June 1, 2018

Ikea Hack: Toddler Learning Tower

Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, so I'm always in the kitchen. This means that Lela is always in the kitchen. She always wants to see what I'm doing so Austin usually holds her, or if he's not around, I'll let her sit on the counter. Neither are great options, so I started looking into alternatives for my little helper and found what's called a "learning tower."
A few of my friends have posted pictures on Facebook with their toddlers in learning towers, so it peaked my interest. That is until I saw the price tag. A learning tower costs upwards of $150!? Say what!?

This led me to my trusty friend Pinterest, and sure enough, there were all kinds of Ikea hacks for them. I pinned quite a few "DIY Learning Tower" options but ultimately loved the design by Happy Grey Lucky. Austin and I are fabulous DIYers, so we used her wood measurements. Our steps, however, were quite a bit different but ultimately came out with the same end product.

All in this project cost us less than $50 and is exactly what we wanted. Lela loves climbing on her new stool to see what I'm doing, and I love that she can get up and down on her own!

Here are the supplies and steps we used to make our learning tower-
Ikea Bekvam stool
6' long 1x2 piece of pine wood
6' long 1x3 piece of pine wood
1/2" dowel rod
16 2" #6 screws
14 1.5" #6 screws
Wood filler
2-3 Cans flat white spray paint + primer

Measuring tape
Power drill
Power sander

Step 1:
Assemble the Ikea stool completely but leave the screws in the top a little loose because you'll be taking the top off later to attach the frame. We assembled the entire thing so that we could ensure the frame lined up with the legs on the base.

Step 2:
Measure and cut your wood to the following lengths:
1x2 cut into 4 15 1/2" pieces
1x3 cut into 4 6" pieces and 2 12 1/2" pieces
Dowel rod cut to 12 1/2"

*You can have the lumber store cut the wood for you but if you have a saw, you can save a buck and do it yourself like we did.

Step 3:
Take your 1x2's and mark pilot holes to the below specifications. Again, these measurements were taken from Happy Grey Lucky's design.

Front pieces: 1 hole, down and in 3/8"
Back pieces: 4 holes, in 3/8" at 1/2", 1 1/2" 8 1/2" and 9 1/2"
Front sides: 4 holes centered at 1", 2", 8 1/2" and 9 1/2"
Back sides: 4 holes centered at 1", 2", 8 3/4" and 9 3/4"  
*What helped us here was standing the pieces up and visualizing where each would go once fully assembled. You'll want to double check that your front and back pieces are marked on opposite sides so that it assembles correctly.

Step 4:
Drill pilot holes and countersink if you plan to cover the screw facings.

Step 5:
Assemble the sides. Be careful not to drill too aggressively, or you'll risk splitting the wood. We drilled the screws in normally then reduced the drill speed when we got near the end. This helped us make sure the screw was far enough in that we could cover it but not too far that we cracked the wood. By using #6 screws you shouldn't have any problems, but you want to be cautious.
Step 6:
Connect the assembled sides to the two 12 1/2" 1x3 pieces. We attached the piece to one side first to make sure everything was even and level then attached the other side making the same assurances.
Step 7:
Attach the dowel rod
Step 8:
If desired, fill screw holes, seams and any imperfections with wood filler and allow to dry for at least 2 hours.
Step 9:
Once filler is dry, sand the filled holes and all edges.

Step 10:
Set the newly assembled frame on top of the stool and decide how you want it placed. Then, mark around the legs with a pencil. We placed the frame 1/2" from the front, and it seemed to align everything the way we wanted.
Step 11:
Dettach the top piece of the stool from the base then mark and drill pilot holes into the center of the markings you just made.
Step 12:
Flip the frame over, set the top of the stool on the frame then line up your markings with the legs of the frame then attach the frame.
Step 13:
Reattach the newly assembled top to the base of the stool
Step 14:
Spray a base coat of paint and allow to dry

Step 15 (optional):
Look for any imperfections and re-sand. Once we sprayed a base coat of paint, we had a few flaws that we missed pop out at us.

Step 16:
Spray again until desired finish is achieved. This part took us about 2.5 cans of spray paint but only because we would inspect every coat of paint and sand down any imperfections that we found. If you're less OCD than we are it shouldn't take you nearly as long!
This was such an easy and fun project. It was 100% worth the time that it took to assemble not to mention it was about a quarter of the cost of most learning towers out there! If you have any questions about how to make don't hesitate to ask!

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