Only what you need for your baby. Really. (OK – and some fantastic things you don’t that are pretty cool.)
One of the conveniences of a standing baby is that you no longer have to bring blankets to lay out on the floor everywhere you go (which is awkward in bars, let me tell you) and you don’t have to be down on that floor with her when she gets bored after 40 seconds on her own. One of the challenges is that now she wants to see what’s going on up at your level and can pull herself up to get halfway there. This means a lot of hoisting and hip jutting so she can see all the scintillating things you’re doing on the counter or your desk, like writing a check to the housecleaner or *gasp* putting away a spoon.
I shouldn’t be sarcastic: it’s lovely to be around someone who is interested in everything, despite the toll on my hip joints.
When Astrid got to this point, I could hardly get any cooking done because everything I did had to be one-handed. There are only so many things you can make that only require one hand, even for me, the Non-Cook Extrordinaire. After a month, I couldn’t deal, so I went hunting for a solution. Enter The Learning Tower. It might not look like much, but it is a huge help. It’s basically an adjustable scaffolding platform for standing babies and kids.
The railings and super-sturdy construction keep it safe, and the floor can be adjusted downward as the kids grow, so even if they’re just shy of the countertop, you’re still in business: your child is up at counter level and can see what’s going on + “help.” The helping in our kitchen consists of me positioning Astrid in front of the sink with the faucet on very low and a host of safe utensils and bottle brushes at her disposal. She’s soaking wet at the end of dinner prep, but who cares? I got dinner made and she’s headed for her bath anyway.
I don’t know how much learning is going on, but it is a definite physical relief and a huge boon for dinnertime to have one of these. It does take up a fair amount of floor space though, so it’s not ideal for a super-small kitchen, but it fits in ours, if just barely.
The $200 price tag isn’t much considering how solid it is, but it’s steep for an accessory. I found ours by posting on our local parents’ message board – a mom down the street gave it to us for free, thank you very much! I’ll definitely be paying it forward on this one. Do have a look on craigslist before paying retail, or, in San Francisco, post for one used on Golden Gate Mother’s Group or your neighborhood parents’ board.
Bonus: you can get chalkboards that hang neatly on the sides.
Alternative: Kids Kitchen Helper Safety Tower for $149 at Amazon (Caveat: I haven’t personally used or seen this one up close.)