Budget Learning Tower: SDADI
- Best Foldable Learning Tower: Guidecraft or Piccalio
Learning Tower Comparisons:
|Learning Tower||Price||Weight||Max Weight||Platform Height||Dimensions|
|SDADI Kitchen Helper||$79||15.4||150 pounds||18.5″||18″W x 18″D x 35″H|
|Piccalio convertible Tower||$199||13||175 pounds||18″||16″W x 16″D x 36″H|
|Guidecraft Single Fold Flat||$200||20||125 pounds||15″ or 18″||23″W x 23″D x 36″H|
|Guidecraft Double Helper||$229||30.2||175 pounds||15″ or 18″||29″W x 23″D x 36″H|
|Little Partners||$200||26.4||250 pounds||11″, 13″, 16″, 18″||33″W x 23″D x 38″H|
|Sprout Toddler Tower||$219||20||150 pounds||12″, 15″, 18″||18″W x 18″D x 35″H|
|DIY IKEA Kitchen Helper||$44+||12+||220 pounds||19.7″||18″W x 15″D x 38″H|
What is a Learning Tower?
Learning Tower vs Kitchen Helper – they’re just two names for the same thing. The term “learning tower” is used more in Montessori. But a Montessori learning tower is just a kitchen helper stool. And the latter term is a bit more descriptive of what it actually is – a stool to let kids help in the kitchen. ;)
Most learning towers have one to two steps and a partial enclosed platform with guardrail type feature up top. There are minimalist ones, small ones, large ones, DIY ones from IKEA step stools, and even ones for more than one kid! So here is our rundown on the best learning towers for toddlers and your family.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Kitchen Helper Stool
First and foremost, it’s about safety. Not only the quality of the item you’re buying but where you have space in your home that can be a safe location for the stool. At a young age, this means away from stoves, sinks, kitchen knives etc. We found that a kitchen or island is a great spot to place a helper stool. What I like about using it at a kitchen cart, is that they space can be child-safe and you can bring or take away items from that space as needed, instead of needing to move the child away from the prep space.
The second part of safety is how “contained” the platform is for the age and ability of your child. While there are netting safety kits to add to the open side of a kitchen stool, for some children that’s just a challenge to climb up and over. Some kids will do fine with being fully contained on all four sides.
I wanted my kiddo to feel independent and like he was easily in control of climbing up and down from his tower. So we chose one that was smaller, and had a guardrail to lean on, but that he wasn’t “trapped” in. So how contained really depends on your kiddo. Plus, remember that they will need help learning how to use it, constant supervision to start (especially if you’re starting before 18 months)!
Are they cautious or do they already climb everything and turn all furniture into a jungle gym? Then yes, you might find them up on the fridge. ;) For our little one, we knew he was cautious, loves to see how things work and is also independent and stubborn. So for our scenario: 1. we didn’t need to worry too much about him tipping it over or falling off it, 2. It shouldn’t have any hinges or foldup parts, as that’s what he would want to “figure out”. 3. He should be able to climb in and out himself, or that’s what would spur him it use it dangerously to climb out! So consider your child, and make some choices from there.
Moving Parts / Convertible Options
There are quite a few different kitchen helpers that have moving parts now. From adjustable platforms or steps, to folding up for storage, and even some that convert into a table and bench.
Personally, I didn’t want a piece of furniture in my kitchen that could fold up, convert, have hinges or in any way be disassembled by my super-curious engineering minded child. Just like treating it like a jungle gym, this one depends on your kid. And mine is all about how things work! Some of these also have platforms that can make it taller or shorter depending on the height of your child.
You want a helper stool that’s weight and design is “tip proof”. For weight capacity, this isn’t really an issue with any of the stools, as most of them can even hold the weight of a small adult. So the bigger thing to consider here, is how heavy the stool is if you’ll be moving it around, if you want your child to be able to move it, and also if it did tip over, how much weight that would be!
Some of the footprints of these towers feel massive in a small kitchen. And with the design of the forked legs, some of them would also be tripping hazards for some spaces. So keep in mind how far out the support legs go. For our small kitchen, it’s less of a hazard to have a slightly more “tip-able” tower, than to have footprint of the tower and support legs tripping me while I cook, which would ultimately likely be more of a danger to my child. So consider the width of the space you’ll be pulling this up to. In our case we had it at the end of our IKEA kitchen cart, which is 20″ deep, so the footprint of an 18″ helper stool was perfect for our small kitchen.
Let’s be honest, design matters! You’re probably going to end up liking your kitchen helper (the stool, but yeah the kids pretty cool too). So this stool is going to be taking up space in your kitchen for at least 3 or 4 years! That’s longer than you’ll have used most of your baby items continuously, so make sure you don’t hate looking at it! And for me, that meant as minimal as possible – no chalkboard, cut-out cutesy shapes, bright colors, or movable parts and pieces!
Learning Tower Age Recommendations
And the final thing to consider, is your learning tower age range. For younger toddlers, you’re going to want to makes sure the steps and tower area is a safe space for them and that they won’t fall out easily.
When to start using a learning tower, really depends on your family. While most toddlers can start using a learning tower if they can stand and walk, you want to make sure they also won’t fall out. So while even a baby less than 12 months can climb and pull up on things, if the learning tower is going to be a part of your kitchen, you want to make sure it’s safe and that they won’t just want to be accessing it and you have yet another falling risk to consider.
If you start using one around 12 months, you will of course need to be more mindful and you will use it differently than if you started at 18-24 months, but that’s just baby life in general, right?! For example, if you’re having to hold or babywear your young toddler while in the kitchen, and they have the ability to stand at a tower, then yes, your 12 month old might be ready for a tower. You just have to be really aware – not turn your back on them, maybe get one that has a closed door/rail behind them etc.
If you start around 15-18 months, you have a few more options in regard to the learning tower being more minimalist and less needing to be a fortress! This is my preferred age, as I think then you can kind of plan for what kind of tower will be best for your family for the next few years, instead of what you need right now.
Note: although we started young, I also had a baby gate at the doorway of our kitchen. So if needed I could quickly scoop up our toddler and place him over the gate. Or if I needed to chop something or use the stove, it was the quickest safe option to just move him to the other side of the gate, so he couldn’t access the helper stool. We also used this gate to keep him away from the kitchen and his stool, during the rest of the day to give him more independence in the rest of the house.
Best Learning Towers for Toddlers
SDADI Kitchen Helper
This kitchen helper stool is one of the most minimal ones out there. It gets our vote for the best learning tower for small kitchens and the best budget learning tower. And it’s the stool I ultimately decided on for our small kitchen (Note: it looks like it was previously sold under the brand UNICOO for $90)!
Since I love a good DIY project, after our mud kitchen and other play diys, I considered the DIY IKEA kitchen stool. But I realized that by the time I purchased the IKEA stool and extra wood, supplies, sanding, paint etc. I would roughly be around the same price as this stool (unless you have a bunch of wood and supplies hanging around your house). And this was the design I was after anyway!
Weight: 15.4 pounds
Maximum Weight Capacity: 150 pounds
Footprint Dimensions: 18.1″ wide x 18.1″ deep x 35″ tall
Colors: White, brown, black (previously grey!)
Buy at: Amazon
Piccalio Convertible Learning Tower
This convertible learning tower comes in a variety of colors and the real bonus feature of this one is that transforms into a little eating table as well. While the platform is at a consistent height, the access step can be moved to three positions. This one was pretty adorable and well-constructed. It just depends on if you want a learning tower or a table, and if you’ll actually be moving it back and forth between one and the other.
Weight: 13 pounds
Maximum Weight Capacity: 175 pounds
Footprint Dimensions: 16″ wide x 16″ deep x 36″ tall
Colors: White, Natural wood, Black, Sage green
Buy at: Piccalio
Guidecraft Learning Tower
The newer Guidecraft Learning Towers feature a “fold flat” design that you can easily fold up. This one still isn’t going to make my “small kitchens” list for a few reasons. First, the point of having a kitchen helper stool is that it’s just out and becomes a part of your kitchen for a few years. If you’re constantly folding it up and putting it away, that’s a hassle and then you also have to find out where to store this heavy folded up learning tower. And I’m going to guess if you have a small kitchen, you just might have a small home in general. But if you have the pleasure of having a larger kitchen, this is one of the best Montessori learning towers out there and has all the bells and whistles (not literally, thank goodness), including a mini chalkboard.
Guidecraft Double Tower
While only 6″ wider than the original, the double tower is just enough extra space that two kids can fit comfortably in the tower. If you have more than one child or twins this can be a great option so they’re not both trying to squeeze into the same smaller tower. Pretty much everything else is about the same as the single. So if you have the space and have more than one child, this is the best option out there!
The Little Partners learning tower is very similar to the Guidecraft brand. And it’s a popular option. And similarly I wouldn’t recommend it for small kitchens since the footprint is pretty large. However if you have a big enough kitchen space, this one is great and has four platform height options!
Sprout Toddler Tower
The Sprout Toddler Tower is a newer option from Sprout Kids. It has some minimalist style to it, but still has some add-ons and movable parts, if that’s what you’re after. The platform height can be adjusted, as well as a guard plate for shorter toddlers.
DIY IKEA Kitchen Helper Stool
At this point, there are so many variations of this IKEA DIY posted online, detailing how to make your own kitchen helper with the IKEA BEKVAM stool (usually $20, but currently sold out at IKEA US, but at Amazon for $44). This also takes in to consideration if you can easily find the IKEA stool in stock to buy!
Etsy Learning Tower
And the final option for a toddler learning tower, that I’ll mention is Etsy! There are so many amazing learning towers on Etsy – from small makers to small businesses, you can find some really unique kitchen helpers. And even plans for making your own. So one option if you are on more of the DIY budget, of under $100 and don’t have the skills or desire to build your own, is to find one in that price range on Etsy.
Happy cooking! I hope this post on the best learning towers for toddlers has given you some ideas for getting your kiddo into the kitchen!