What is a learning tower?
Learning towers are frequently used by families focusing on a Montessori philosophy of education. They are used to promote a child’s independence and ability in confidently helping with activities around the home. A learning tower is basically a step stool with an important distinction: rails around the top to make it safe and secure. Obviously, regular step stools or chairs can be used for the same function, but they aren’t as safe or convenient (about 8,000 children are seen in U.S. emergency rooms every day for fall-related injuries–did not want to add to the statistic). Also, the railings enable you to use a step stool with a younger child (we started with Josephine around 14 months, but you could begin sooner if you had an early walker) and allow them earlier independence.
There are all sorts of learning towers on the market and they have different benefits and downsides (cost being the primary one). There are folding learning towers: ones that can fold into a little table and chair or ones that fold up for easy storage. They’ve designed ones with adjustable heights, and you can find them in all different colors and shades. After reviewing the options we ended up doing an IKEA hack (and by we, I mean my husband–thanks, Love!). Here’s the plan we used, and while it doesn’t fold up or adjust heights it works so well for our family! I recently told my friend that after the car seat and the stroller this is definitely our most used “baby” item!
Why use a learning tower?
I love all sorts of educational philosophies, but Montessori is high up there on my list of favorites. This is a snippet from the American Montessori Society:
It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.
The prepared environment is a huge aspect of Montessori and plays into many aspects of education; the learning tower is one of them. We set our children up for success when we have prepared the environment so they are able to do everything they are capable of independently–even if they are too short to reach our counters.
How to use a learning tower?
Our learning tower is out in our home all the time (thanks Husband, for matching the woods so it’s not an eyesore!). We keep it pulled up to the kitchen counter, and Josephine climbs into it at least four times a day, but usually more often. She uses it to help me prepare all of our meals and snacks.
We also use it several times a week to do laundry as we have a top-loading washing machine. The learning tower is too heavy for her to move herself, so I put it in front of the washing machine for her. Then she climbs up and we load the washer together. Putting the soap in is probably her favorite, although she gets super excited when she recognizes her clothing in the wash!
I try really hard not to wash dishes by hand (dishwashers forever!), but I do fill up a sink of dishwater for her to practice. We pull the learning tower up to the sink, put some dishes in, and she is good to go!
I’ve also used the learning tower when she wanted to practice using the light switch, but couldn’t yet reach our switches. I think it could also be really nice in the bathroom to help with reaching the sink and any other bathroom necessities; this doesn’t work in our home, but it’s an option!
Overall, the learning tower has been extremely helpful in our home to help Josephine feel like an integral part of the family, along with promoting her independence and early capabilities!
FYI: the term learning tower seems a bit stiff and sterile; we just call it her stool at our house!