There are few better places for toddlers to learn than in the kitchen. Unfortunately, most kitchens aren’t exactly designed with toddlers in mind—the counter is far above their head, and dangerous things like stovetops and knives abound—but it’s the perfect setting to introduce them to beginning science and math concepts through measuring, pouring, and cooking. It also sets them on a path to be helpful and involved members of the family. Enter: The learning tower.

Championed by Montessori teachers and parents of enthusiastic “I do it !” declaring toddlers everywhere, these wooden kitchen helper towers (sometimes called Montessori learning towers or toddler towers) are the furniture you never knew you needed. (Until suddenly, you did.) Unlike too short step-stools and unstable chairs pulled up to the counter, a Montessori learning tower are designed specifically for little ones to safely engage in kitchen activities, side-by-side with parents and caregivers.

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Related: 21 Montessori inspired toys that will grow with your child

Why are learning towers great for toddlers?

Standing at eye level with grown-up butts all day has to get old. But all kidding aside, providing your eager learner with the opportunity to safely get in on the action is invaluable. From 18 months on, kids are capable of pitching in with age-appropriate chores and cooking. And, the more they can reach, the more they can help. Additionally, developing these skills from an early age helps build self-confidence and knowledge that can make them truly helpful even as a toddler. (There are no rules that say you can’t teach a three-year-old how to master the art of pour-over coffee. #winning)

What age is a learning tower for?

You know your toddler best, but look at it this way—if they can climb stairs, they can benefit from a kitchen tower. Some more open designs are better suited for ages 3+, however, most manufacturers recommend them for 18 months and up.

Are learning towers safe?

Like any furniture they can climb on, toddler towers need to be used on an even surface. And while they often have a wide footprint, tipping is still a concern, so be sure to only use them while pushed up against secure structures like counters and sinks.

What are the best learning towers? Check out our top picks below!

Piaccalio mini chef learning tower, one of Motherly's favorite learning towers for kids

Piccalio

$199

Mini Chef Convertible Kitchen Helper Tower

Piccalio is known for their swoon-worthy wooden products for kids (think: balance beam, pikler triangle and balance board), so it’s no surprise that their ever-popular Mini Chef Convertible Kitchen Helper Tower features a similar wow-worthy modern design. The Helper Tower features three height options and is designed to encourage independence and self-confidence as your mini-me gets the extra leg up they need to brush their teeth, help you in the kitchen, or peek out the window at the garbage truck. We especially adore that the Helper Tower converts to a table in just a few simple steps, allowing them a height-appropriate surface to eat, draw, or build. 

Why we love it: Piccalio offers a vegan leather Guard Net ($34), which provides a protective barrier to the back of the helper tower. Since the Helper Tower can be used starting at 12 months old, we love this extra security net that ensures our littlest of littles stay safe and secure, and don’t accidentally fall backwards out of the helper tower. 

Cassarokids Waldorf Climbing Play Tower With Slide + Chalkboard

Cassarokids

$399

Waldorf Climbing Play Tower with Chalkboard & Slide

It’s safe to say we’re smitten with the thoughtfully designed Waldorf-inspired products from Cassarokids. Everything from the family-owned company is produced with the utmost care and commitment to sustainability and it shows. One of our faves? The versatile Waldorf Climbing Play Tower. The generous size gives plenty of surface area for little feet and enough space for two kiddos to work together. With the chalkboard in place, one side is completely enclosed. Transition it into the slide configuration and they’ve got a fun escape hatch.

Why we love it: What’s better than a kitchen tower? A kitchen tower that’s also the epicenter of playtime. With the addition of the dual-sided slide and chalkboard, this thoughtful design can serve as everything from a castle to defend to an imaginary classroom. Want even more fun? It’s compatible with their range of climbing triangles to create and indoor play space that’s truly spectacular. (You can also purchase just the tower for $299.)

little partners limited edition learning tower

Little Partners

$199.99

Learning Tower

The gold standard of learning towers, Little Partners introduced the original in 1992. And while we love the simplicity of the OG design, this limited edition style improves on the classic. With the addition of an activity center which includes a chalkboard, paper holder and shelf, it adds even more utility–important for a piece of furniture that takes up a fair amount of real estate. Designed by a Montessori teacher and mom, the durable and sturdy tower sits flush against the counter making it easy for little ones to cook, rinse, measure and stir with ease. The roomy platform adjusts to four different heights and a 200-pound weight limit means it can easily accommodate two little ones at a time.

Why we love it: With a few additional accessories, the tower can easily become a puppet theater, lemonade stand or ice cream stand!

guidecraft kitchen helper, one of Motherly's favorite learning towers for kids

Guidecraft

$199.95

Kitchen Helper

As one of the only fold-flat styles on the market, it’s no surprise we love the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper. The netted side clips in place to keep them from tumbling out while a non-slip mat gives extra peace of mind. It can be adjusted to two different heights and comes in several color finishes.

Why we love it: Did we mention it folds flat? Seriously. You can’t beat that.

Piccalio Mini Chef Foldable Helper Tower

Piccalio

$229

Mini Chef Foldable Helper Tower 

A new addition to the aforementioned Piccalio line up, the Mini Chef Foldable Helper Tower is another great option for families who are short on space or prefer not to leave it out all the time. The pared down design is more like a beefed up step ladder that’s sturdy and secure. It offers three platform heights and when it’s time to put it away it can easily fit right in the pantry! And best of all, like all of Piccalio products, it’s sustainably made from premium birch plywood and pine with a non-toxic finish.

sprout sous chef toddler tower

Sprout

$219

Sous-Chef Toddler Tower

With an impressively small footprint that doesn’t compromise on function, the Sprout Sous Chef Toddler Tower is perfect for families who appreciate a minimalist aesthetic. The durable Baltic birch tower is super simple to assemble and adjust as they grow without requiring a single tool! (Does it get any simpler than that??) It adjusts to three different heights (12″, 15″ and 18″) to keep little helpers at just the right level for all that stirring and pouring. A finished surface and lack of cracks and crevices make it easy to clean.

Why we love it: With three sides fully enclosed, this model is a great choice for the youngest helpers. They can easily climb up to help but you don’t have to worry about a misstep sending them sliding out the side.

little partners explore and store learning tower

Little Partners

$149.99

Explore N' Store Learning Tower

Easy to build, super solid and sturdy, this simple learning tower is ideal for smaller kitchens. It’s one of the more narrow designs we’ve found, measuring only 19 inches wide and features a clever folding step that makes it easy for kiddos to get in and out on their own. (N0t to mention, save your toes when it’s not in use!) The platform adjusts to three different heights, however, the absence of a lower crossbar makes it more appropriate for ages 3+.

Why we love it: The grippy stickers are an excellent touch—especially for kids who love living in socks–but if you’re looking for more security, add on the silicone mat.

happy tower convertible learning tower

Happy Tower

$175

Convertible Learning Tower

Why invest in just a learning tower when you can invest in a learning tower/activity table + chairs/chalkboard transformer of awesome? This brilliant design takes the concept to the next level, growing with your little one over the years. It requires very little assembly and converts between tower and table styles with a simple fold and clasp.

Why we love it: Multitasking products will always have our hearts.

simri home living convertible turtle tower

Simri Home Living

$190

Convertible Turtle Tower

Tastefully fun and cleverly constructed, this two-in-one tower is by far the coolest one around. Its lacy design gives little climbers a lot of places to grab when getting in and out, and when they’re ready for mealtime or activities, it easily converts to a table and bench. (You can add a second for a friend or sibling for an additional cost.) The only drawback is that the height isn’t adjustable.

Why we love it: It’s a turtle with a toadstool. We’re sold.

ECR4Kids reach-up step stool, one of Motherly's favorite learning towers for kids

ECR4Kids

$93

Learning Tower

This one is more step stool on steroids than traditional learning tower, but as a short person, it’s a style I can appreciate. It doesn’t have railings, so it’s certainly better suited for kids that are 3+. The sturdy construction can hold up to 200 pounds so if you’re like me, this one could stick around until long after your kid laps you in height, sparing them the need to come help you get the mixer off the top of the fridge. (#truestory)

Why we love it: It’s easy to use wherever step stools come in handy—not just the kitchen.

Boon Pivot Toddler Tower

Boon

$129

Pivot Toddler Tower

Durable and secure, the Boon Pivot learning tower can make its way back and forth between the kitchen and bathroom without missing a beat. Its lightweight plastic and steel design offers the same support as the wooden styles above all while taking up about the same amount of space as a folding chair when stored. The only drawback is the fixed, single height but we think it’s a fine trade-off for convenience.

Why we love it: The wipeable plastic can take quite a beating and requires no special care for cleaning.

A version of this story was published June 29, 2021. It has been updated.