Toddler Activity Tower
Pinterest is the best time saver and the best time waster. You know what I mean? You can browse through LOADS of information and pictures in a very short amount of time, or you can spend hours browsing mindlessly through useless images of outfits, wall collages, and DIY projects.
A couple months ago, we ran across Matilda's Activity Tower on Pinterest. I am forever thankful I ran across the picture. This little tower, made using Ikea's Bekvam stool, has made our lives MUCH easier (especially my life as a stay-at-home mom.) Lucy's Learning Tower appears to be another very similar project. Whichever directions you follow, I think you will find this is an excellent project to tackle.
You can find instructions for building this tower at either of the blogs I mentioned above.
Child's counter-height stool
Kids have energy and are easily distracted
My son needs to learn how to corral his energy. I pray he eventually will. As a one year old, though, his sense of wonder is in full bloom. He likes to move. His focus goes from one object to another. He is in discovery mode. I'm okay with that. I like seeing him learn. Alongside all this exploration, though, comes an energetic and distracted little boy.
The activity tower gives me the option to let my son eat lunch standing up a few times a week. This works great for us. He can stand. He isn't strapped to his high chair. He gets to move. And, if this little boy forgets that he's eating, I can easily slip in those less than desirable vegetables without him thinking about it.
Little boys like to move, and this tower helps eliminate a few battles each week.
Child's stool for the kitchen
Have you ever attempted to make dinner with a one year old screaming at your knees? Been there. Done that (too many times). It's not an overly pleasant way to make dinner.
The little guy just wants to see what I'm doing. He wants to help me. He's curious. Yes, he needs to learn patience. He needs to understand mommy is busy sometimes. But, this activity tower solves almost all troubles while I cook dinner. He can 'help' me. He can watch me. Or, he can stand up there and have a little snack while we wait for daddy to come home.
This tower saves my arms a lot of trouble. Cooking dinner with one hand and holding a toddler in the other keeps life interesting, but dinner is much easier with two free arms.
A less chunky version of Matilda's activity tower
A less blocky version of Matilda's Activity Tower
A few changes we made
When we saw Matilda's Activity Tower, it was love at first sight. We both thought, 'this would be great for us and the little guy.' BUT, some of my aesthetically sensitive brain cells started churning immediately. I wanted a 'less chunky' version. I saw lots of two by fours on Matilda's Tower. I wanted something a little less blocky.
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Here are a few changes we made.
- Six feet of 2 inch by ½ inch board.
- Six feet of 1.5 inch by ¾ inch board.
- 18 inches of ¾ inch wide dowel rod
We made our entire upper out of 2 different board sizes - 2"x1/2" and 1.5"x3/4". Six feet of each style was enough. The 2 inch wide board was used to make the top ledge, mitered at the corners at a 45 degree angle. It also was used as a wide board across the two front legs of the upper. The 1.5 inch board was used to make the vertical legs of the upper.
To figure out dimensions, we assembled our stool first, then set it in front of our cabinets to figure out how much more height we needed. For our standard height cabinets (36"), we needed our vertical legs to be 16" tall. Our stool was 19.5" tall. Also remember the top ledge with the 2" board is 1/2" thick (19.5 + 16 + 0.5 = 36). So we cut 4 boards 16" long (the 1.5 inch wide board).
Cut board lengths for 1 ½ inch wide board:
- 4 pieces – cut to 16 inches long (legs)
To make the top ledge, we took the top step of the original stool (removed it) and designed our top ledge assembly to sit ¾ inches in towards the center (supported by the legs). Then we cut the inside edges of the ledge to match those measurements. On our stool, this was 7 ¾ inches to the inside edge of the mitered cut on the two side pieces. For the front ledge (mitered on both ends), this was 12 ¾ inches long. You really don’t need that info. Just follow the cut lengths below for this particular IKEA stool.
Cut board lengths for 2 inch wide board:
- 2 pieces – 9 ¾ inches long – then miter cut at 45 deg on one end only
- 1 piece – 16 ¾ inches long – then miter cut at 45 deg on both ends
- 1 piece – 12 ¾ inches long – cross member
To assemble, we pre-drilled holes and then used wood screws. We also used wood glue on the mitered corners for extra strength. Wood filler worked great to cover up all the screw holes, so we put them where ever it was easiest.
Here’s how we did it:
- Assemble top ledge out of 2 inch mitered boards, drilling into the sides at the 45 deg angles to hold the pieces together. Use wood glue to strengthen joint.
- Attach four vertical legs (1 ½ inch wide pieces) to the top of the IKEA stool base (removed from stool) by screwing directly up through the top step of the stool base
- Match the dangling legs with the top ledge already assembled. We screwed directly thru the top ledge into the leg. We later covered the screws with wood glue.
- Install 2 inch wide cross member to fit between the front legs. This really adds stiffness to the assembly.
- Install 3/4 inch dowel rod between the back legs of your assembly. Cut length to fit between legs.
We secured the dowel really well. But in retrospect, would have preferred to make it removable – maybe by not covering the screws and using glue. Once our little guy got coordinated to climb up and down the stool himself, we could have removed this little feature of extra protection.
If you have any questions, just post a comment and we (meaning Preston :) can provide some more details.
Ikea's Bekvam step stool
Lucy's Learning Tower
Before painting the stool, we filled in the screw holes with some wood putty. Once the putty dried, we sanded them down.
For paint we decided on Benjamin Moore's Polar Ice blue. This blue is only a few shades off white. We wanted the color subtle, and I think the Polar Ice blue accomplished that well.
Life as a momma is sometimes hard. We have many, many, many joys to experience each day, but sometimes a small change in life can make a BIG difference.
This tower was one of those things that made a BIG difference for me.
I wrestle with teaching my child patience versus always trying to make his life easier (so I don't have to listen to his whining). Momma needs to make dinner every day. Every day, making dinner was a challenge. This tower has made dinner prep much more enjoyable. And, while his little hands can't quite help effectively yet, we are getting there. I'm anxiously awaiting the day I can teach him to crack an egg, but right now I'll stick to letting him play with pot holders and spoons.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Jared on February 23, 2018:
So you attached the four legs by screwing up through the top step?
Kimberly on December 13, 2016:
The only change I would make is to change the dowel. I would drill into the side all the way through so you could slide the dowel in and out. That will make it easier for the little one to climb up without having to dodge it and allows removal for it all together at a later time.
Carry on November 03, 2016:
What age should this be used for? My daughter is 9 months and loves standing more than anything.
Ashlee on July 13, 2016:
Thank you so much for this! I can't wait to get some good use out of it. We just finished making it last night. Pretty easy to put together. It didn't help with dinner prep tonight but I think it was just a bad night haha :)
Michelle - My daughter was having a bit of a fit at one point because I wasn't holding her and she was leaning both backwards and forwards in it.. it didn't look anywhere near tipping over. Hope that helps.
Michelle on July 09, 2016:
Does it tip over easily? I can picture my son jumping in it or leaning over the side and it sets my heart aflutter...
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on February 01, 2016:
Hi Aaron, thanks for your feedback and insight! That's a great idea. My husband said ours could need some reinforcing...it is on child #2 now. I'm glad you were able to make two for your twins!
Aaron on February 01, 2016:
Thx for the plans. I build two for my twins based on your specs. I added 1 inch L brackets underneath the top railing in the front and the back. Thought they might need a little more support. Other than that the plans were perfect thank you so much.
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on December 20, 2015:
Hi dena chance,
Our local box store (Menards) had some lumber these actual dimensions near the 1 by 2 (nominal dimensions 1.5" x 3/4"). You might look there. Otherwise, you can easily use 1 by 2's for everything - including the topper. We just liked the look of the slightly larger ledge.
dena chance on December 19, 2015:
Love this! I plan to build for the grandbabies when they come visit gramma and help bake cookies! I know that the 1.5 x 3/4 is commonly known as a 1 x 2 board but I cannot figure out what size board the 2 x 1/2 is. Can you help?
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on December 11, 2015:
Hi SarahW. My toddler did eventually learn to climb in by himself, but we did lift him over the top quite frequently. And, we took him out by the top a lot.
SarahW on December 11, 2015:
Do you pick up your toddler to put them in and out or how do they get in???
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on August 25, 2015:
Hi VicKi. We used two inch screws, and we pre-drilled all of the holes. We did that to add a lot of vertical strength to the posts.
VicKi on August 22, 2015:
what size screws were used?
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on May 07, 2014:
Hi thefederows! So this little tower has really made our lives much easier. I would recommend it to any momma of a toddler. Thanks for the vote and the pin! So, as my son grows up, I'll probably just trust him standing on a kitchen chair. I doubt we'll make another one for a taller child. Thanks for stopping by again! :)
thefedorows from the Midwest on May 06, 2014:
Kate, LOVED this hub! I have never seen a stool quite like this before. I'm actually going to pin this (got a chuckle at your pinning reference in your intro) and hopefully remember it for our future kiddos! Voted up and useful. It also sounds like you are a great mom. :)
I am curious...as your son grows up, will you make another one using a shorter step stool as the base?
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on May 06, 2014:
Everyone tells us they grow up so fast! We are loving this toddler stage right now. :) Thanks for stopping by garden delights!
Michelle McConnell from Indiana on May 05, 2014:
This is great! Such a neat idea.If my LO wasn't so BIG now, I would totally have used this. They grow up too fast.
Preston and Kate (author) from the Midwest on May 05, 2014:
Thanks randomcreative...we love it!
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 05, 2014:
It looks fabulous! How simple and versatile. I'm glad that it's worked so well for you and your kiddo. Thanks for sharing.