Toys make me break into a sweat. One turns to 2, turns to 20, turns to an entire floor lined with talking, primary-colored gadgets. It’s no secret I try to limit Wade’s toys and usually choose ones that are open-ended. (I’ll delve more into my reasons in future posts.)
Contrary to what the media tells us – children don’t *need* toys to learn. If this were the case, then the current generation should be intellectually superior to all others proceeding. (I have yet to see evidence of this.) What children do need is engagement, exploration, free play.
Engaging a child requires a little different work at each stage; I will write more on this later. Today I’d like to highlight my favorite *toy* (not really a toy) as a key to Wade’s engagement and enjoyment thus far. Being without this item while on vacation last week only furthered my fondness for it. (PS – I am not a paid sponsor : )
My toddler son Wade is a doer like many children. He prefers boxes, trashcans, containers and household items to toys. (Given the chance I think most children would.) His personality only furthers my goal to provide him with a childhood that focuses on exploration rather than toys.
I was sold from the moment I first saw the Learning Tower – love at first sight. I knew it would encourage Wade into exploration and involvement, rather than toy-chasing and tv-watching. (Toys and TV will have a place in Wade’s childhood, but they will play a minor role.) Some might criticize me as trying to merely be contrarian in a media-saturated age. But let me attest – Wade’s proudest, most excited moments have not been facilitated by toys. They have occurred as he tries to be a part of the world around him. Watching my son, I’ve been amazed at how even at his young age he can feel a sense of pride in his actions.
The Learning Tower is essentially a stool on steroids. It has a semi-enclosed structure that allows children to safely reach counter or table height a much younger age than otherwise possible. The platform is adjustable and according to the manufacturer, accommodates children from 18 months to at least 6 years. The 2 sides feature built in “steps” so a child can climb in the tower by his or herself. We started placing Wade in his learning tower a little before a year. Somewhere around 13 months he began pulling himself in the tower.
So what’s really the big deal about the Learning Tower?
The tower enables Wade to be a part of many household activities he would otherwise be excluded from – cooking, emptying groceries…use your imagination. Pulled up to the counter, Wade watches, eats a snack, or mimics what I’m doing. It’s also a table-top for his own activities – stacking blocks, coloring, building with containers. When Wade is older the tower will enable him to help cook and clean. These activities may not seem significant, but they are. From a young age a child wants to be a part of his parent’s world, wants to contribute and have ownership in even the smallest ways. These activities are also important in a child’s identity-building.
There are 2 potential obstacles to having a Learning Tower:
1. Price – its not cheap. The manufacturer does offer coupons and discounts on their Facebook page, so check there periodically. You can also google or search Pinterest for families who constructed their own Towers. However, we didn’t want to take the time to construct our own. And we felt Little Partners offered the safest product. We also felt it was worth the investment, given the years it would be used. Just think of how much you spend on toys which are used and cast aside so quickly!
2. Size. Check out the measurements. It’s footprint is 1.5-2x the footprint of a kitchen chair. If you don’t have a large kitchen, this can be an issue. We again decided it was well worth the space, given the mileage it would get. And our guess was right – Wade loves his Learning Tower even more than anticipated! He climbs in it to watch, to ask for a snack, to practice drinking from a “big” cup, to play, to mimic, to stack blocks. Wade doesn’t want to be stuck on the floor while the rest of the world transpires above. For example, just when I have a knife and cutting board in hand he begins pulling on my shirt and signing “up!” Knowing I can’t chop and hold him, I suggest “Go climb in your tower.” He walks around and up he goes, part of the action again. Though let me attest, I rarely have to suggest he climb in, as it’s usually his first move!
Whatever the age, whatever your philosophy, I highly recommend you consider a Learning Tower. It is hands-down the best baby investment we’ve made thus far.
It gives Wade greater involvement in our home and our activities, and in turn, foments his development and growing sense of self.
Enjoy this greatest hits reel of our Learning Tower. For more Learning Tower ideas, check out Pinterest.
I’d love to hear if you have something similar to the Learning Tower and how it has become a part of your child’s life.