Washing the dishes may take two hours, but there are serious benefits to training your kids to help in the kitchen as soon as they’re fairly steady on their feet (as early as 18 months old).
Think of the payoff. You’ll eventually be able to hand off housework—for free! Introducing chores at an early age will also help your child develop important adulting skills, such as time management, independence, and responsibility. A long-term University of Minnesota study found that the best predictor of growing up to be a successful adult was if the child started helping out around the house when they were 3 or 4 years old.
Plus, toddlers and preschoolers have a natural desire to be altruistic, so it’s a good time to introduce chores. By about 2 to 3, they can already help wash fruits and vegetables, mix ingredients, and sweep up messes. (Here’s a handy suggestion of additional age-appropriate chores.) Bonus: Helping out in the kitchen can even encourage picky eaters to try a new dish because they had a hand in making it.
One way to encourage a young child to join you in the kitchen? A safety stool, or learning tower, such as the Little Partners Original Learning Tower, the Guidecraft Classic Kitchen Helper Stool, or the Guidecraft Kitchen Helper Tower Step-Up.
The learning tower provides a sturdy, no-fuss way for your child to stand next to you at the counter level. Unlike a chair or simple step stool, the learning tower has safety rails to help your child easily climb up. Both the Little Partners Original Learning Tower and the Guidecraft Classic Kitchen Helper Stool also have guard rails on all sides to protect against accidents (though, as one reviewer pointed out, there is still some space for kids to fall through).
The learning tower can adjust to different heights as your child grows, something else that most dining room chairs and step stools can’t do. The Guidecraft also includes a little message board on one side where kids can draw, while the Little Partners Original Learning Tower offers add-on attachments that convert it into an art easel or a playhouse (technically, either a puppet show theater/popcorn stand or an ice cream/lemonade stand.)
The learning stool can admittedly be bulky and heavy, and it takes up precious kitchen space. If you have a small kitchen, you may want to opt for the Guidecraft stool, which folds up for storage.
With a price tag of $100 to $200, it is also expensive. But consider it an investment in your child, fostering the desire to hang out at the kitchen counter with you, just to play or to prepare as your future sous chef.