Introduction: Easy One-Day-Build Toddler Learning Tower
By the time my child was 15 months old, climbing on chairs and tables had become a problem. It occurred to me that it made sense: I'd want to be at the height where everything was taking place too. So it seemed worth getting him a toddler tower: an elevated riser with guard rails to prevent him from falling down.
I looked for commercial options, and the most affordable were $70. Unfortunately, shipping costs made them much more expensive than that, so I looked into DIY solutions. I eventually settled on a design informed by my desire to produce something very simple that I could put together on one Sunday afternoon with limited tools.
There are some great options out there. Generally, you can see a few recurring design styles. Some consist of a stool with guard rails, and these sometimes have a hinge that lets them fold into a little desk. Others are a set of rigid beams. And finally, there's the style that consists of two panels bridged by beams. I selected the third to keep things simple. It reduces the number of joints and cutting, and I had more confidence in my ability to make it very, very strong.
Stools with railings
A ladder with a cage
Unsurprisingly, some excellent woodworkers on Instructables have a couple of really impressive designs.
Pine boards, 48" x 24" x 1/2" (2x)
A box of screws
A pack of sliding floor-protector feet
A circular saw (or hand saw)
A Dremmel rotary tool
Step 1: Cut the Panels
First, cut the wood boards into the eight necessary pieces:
Side panels (2x)
Main shelf (1x)
Cross beams (4x)
You'll really want straight, square edges along sides that join with the sides. So cuts 1, 3, and 5 can be cut with a jigsaw without a problem, but cuts 2 and 4 may require a circular saw or a hand saw.
Step 2: Drill the Holes
Each side has 13 holes: eight for the four cross beams, two for the step, and three for the main shelf.
Each cross beam has 2 holes on each end 2" apart.
The step has two holes on each end, 4" apart.
The shelf has three holes on each end, 4" apart.
Step 3: Screw It Together
I recommend screwing the top two crossbeams onto one side, then attaching them to the other side so the structure can stand. Then, attach the second two lower crossbeams, at which point it should be a bit easier to then screw in the shelf and the main platform.
After everything is in place, go back through and tighten it all down. It should feel rock-solid.
If you want to make the shelf adjustable, you could add rails for it to slot into place. I decided that making this adjustable was not a priority, especially because attaching the shelf directly added a great deal of structural strength. The finished product is nicely heavy. Movable, but substantial.
Step 4: Clean Up the Edges and Add Feet
To finish it, make sure all the edges are smooth and aren't a splinter risk. I ran over all the edges with the sanding drum of a Dremmel rotary tool. After they felt smooth, I drilled pilot holes for the feet and hammered them in. If the feet don't sit totally level, consider adjusting them by pulling out the shortest foot and placing a washer behind it before putting it back in.
You may also want to finish this with the wood finisher of your choice.
Of every project inspired by my son, this one is my hands-down favorite. He uses it every day, and he clearly gets a lot out of it. It wasn't hard, and I like the look more than I expected. If you make one, be sure to let me know!