Early this summer I found myself in a predicament. It seemed like every time I was in the kitchen preparing food Gabe would get frustrated at me for doing so. He would proceed to push himself between me and the cabinet while whining at me. Not cool. Especially when I’m chopping or have something on the range. If I picked him up and showed him what I was doing his mood would immediately change. He was interested and was happy to have a taste if he could. He didn’t mind being told that the pan was hot and was happy if I let him hold the spatula, letting him move the stuff around the pan. Upon putting him back down, more often than not he would resume his frustration with me. If I was lucky I could get him distracted with something in the living room and resume what I was doing. He generally exhibited this behavior in the afternoons and was greatly exacerbated by skipped naps. Ohh the power of skipped naps.
So why not pull up a chair? Well, in the past the chair did work. But once he became more confident on his feet it didn’t quite work so well. He didn’t stay in one spot and didn’t quite realize he could easily fall off. I was concerned enough that I didn’t feel safe putting him on the chair anymore. What’s a mom to do?
Build a learning tower! I had found the plans from Ana White for it a while back but I was still scoffing at the “silliness” of a learning tower and had not learned the error or my thoughts. Buying a learning tower was sooooooo out of the question, but building it? That we could do. I REALLY wanted to do this on my own but I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull it off in any timely manner and I kind of needed it now! I’m knowledgeable and somewhat skillful but don’t have enough hands on experience to pull this off on top of being a stay at home mom with no help. So I told Will that we were doing this project and moved it up to the top of the priority list.
A really cool thing about this project is that it is a good scrap wood project. If you don’t have scrap wood, it’s an astonishingly cheap $30 in materials project. It turned out that we didn’t need to buy a single thing. We already had everything!
Not including paint, it took us about 3 days to build. Which included some dry time for glueing. Painting ended up spanning a full week because of dry time, number of coats, and life. I think the hardest part was cutting the arcs with the jig saw.
While it is far from perfect, I am quite proud of the end result.
Gabe loves loves loves his learning tower. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him so excited to “do dishes.” He watches me clean up after every meal and now he could do what mama does. He loves being engaged with what I’m doing. Using the food processor? Let me help! Cutting veggies? Here let me sort the measuring spoons and stick my fingers in the salt bowl.
Gabe learned really fast how to climb in and out of it. I think it was instrumental in pushing him to learn how to climb off things backwards. Watching him climb off backwards made it pretty clear that the hard straight edge of the platform was digging into him. So we removed the platform and routed the edge. Problem solved.
The Not So Good
Oh the not so good.
He quickly learned how to push it around the kitchen. We intentionally glued felt pads to the bottom of it so it wouldn’t scratch the wood floors. Protects the floor but makes it easy to move. Gabe figured this out fast. He then started moving it around the kitchen. And then he started moving it around without us being in the kitchen. He suddenly had a way to grab dishes out of the dish rack and the chef’s knife sitting in said dish rack. The once safe spots were no longer safe!
So we removed the tower from the kitchen and put it in the farthest area of the dining room. He still moved it into the kitchen. I can’t blame him for his curiosity and enthusiasm to help out and learn. But argh! Thankfully he has backed off from pushing it into the kitchen by himself.
And then there is the moving of what feels like all the things when he is “helping.” It can become frustrating day in and day out. And don’t think for a minute you can set him at the counter a safe distance away. Nope, he gets down and pushes his way back over to where the action is. He better be ready for becoming a sous chef if he keeps this up!
So Worth It
Despite the frustrations it can bring, I love it. It is an incredible learning tool. Having him on the same level as me changes everything for him. It’s much safer than a chair and it will grow with him. Even more so than the water table, I’m really glad we built this.
It’s a continual lesson in learning. Some afternoons I just need close off the kitchen. Some days I need to be more mindful than others, slow myself down and let him engage.