You'll know early on if you have a climber on your hands. If so, look out! Your little one might start climbing up on furniture and attempting stairs before he can even walk. The skill of climbing happens incrementally and usually starts with babies crawling over objects. Once he can crawl, as young as 6 months old, he may try to crawl up stairs so ensure you have all the necessary safety equipment in place.
Instead of trying to discourage your baby from exploring the stairs, stay close by at all times and help teach him the proper technique to navigate them safely. Your baby should always go down stairs feet first on his belly. It’s more like a ‘slide’ then a crawl down them. Don’t be alarmed if it takes a few tumbles before he figures out the reasoning behind this technique, just make sure you’re always right there and only let him go up and down a few stairs while practicing. It won’t take long before your baby catches on but that doesn’t mean he’s an expert just yet. He’ll still need plenty of practice and lots of supervision.
Having carpeted stairs is ideal for babies while they’re learning. It’s also safest for parents, as I found out while pregnant and took a small tumble down our hardwood stairs! We swiftly installed a runner after that. If you don’t have carpeted steps, try to take advantage of them for practice time when you’re visiting family or friends.
The Parents Canada website outlines the following average development for babies and toddlers:
- By 13 months: can climb stairs on all fours
- By 15 months: can climb stairs on hands and knees
- By 15 to 18 months: is expert at climbing on low-height furniture
- By 18 months: can walk upstairs with some assistance
- By 21 months: can walk downstairs if hand is held
- By 24 months: can go up and down, holding on to the railing or wall
- By 30 to 36 months: can negotiate stairs by alternating feet
Best Baby Gates for Staircases
Hardware-mounted baby gates are the safest option for use at the top and bottom of staircases. When installed properly there is much less risk of them toppling over or your baby getting through them in comparison to pressure mounted ones. There is a bracket that’s installed into either a door frame or the frame behind the walls (avoid screwing the bracket into drywall only). There are also secure options to attach the gate to staircase banisters without drilling into the wood.
We used Retract-a-Gate products in our home and loved these gates.
A few other suggestions include:
Additional Safety Tips for Climbers
- Store all step stools away from counters and where baby can access them.
- Keep dining room chairs tucked under the table. I know of parents who even had to bungee cord them together to keep their daughter from pulling them out and climbing.
- Ensure any tall or precarious furniture is secured to the wall, like bookcases and dressers.
- And finally, never leave your baby unattended around anything dangerous and teach him boundaries. If you always say "no" while moving him away from things he shouldn't be climbing on, eventually this concept will sink in.