The Treacherous Stairs: To Block Them Off or Teach Your Toddler

6580735279_b98e1cfdee_b
Image via Flickr/ koadmunkee

We lived in a one-level apartment when my first daughter was learning to walk. When we moved to our two-story home, suddenly there was a new game to play. Stairs! Anytime it was quiet for too long, I knew where to look: the stairs. It didn't take me long to break down and buy a few baby gates. They worked for a while, but eventually, I got tired of hurdling a baby gate every time I needed to run laundry upstairs.

So what's the right answer? Do we block off the stairs and bear the annoyance for the sake of our toddlers' safety, or do we bite the bullet and teach them to carefully traverse the stairs?

The general consensus among experts is that stairs should be blocked off until the age of three. (Which seemed a little bit long to me, but I understand there are liability issues when it comes to the safety of children. I totally get that.) But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be teaching stairs earlier with supervision.

{ MORE: More Ways to Baby-Proof Your Home }

As soon as babies can crawl, they're naturally going to want to explore their surroundings. I've always found that with my children, as soon as they know something's off limits, that particular something is what seems to pique their interest. So, instead of off limits, we looked at it as OK—with Mom or Dad's help.

My baby loved to crawl up the stairs with me behind her. She learned that if she looked back to see me, she might lose her balance. And while I was there to keep her from hurting herself, letting her learn that she would fall brought a healthy respect for the danger of gravity.

As children get a little more comfortable, and a little bit older, you can teach them to go down the stairs backwards—on their belly—to keep them from falling head over heels down the steps.

Between 18-24 months, they may become a bit braver with their approach to the stairs. They're no longer crawling, so they're probably not interested in doing so on the stairs. Help them transition to walking up the stairs the way they began walking in the first place—holding on to Mom and Dad's hands. With you behind them, you are a safety net for avoiding injury. These are opportunities for you to establish guidelines for what is an appropriate use of the stairs.

{ MORE: 5 Reasons Your Wish for Baby to Be Mobile May Come Back to Bite You }

Between the ages of 2 and 3, children will begin to use the wall or railing instead of your hands, and they will become more comfortable to traverse the stairs on their own. There is still the danger of a fall, so while it's best to leave gates in place, your child may very well be able to use the stairs independently—with adult supervision.

ADVERTISEMENT

All of that said, I have a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and an 18-month-old, and in my home, our gates are in storage. It got to be a bit much for us to be constantly opening gates for the older children. But because we made the stairs a part of my 18-month-old daughter's learning process, they're not something that entices her. She knows she can go up on her own as long as I'm behind her. Most of the time, she will come and grab my hand to lead me to the stairs if she wants to go up. That doesn't mean I still don't have to watch her and know where she is, because I know once I think she won't, she will.

Stairs can be scary with little ones around, so the best rule of thumb, of course, is always better safe (and blocked off) than sorry! Do you have stairs in your home? How have you handled them?

What do you think?

The Treacherous Stairs: To Block Them Off or Teach Your Toddler

Jeanna Strassburg is a wife, and mother of three, who enjoys kitchen dance parties and summer time! Jeanna received her bachelor’s degree in Education from Brigham Young University-Idaho in April of 2007. She enjoys spending her time cooking, cleaning and tending to the proper duties of a stay at home mother… NOPE! Truthfully, she enjoys eating the food, but not making it or cleaning up after it. She likes to have a clean home, but loathes laundry and dishes. Loves her children, but coul ... More

Tell us what you think!

3 comments

  1. bmattler92 says:

    my son first experince with stairs was completely unexpected I was at a friends house with her and her cousin and their babies ( 7 months and 2months at the time) I was feeding the 2 months old so her mommy could have a break and suddenly my friend goes “tyler is half way the stairs” I managed to walk behind him and feed the 2 month old. when we got to the top i picked him up and carried them both back down stairs.

  2. mommy nhoj says:

    My husband taught my daughter the “wonder” of stairs. Just the other day, they climbed up (14steps) to our bedroom and she had enjoyed taking step with her dad. Of course, I cannot let her crawl near the stairs during daytime so I am trying to confine her on her play area which is impossible. I like the idea of guiding them to learn how to use it. A little guided exploration is exciting for our baby. But of course, I wont compromise her safety at all.

  3. LIZ says:

    im so scare of my baby falling 🙂

Advertisement
[x]
×

EverydayFamily.com Week-by-Week Newsletter

Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year! Receive weekly updates on your pregnancy or new baby’s development as well as Free Stuff, Special Offers, Product Samples, Coupons, Checklists and Tools you can use today, and more from EverydayFamily! Plus all new members are entered to win FREE diapers for a year!

Due Date or Baby's Birth Date


By clicking the "Join Now" button you are agreeing to the terms of use and privacy policy.

Send this to a friend