Question: How do I keep my baby safe with the stairs in our house?
My baby is starting to really crawl. Our house has stairs and I want to be sure he is safe – we use baby gates. When (and how) should I try to teach him to go up / down steps?
Answer from Heather
As soon as a baby can crawl is the best time to teach the stairs. My sister took her kids to a daycare that was awesome in Minnesota. The first thing the provider did was train the kids how to use the stairs. They became pros in a matter of days!
You give the tools to learn – but still provide plenty of supervision.
You are teaching prevention – not to make the baby more mobile – but to be sure an accident doesn’t happen.
Teach the child to scoot down backwards first. Place a toy at the bottom so the child has a goal. Make sure the child is not going after it head first, of course, and cheer the little guy or gal on with lots of praise. Do it a of couple times a day. If the child gets stressed out or irritated, then stop. We want this to be an enjoyable experience and not scary.
When the child gets proficient in walking, then start over with the training but this time teach the child to walk forwards using the rail to hold on to.
Answer from Charity
When teaching a baby to navigate the stairs it’s important to keep in mind is that every child is different and will have a different level of coordination.
My oldest child was extremely cautious and did well on the stairs, but my son didn’t understand the laws of gravity and fell off of things regularly.
Let your baby climb the steps with supervision. That way if your baby has trouble, you will be there to keep him from getting hurt.
Teach him to go down the stairs on his belly, feet first. After he learns to walk, he can go down holding your hand. Most children can use the stairs independently by about age two.
Answer from Jocelyn
The sooner the better has always been my thought on that. As soon as my children showed an interest in going up and down the stairs, we started teaching them. It’s best to let them know how to do it before they try on their own and get injured.
Start by having the baby crawl up the stairs with you right below them the entire time. That way in case they fall or need help, you are there to help. You may be surprised as to how easily and quickly a crawling baby can make it up the stairs. This, like anything else though, needs lots of practice in order to be done safely alone.
As far as going down the stairs, this one is a bit more difficult. As with going up, make sure you are directly behind your child the entire time. Baby should be going down the stairs backward, so in the same position as crawling up, but will be moving down.
Gently pull one of your child’s legs down onto the step below the one they are already on, while holding securely onto them. Then help baby move the other leg down and then both hands. Repeat this motion several times, taking care to not leave from directly below your child.
As with everything, all children are different and will go at their own pace. You should attempt this at least a couple times per day until baby has it mastered. Though, even after baby does have it mastered, it is best to never allow them on the stairs on their own, at least until they are 2-3 years old and fully stable.
As your child learns to walk, they will quickly learn to master walking the stairs as well.