Another IKEA Hack: DIY Learning Tower!


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:


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.


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


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.


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.


Then Nick screwed in four posts to the top step.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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




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.


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!

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50 Comments on “Another IKEA Hack: DIY Learning Tower!

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

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

  3. 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!

    • Sure, just let me know when you’re able to come over from California to pick it up 😉

  4. 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.


    • 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…

  5. 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.

    • 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… 🙂

      • 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.

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

    • 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 🙂

  7. 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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  10. 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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  13. Great idea, the first picture with your girl hanging round your legs is exactly what 16-month boy is doing now when I cook at weekends, every time I put one ingredient in the pan I need to lift him for him to see… I think next Sunday will be filled with a small visit to Ikea and DIY day for us 🙂
    In my case it will have to be red, when it’s done I will send you a picture.

    • Yes they do look alike!! Wow! Be on the lookout for a very updated post around here soon to see what Janella looks like now, might give you a glimpse into your daughter’s future 😉

  14. So cool. Definitely looking into this. Only hesitation, Bub stands pretty tall at 18 months (37″ by last doctor’s visit but we think she was a bit generous there, still gives an idea…) so I’m afraid he’ll outgrow it too fast (center of gravity over railing?). How had your withstood the test of time? Thanks so much for sharing a great idea and project!!

    • Janella is now 3.5 years old and still loves the thing… I have to build another one because she fights over it with her little sister, who’s almost 2. Would definitely recommend!

  15. I created 2 towers. One for my house (a proud Grandma) and one for my Daughter”s house. My Grand-daughter love’s the tower. Now she can help Mama and Nanny in the kitcken! Thanks for the idea

  16. Thanks a lot for sharing!
    We just built as per your instructions! she loves it already!
    We just need to add the dowel.. We are thinking to create something that can be removed and put back (perhaps for your second one!)
    Will share once we are done with it!
    Thanks again for Sharing!

  17. I love this, but I’m worried my climber will use the lower railing as a step to get up on the counter. I might need a solid piece of plywood!

    • Yep, our 3rd kid does this too. Sigh. Lots of redirection and practice, she stopped. But still gotta watch her!

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  19. Made 3 of them yesterday. Sister-in-law is Grandma to twin boys. Good friend is Grandma to a little girl. She wanted one that was adjustable. So I dropped the middle braces to the bottom of the posts (which would be the top of the Ikea stool) and notched a piece of plywood to fit inside the posts on top of the middle braces. This whole learning tower “hack” is a nice idea and seems to be what a lot of people could use….at least while the younguns are still young.

  20. I wish I could post a pic of our daughter…. My husband and I can’t believe how much our girls look alike…. They are honestly twinsies lol…. Our Brynn from Canada:)
    My friend sent me your link ha;)
    Great stool I have wanted to make one like that and looks like I now can:)

  21. Hi! I made one of these and made my posts so they are flush with the countertop but it looks impossible to get in/out of… how high are your benches? My 4x posts only needed to be 35cm :s

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  25. everything looks nice…but…unfortunately the dowel is much too low …the center of gravity of your child pictured is well above the dowel…should she fall backwards, the dowel would cause her to tip totally upside down and fall on her head…the back support should be halfway up her back…much better to fall off of the stool without an impediment (like this dowel)…she would maybe twist an ankle…head first could hurt big time

    • Actually, without the dowel she had a pretty bad fall. No falls with the dowel, with her or our other two kids. I do recommend the dowel! 🙂

  26. Love this! One question as a newbie at woodworking stuff, how do you notch out the hole for the dowel? That might be a silly question, but again, just starting to do handy stuff like this.

    • It’s a good question! We had no idea how to do this until Nick’s dad came over and did it for us. He just drilled in two holes, one hole deep enough on one side to push in the dowel and then pushed it into the other hole. Pretty technical description eh?

  27. Hi! Love this, I was getting super discouraged looking at $300 glorified step stools until I came across your blog! Quick question though, could you give me a brief estimate about what the wood cost you altogether? Thank you! Turned out great!

    • Ah I can’t remember off the top of my head but for sure under $100! Way way under $100.

  28. Great work! I make these here in Australia. But if you can do it yourself and make it as good as that, well done!

  29. From your tutorial, I made one for my (then) 17 month old granddaughter. Today, I’ll be making a second so she can help at my house. She calls it her “up” because it allows her to be up where she can see and assist. Supplies to build and paint cost a total of $56 each. I added a fine grit to the paint on the step and platform to prevent slipping and stenciled her name on the bottom step after painting the tower in a bright, sunshine yellow. And yes, it is extremely sturdy. She is 21 months now. A big girl and has yet to even make it wiggle!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your tips and your costs! This will help others who want to build this. I love hearing from others who built this, thanks so much for commenting! <3

  30. This is so amazing…we have the step and are ready to hack! Just a quick question…why not use a bigger piece of wood at the back? Probably a stupid question but I would feel safer that they wouldn’t fall!

    • You could… but it might be harder for the toddler to climb inside and climb out with a bigger piece of wood, maybe? And the dowel is thick enough that it really is pretty safe! 🙂

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