Introduction: Kitchen Helper Tower

Once my daughter started walking around, we wanted to get her a Kitchen Helper Tower (also referred to as a Learning Tower) so she could be at counter height and help out with things in the kitchen. A Kitchen Helper Tower is really just a step stool with a safety cage on top, so I was a bit surprised to see that they can retail for $200. Luckily there are also some good DIY designs to be found. The ones I liked best used an Ikea stool as a base and then built a simple wooden structure on top. However, none of the designs were exactly what I was looking for though, so I decided to put my own twist on it.

The main issue I had with the designs I found was the fixed rear guard. Not only did that create the potential for her to hit her head when she was climbing in, but it also meant there was nothing to keep her in the tower. While this won't be an issue once she is a little older, knowing my toddler, she would wait until my hands were covered in batter and then decide that would be the perfect time to get down, take her diaper off and run around the house. The solution I came up with was a hinged opening with gate latch. This makes getting in easy and keeps her from getting out of the tower on her own until she is old enough to figure out how to work the latch. I also went with a design that had rounded edges to make things a little safer.

Total cost is approximately $30-$35, including the stool, if you are buying most to all of the materials, but would be cheaper if you are re-purposing existing materials. My wood working skills would be considered firmly mediocre and I really didn't have too many issues and completed this all in one day, so I'd consider this a project most people will be able to handle.

Step 1: Materials & Tools

For this section I will assume you are buying all the materials and so the measurements for the wood will be standard hardware store sizes, and I will cut them down to their final dimensions later. If you are utilizing wood you already have, you can find the final measurements in the next section (though ultimate measurements will depend on your counter height).

Here are the materials you will need:

Here are the tools I used:

  • Drill & drill bits (if you are using 3" or 3.5" screws as I do, you may need a longer drill bit for pilot holes than you currently have)
  • Saw (I used a hand saw and mitre box to make my cuts)
  • Dremel
  • Clamps
  • Tape Measure

Step 2: Assemble Stool

Follow the assembly instructions that come with the stool. The directions are fairly straight forward, just make sure the legs are leaning the correct way. Feel free to employ child labor for this step. Once the stool is assembled, measure the distance between the top of the stool and top of the counter. After you finish measuring, remove the top step of the stool.

Step 3: Trimming & Cutting

For the ease of organization, I will list all the lengths I used here, but I recommend starting with the just seven 16" stud cuts and then measuring the remaining distances for the other cuts once the first four studs are attached to the base. Store purchased lumber isn't always perfectly straight, so distances may be slightly off if you cut just based on the dimensions of the top of the stool.

2" x 3" Stud

  • Seven 16" (or whatever the distance is between the top of the stool and counter height) segments
  • One 13 7/8" segment

Dowel

  • Four 4 3/8" segments
  • Three 6 1/4" segments

Step 4: Setting the Corners & Rear Assembly

Line up 4 of the 2" x 3"s with one in each of the corners. Once you have them positioned, trace the outlines with a pencil. Remove the corners and replace them after putting a line of wood glue within the outlines you traced.

While you wait for the glue to try, line up the components of the rear gate. Take two 2" x 3" segments and place them behind the rear corners with the long edge parallel to the rear edge of the top step. Place a third segment slightly to the right of the left segment. You'll want to leave a little room so that gate is able to swing open and closed without coming in contact with the left segment. Once everything is set, measure the distance between the right segment and middle segment and cut three pieces of dowel to this length. In my case it was 6 & 1/4".

Layout dowel pieces between the two 2" x 3" segments and clamp everything together. Drill pilot holes through the side segments into each side of the dowels. Take a drill bit with a similar diameter to your screw heads and drill a shallow cavity to allow the screw heads to sit flush. Once everything is secure, line up the rear pieces again to verify everything is sized correctly.

Step 5: Sides & Front

Once the glue has dried, flip the top step over so it rests on the 2" x 3" segments and then drill two pilot holes in each corner. It is important to again countersink the screws (using a drill bit the same diameter as the screw head to drill a shallow cavity that allows the screw head to sit flush) otherwise the top step will not attach to the rest of the stool properly.

After screwing in the corner posts, measure the distance between the far edges of the front corner segments This is the length of the final 2" x 3" segment (13 & 7/8" for me). After cutting this segment, screw it on to the front with one screw on each side.

Next, measure the distance between the corners and cut two pieces of dowel for each side. Clamp these into place and secure with screws. When placing the dowels on the sides, make sure it they are at least 3-4" from the top and the bottom (otherwise the screws that secure the dowels in place could interfere with placement of the hinges for the rear gate).

Step 6: Corner Smoothing

While the sides of the 2" x 3" are already smoothed, the cut sides will still have sharp edges. The proper way to create rounded edges is with a router bit. Since I don't have one, I just used the sanding attachment on a dremel to sand down all of the sharp edges. Be sure to wear a mask for this part as it will kick up a fair amount of saw dust.

Step 7: Attaching the Rear Gate & Latch

Lay the assembly on the front side and hold the left segment of the rear assembly to the rear left corner with clamps and attach with screws. Note: As pictured, I put the screws through the center of the 3" side of the back piece. However, if I were doing this over, I would have moved them slightly so they were centered in the 2" side it is attaching to.

Use a clamp to hold a hinge to the top of the right rear corner piece and secure with the provided screws. I recommend only doing the center screw to start with in case you need to make adjustments to the alignment later. Repeat on the bottom with the other hinge.

Once the hinges are secured to the corner side, use clamps to hold the hinges against the gate and secure with screws. Close the gate and use a clamp to hold it in line with the left most piece. Attach the gate latch and catch and verify that it opens and closes easily. If you are happy with the alignment, you can go back and secure the other hinge screws.

Take the whole assembly and reattach to stool base

Step 8: Final Thoughts

  • The only real issue I had with this project was stripping some of the longer screws. I was able to solve that using the longer pilot bit I mentioned in the materials section and switching from a drill to a screw driver when needed.
  • If you want to save a little money you can skip the dowel and just use the 2" x 3" (there will be enough left over 2" x 3" to replace all of the dowel segments)
  • I was fine with the natural look, but you might want to consider a coat of paint for a finishing touch (just make sure to remove the hinges and gate latch before painting)
  • As your child gets older and starts to do more in their tower, you can attach hooks onto the sides to hold things like spatulas or other utensils.
  • Some commenters have worried about stability and speculated that the design looked top heavy. After several months of use, I haven't experienced any issues with stability (helped by the fact that the stool legs are wider than the top section). I even tried having her lean over the sides to see if she could tilt it and it didn't budge. Obviously I would not recommend unattended use though.

Comments

author
philster25 (author)2016-09-08

I genuinely have a safety concern with this design due to it's top heavy nature.

I have that stool and it's very light at under 3kg. I'm sure the structural studs and fittings weigh more than that. Then we add the weight of a child (lets say 12kg for the sake of argument). Now we have a scenario where the top fitting is approximately 5 times the weight of the base.

If stretching for something off to the side (like that knife your trying to keep out of reach) the child's weight will act on the side rail. I.E. Very high for a high center of gravity design. As the child is confined they may well try to pull on the worktop to get closer to that thing they want to grab. Once this tower tips the child will have no way of saving the fall - unlike a fall from an unenclosed stool where the child's reflex action to hang on will at least make their head less likely to hit the ground first.

I did a test on the basic stall and it takes just 1kg of force at the platform of the stool to start it tipping sideways. I'd guess it would require less on the upper rail in your design. I suspect also the amount of travel required for a topple is within the reach of a child.

I think anyone building this needs at least to add some stabilization to the sides and probably to the rear too.

author
ghochman (author)philster252016-09-08

Appreciate your concern, but after using it for several months, I haven't experienced any stability issues. When one of the other commenters first brought the issue up I tried having her reach over the sides for something to see if she could tilt it and it didn't budge. This is likely due to the legs being wider than the top section. As I mentioned below, I obviously wouldn't recommend unsupervised use though.

author
philster25 (author)ghochman2016-09-23

Hi ghochman

While the legs are slightly wider than the top section (33mm), this does not remove my concerns. As my main concern is the child grabbing the worktop and pulling sideways, can you do a test for me please? If you have a luggage or fishing scale can you hook it to the top left or right rail and measure the force required to start a tip (without the child on top). I'd be very curious to see the results.

author
wold630 (author)2016-09-21

I would have LOVED one of these when my kids were little!

author
AndrewD86 (author)2016-09-12

@ghochman I made it this weekend in a couple of hours. Mom and son couldn't be happier! Cookies stirred by my son to celebrate, even thou the chocolate chips kept disappearing! Thanks for the instructable!

author
ghochman (author)AndrewD862016-09-12

Glad you enjoyed!

author
Gelfling6 (author)2016-09-09

If stability is the main concern, Perhaps, if there is enough 2X4 left, outfit the legs of the step stool, with a pair of of bigger feet, extending outward. _/ \_ , simply nailed to the bottom of the legs. One other suggestion for the new builders, have the toddler help-out building it! Get their creative building started early!

author
ghochman (author)Gelfling62016-09-11

There is plenty of wood leftover if you are buying retail, so not a bad suggestion for anyone concerned with stability.

author
Shroomers (author)2016-09-10

love

author
ashleenycole16 (author)2016-09-07

Amazing work and great idea

author
thijsv (author)2016-09-05

Great design. We have the same stool and our kid fell off already a few times when reaching for something. Only a few tears, but I think I will give your project a try to prevent further damage.

author
Treasure Tabby (author)thijsv2016-09-06

If there's something like a suction break to keep the thing from moving, on the market, maybe add one of those. There has to be something to anchor the thing to the floor. None the less always supervise children in the kitchen. :)

author
Swansong (author)2016-09-06

I appreciate all your extra notes on how to make sure everything is flush and fits properly. This looks really helpful!

author
kode1303 (author)2016-09-03

A good idea and nicely made. However, I would be a bit nervous that the tower is a bit top heavy and not properly supported - especially if the toddler is reaching for something and is leaning over the side. It would be tragic if the tower with the child in it fell over! Just a thought - please prove me wrong!
Regards.

author
ghochman (author)kode13032016-09-03

We've been using it for several months now and have never experienced any issues with stability. I even tried to see if she could tilt it by leaning over the side just now and it didn't budge. Obviously I wouldn't recommend leaving a child unattended in it though.

author
kode1303 (author)ghochman2016-09-03

That's very nice to hear :-)
My own daughter managed to kick herself back while sitting in a high chair and went all the way down and knocked her head on the floor, so I am not at all flawless in the kids' furniture business myself.
Cheers.

About This Instructable

15,385views

189favorites

License:

More by ghochman:Kitchen Helper TowerDiscreet Electronics OrganizerChildren's LED Baseball Scoreboard Toy
Add instructable to: