A huge number of moms on one of my message boards rave about Little Partners' Learning Tower, emphasizing how their children love them and use them multiple times a day. With that kind of endorsement, I decided to start prowling my local Craigslist to pick up a used one (as retail price is $189!).
When I found one for $50, I was thrilled. After bringing it back home and seeing my then three year old daughter use it, I could see why parents like it but really couldn't fathom paying full price for what is, in all honesty, a glorified stool with a guardrail. Fast forward about a year and a half later, when my younger daughter is 18 months old and finally old enough to climb in and out herself, and my entire opinion has changed. This is a fantastic kitchen accessory when you have 2 young children.
About the Product
This product is intended to raise your toddler high enough to safely provide access to kitchen counters. Unlike a typical step stool, this looks like an enclosed tower and requires your child to climb into it. It has 2 foot holds to help younger children climb in on 2 sides, though my daughter sometimes enters from the third side (opposite the side that's flush to the kitchen counter) which doesn't have foot holds. Watching my daughter climb into the Learning Tower reminds me of a politician or member of royalty walking up to a podium to give a speech.
As you can see from the photo, it has a square base, an adjustable height platform (so as your child grows taller, it raises him/her from 19.5" off the ground to 12" off the ground), and a guardrail on all 4 sides. The Learning Tower measures 23”deep X 32 ¾“wide X 38”high. Its fairly large footprint means it would be difficult to use in a small galley kitchen. We keep ours at the end of the counter near the breakfast nook so it's not directly in the way of foot traffic.
Since I purchased it used, I did not assemble it. I skimmed the instructions on-line and it seems equivalent to IKEA furniture assembly--lots of allen screws. I also see that there are optional additional feet (Part B) that jut out from the base perpendicular to the long feet, but that would mean the Learning Tower couldn't be placed flush along the counter. I assume it would also be a major tripping hazard. Fortunately, our used Learning Tower came without the Part B short legs installed and its stability doesn't seem compromised at all.
It's rated for up to 500 pounds, which is far more than you'd ever need. The high weight rating is reassuring, especially as several parents of twins have mentioned fitting both twins on the platform at the same time. BOTH girls can climb up at the same time and help Daddy cook/bake. There is no other safe option for 2 siblings to do so. With both girls weighing under 70 pounds, we are well under this limit. I imagine my older one will outgrow the LT before we come close.
Note that the platform itself measures 15" x 18" so it's a tight squeeze for 2 older children. Learning Tower's official website says that this is safety rated for children from 18 months old up to 6 years old.
There seems to be almost universal disdain for the accessories, which include a playhouse/puppet theater add-on kit and the art easel. Its best purpose is as a stool and its limited footprint makes the additional accessories challenging to use.
It's available in 9 colors, but I most like (and managed to buy used) the natural wood tone, as it complements our existing furniture and cabinets.
Note that this is made in China and is composed of "high quality layered birch" (which I assume means it's not solid wood). Nevertheless, the Learning Tower has a nice heft to it, as it's about 20-30 pounds. Since we have hardwood floors in our kitchen, I lift the Learning Tower to move it to different positions (e.g., from its regular position to the sink if my daughter wants to help wash dishes).
It's also low maintenance, as the nontoxic finish makes clean-up simple. I just wipe it with a Clorox wipe when I see food stains. The seller's 9 year old daughter was the only one to use this Learning Tower and it still looks to be in excellent, like new condition.
Little Partners offers a lifetime warranty, too.
My daughter loves to help clean and cook, so this seemed like a natural purchase for us. Before we got the Learning Tower, she would kneel on a regular chair at the kitchen table to help mix batter or drag a chair over to the counter to watch my husband prepare food. While not ideal (since our kitchen chairs don't have guardrails), it wasn't like we were desperate for a solution. Our existing kitchen chairs are heavy oak chairs with wide bases that we inherited from my in-laws, so they worked pretty well in terms of being very stable and too heavy to tip over. Yet I would never let 2 girls stand on a kitchen chair.
both girls seem to like having her own special perch and just standing on the tower even when no one is cooking. I winced the first time my older daughter jumped up and down on the Learning Tower out of excitement, but had to remind myself about the 500 pound weight limit.
With the Learning Tower, she has helped to rinse dishes (we give her Tupperware and utensils, so nothing too heavy/fragile), wipe countertops, "sort" prepped vegetables into sandwich bags for freezing, mix batter, and even makes her own hummus sandwiches (spreading the hummus with a butter knife).
The one thing about providing easy counter access is that my husband and I need to be more vigilant about making sure we put all knives out of her reach. We used to be able to leave the bread knife on the cutting board, but now we always make sure to put it away.
I rarely move the Learning Tower unless she wants to wash dishes, as it's heavy and blocks access once it's moved into the primary work space. We have a medium size kitchen with an island, so one can still squeeze by the Learning Tower if it's placed into the kitchen itself. However, it's a pain to access cabinets, the dishwasher, the refrigerator, etc. when I've moved the Learning Tower from its normal position at the end of the cabinets by the breakfast nook.
At the end of the day, I'd say my daughters use this at least once a day and would miss it if I sold it off. However, I'm not sure that I would rave about it to other parents with only 1 child given its extremely high cost and limited use.
I don't regret picking this up, as $50 is a reasonable price given the utility of the product. However, I can't in good conscience rate this 5 stars for those families with only 1 child. There are safe inexpensive options for one child to use. I'd say it's an outstanding product that is most worthwhile for families with 2 kids who frequently cook and have sufficiently spacious kitchens.
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Amount Paid (US$): 50
Type of Toy: Other
Age Range of Child: 3 to 5 Years