Another IKEA Hack: DIY Learning Tower!

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I’ve been fascinated with the Montessori approach to raising kids for a while now, largely thanks to this inspiring blog. I’m not going to set up a floor bed (which I do think is awesome) for my kids any time soon, but some of their views on child-rearing and living at the home with children really affected how we raise our girls.

One of the tenets of Montessori is to make the home accessible to the little ones. Some Montessori parents buy this expensive Learning Tower so their kids can reach the kitchen counter and cook alongside them. I’m not rich, so when I saw this great DIY here and got measurements from this blog, we were able to hack an IKEA kitchen step into an awesome and useful learning tower for our toddler who always wants to be involved in everything we do.

I used to get up every morning and make breakfast with this little girl hanging on my legs, begging to be picked up:

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This was when she was around 14-15 months.

It was getting tiresome having to either pick her up and cook with one hand or tell her no and watch her fake cry. Sometimes I resorted to putting her on a chair, but I was hyper-aware and always watching her to prevent her from falling off. Not fun.

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One day, we finally got our act together and tackled the project. We started with this kitchen step from IKEA.

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With the measurements from the blog scribbled down on a notepad, I grabbed the materials from Home Depot. Even though a worker there once told me they didn’t do project cuts, the guy who helped me on that day was very willing to cut all the wood for me. So nice! Always ask, sometimes they say no, but sometimes they say yes! Or maybe I looked especially helpless that day, but whatever works.

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You can find the measurements in the second comment of Jenny’s post on her learning tower. These measurements turned out to not be exact for us, so we had to make a few cuts here and there to get everything to fit. Not sure why, but it all worked out in the end. If you want to attempt this yourself, I would suggest you to use these measurements as a guide for you to create your own. But without these measurements, it probably would have taken us a LOT more time to do all the measuring, so I’m really grateful to Jenny from mint in the middle!

First, we took the top part off the step. Knowing ourselves and our tendency to lose small tiny things, I put the bits in a ziplock bag and taped it to the step. Future headache averted.

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Then Nick screwed in four posts to the top step.

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That was the hardest part of the whole thing. It was a bit complicated trying to screw the posts from underneath, but we survived the ordeal. After that, it was fairly simple to screw in the sides. I don’t have photos of the whole step-by-step but honestly, the photo below will tell you everything you need to know. If we could do it, anyone can.

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We weren’t finished yet — we needed to put in a dowel in the back to prevent her from falling out — but we weren’t sure how to do that and were too excited to see it in action.

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Janella loved it immediately. She helped us “cook” by stirring our meals, “wash” dishes by wiping a wet sponge on dirty dishes, and put away cut vegetables into a big bowl.

When Dad Vita visited us during the summer, we grabbed the opportunity to ask him to help us finally complete the kitchen step.

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He cut the dowel down to size and then notched out two holes on the sides. He and Nick had to push apart the two posts to slide in the dowel. When we build our second one (for Sienna), we’ll attach the dowel at the same time we drill in the posts. That’ll definitely be easier!

When it was finally all assembled, the next step was to paint it. After some extensive research on Google Images to find the perfect yellow spray paint, I chose Sun Yellow by Rustoleum. It’s a nice color, very yellow, but it is BRIGHT.

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The paint has already worn out in some areas and the color is still a little too bright for my liking, so I’ll probably repaint in the near future. Plus, the kitchen step has too many surface areas to spray paint, resulting in a lot of wasted paint. I’ll try using exterior paint and a brush next time and report back how that holds up.

But for now, Janella loves it.

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When I’m cooking, I can just let her climb up and work alongside me. Whenever I need her to keep away from what I’m doing, I give her some clay or some cut-up food to play with.

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Sometimes she mixes real food with her play food. Fine by me!

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After some practice, she learned how to climb up and down by herself. She can also slide the step around the kitchen floor.

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Sorry about the dirty kitchen floor. Obviously, I was in the middle of cooking dinner when I snapped these photos and I’m a MESSY cook.

Having her stand on her step proudly as I cook is lots of fun. I admit, sometimes it can get crazy trying to put things away from her when she wants to TOUCH EVERYTHING, but I remind myself to give her a task. And then she focuses on that task and I cook in peace and the world is right again.

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By the way, I’m done with the newborn haze and ready to refocus my energy on our home. To keep myself accountable, I’m going to stick to a strict blogging schedule of new posts on every Monday and Wednesday. Come back on these days to see what we’re up to around here!

* This post contains affiliate links.

Posted on by Elisa
This entry was posted in Before & After, DIY, Janella!, Kitchen, Tutorials/How To. Bookmark the permalink.
     

17 Responses to Another IKEA Hack: DIY Learning Tower!

  1. staci miller says:

    This is so awesome!!!! You both are doing SO Beautifully!!!!

  2. Angela says:

    What a great idea. You both are so handy and creative. She is just growing so fast and just so adorable.

  3. Tawny says:

    Love it!! Never thought of how kids would love to “be” with parents during cooking time! Yay about regular blogging- cheering you on!

  4. tamara says:

    We need this for Cameo! He is always wanting to watch us cook– right now, we’re letting him stand on a chair. Adding this to our to-do projects!

  5. Any chance you could just produce one for me…in red! Thanks! Love the idea!

  6. Katie says:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I purchased the ikea stool earlier this week and my husband and I worked on the build during today’s nap. Right now its drying from it’s first coat of “Paprika” red from Rustolium. So far it looks great! Not only was it much easier on the wallet, it has a much smaller footprint than a retail Learning Tower.

    Thanks!
    Katie

    • Elisa says:

      Awesome!! If you can, email me a picture, please! Would love to see! And what a great color. I’m thinking of repainting my tower for my second girl when she’s ready…

  7. Pascale says:

    Hi, about to head to home depot to buy the wood. I have a question regarding the 7″ long side pieces. Based on side of the piece where the vertical poles are screewed in a 7inches long piece would not fit. Does it mean that vertical polls go in at an angle in order to fit the 7inch wood pieces?

    Hope I make sense.

    Let me know.

    Thank you.

    • Elisa says:

      I’m going to try to answer this the best I can… We screwed in the vertical posts first and then attached the back and side horizontal pieces. If I remember correctly, we ended up having to saw off a little from the horizontal posts to make it all fit, which is why I said in the post that the measurements aren’t perfect. But I’m not even sure if I answered your question??? Let me know… :)

      • Pascale says:

        Hi,
        So the vertical posts are at a straight angle.

        I did calculate that the 2 posts that fit in between the vertical ones have to be no more than 6 inches long or so to fit.

        Thank you. I was wondering because it looks like its going outward on the photos from both blogs. :-)
        I can not wait to start.

  8. Pascale says:

    One more question: is the dowel glued? So it doesn’t “roll” in your hand when you touch it?

    • Elisa says:

      It’s not glued in, but you could definitely do that! Ours does roll but it’s kinda hard to roll it.. not so roll-y that it’s dangerous :)

  9. Carianne says:

    This is so wonderful! I just learned about the learning tower but totally can’t spend $200 on it. My question is, how sturdy do you feel this is? Did it ever wobble with your daughter on it? Thanks!

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  12. Lauren says:

    Love this idea so much! It was like reading my own story, the leg hanging, crying on the floor LOL
    Im wondering how stable the structure is? My husband is worried that my little guy will topple the whole thing. Can you give any insight? Thank you so much!!!

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