The moment your little one transitions from baby to toddler, you will begin to find yourself on high alert all hours of the day. Everything will become a hazard in your eyes and you will start to frantically chase your child around the house while trying to baby proof everything. One of the biggest areas of concern in your house is your staircase.
Sadly, a child is injured by a stair-related incident about every 6 minutes in the United States, according to a survey done in 2012. Most of these injuries occurred as a result of a fall. While the majority of injuries were merely bruises or other soft tissue injuries, but some also suffered injuries to their head and neck area, with roughly 3% of these being hospitalized as a result (1).
Even if you do not have a full staircase in your home, you still need to guard the areas where your child may fall. Any place where the floor is uneven (even if it is only one or three steps) can be a major fall for your child. After all, if missing one step can cause an adult to sprain an ankle, imagine the damage that can be done to a child who may fall head first.
With these odds working against you, it is not difficult to see that something needs to be done to protect your child from the dangers of your staircase. Since you can’t just rip them out, try these other solutions to make your stairs safer for your little one.
Table of Contents
- 1 Changes around the House
- 2 Teach Your Child
- 3 Keep the Area Clear
- 4 Update and Repair
- 5 Products to Try
- 6 Baby Gate
- 7 Bannister Shields
- 8 Child-Accessible Handrail
- 9 Final Word
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Changes around the House
Before you go running out to buy every product on the market, just take a second to breathe. There are some things you can do first to make things a little bit safer. Take a look around your house. You can make some slight changes to remove additional hazards around your staircase. Get your family (and even your little one) involved to raise everyone’s awareness and help them be alert and prepared in the case of an unfortunate incident.
Teach Your Child
As soon as you see your toddler attempting to climb your stairs, begin teaching them to go down the correct way. They can learn at a very young age to climb down backwards, making it safer for your adventurous munchkin to use the stairs on their own.
Of course, they should never attempt to climb up or down without adult supervision, but they can feel empowered by being allowed to try it themselves with you by their side.
As they continue to grow, they can start to go down the stairs facing front. This should only be allowed once their legs are long enough to reach the next descending step. At this point, it is imperative you teach them the importance of the handrail. Show them how to hold on firmly as they proceed up and down the stairs.
Keep the Area Clear
Now that your child is attempting to use the stairs herself, you want to make sure all of the factors are in place to help her accomplish this great feat. Ensure there is nothing nearby that could hinder her success or cause potential injury.
This is a great opportunity to work with your spouse and any older children. Help them to break any old habits they may have that result in them leaving things on or near the stairs. Partner with them to create a safe environment.
Do not leave objects near or on the staircase. Objects like small toys and balls can result in your child tripping. Chairs and other large, stable objects (like boxes) are ripe for climbing, which could lead to them tipping and your child falling. These hazards can also lead to additional injuries by the objects themselves (like cuts from broken glass or bruises from heavy objects).
Update and Repair
Old, torn, and worn-out carpet can be just as much of a hazard as the stairs themselves. Your little one’s footing is likely not completely secure yet. Any holes or snags in the carpet around your staircase can catch your child’s foot, causing them to trip and risk falling down the stairs. Make sure all of your carpet is in good condition and tight near your stairs to help avoid this potential accident.
You should also check the condition of your handrails. The last thing you want is for it to come loose while your child is holding on, trying to go down the stairs. If you do not have a handrail, now would also be a good time to install one.
Products to Try
Even though you have taken care of existing conditions around your house, you will need some additional protection for your little wandering one. There are some great products on the market that are easy to install and intended to keep your child safe when it comes to your staircase.
The first product (and perhaps the most obvious) would be to install baby gates. These are important to have at both the top and bottom of your staircase so that you eliminate the chance of an accident when you are not looking. There are many decent choices available, varying in cost (depending on what you are looking for).
There are many factors you need to consider when selecting a baby gate, as they are not all created equal and what works for one family may not work for yours.
We will look at the best options for different uses around the house.
Best Baby Gate for Top of the Stairs
When installing your baby gate at the top of the stairs you need to be aware of the impact that wear and tear over time could have on the security of the fence. If your little one is anything like mine they will shake, swing, and hang off the gate when they want to get past it.
If the gate was to come loose the consequences will be far more severe than if the same happened at ground level.
By selecting a baby gate that is difficult to grip you can prevent some of this hard core punishment that your gate might be put through. For this reason we like the Ergo Pressure Mount Gate.
The crossing pattern makes it more difficult for a baby to swing around on when compared to the standard bar style fence.
It is easy to install and offers five different mounting options. So you can be confident that it will be suitable for most doorways or staircases with a range of surfaces – railing to railing, wall to wall, or railing to wall.
The gate you choose for the bottom of your stairs will depend on what the area looks like. If you have a wide area to block off or an entire landing (a slightly raised area at the bottom of your stairs), you can choose a baby gate that can cover a broad perimeter. The Costzon baby fence includes multiple panels that be shaped to fit the step, and cover a larger section of your room.
If you have a smaller area, you can choose a gate similar to the one you chose for the top, with a door that opens, making it easier and safer for you to use the stairs.
Not only are stairs dangerous; your railings and bannisters can pose a threat as well. The gaps between the posts can be choking hazards if your child gets her head stuck between them. Depending on how wide the gap is, she could also slip through and fall. Thankfully, there are some good options for making your bannister safe as well.
Bannister shields are a great choice for keeping those posts out of reach of your little one. There are a few options available, both work in the same way. Using heavy duty zip ties, they attach to the rail or post creating a barrier between your child and the gaps between posts.
Best Netted Bannister Shield
The material of the Roving Cove Safety Net will stand up to any attempts from your little one to break through. The cable tie installation takes just a few minutes, and the color will should also blend in well with the design of your house.>> Check out the Roving Cove Safety Net Here – Plus Features and Reviews at Amazon
Best Plastic Bannister Shield
The Cardinal Gates Bannister Shield is just an alternative material for your house. The performance and function is the same, but in our view it is inferior for just one reason – over time the plastic will accumulate hand prints and smudges. So it is just one extra thing to clean.
If you prefer plastic to netting though then this will do the job.>> Check out the Cardinal Gates Bannister Shield Here – Plus Features and Reviews at Amazon
We have already discussed the importance of ensuring the security of your existing handrail. Another great option is to consider installing a handrail specifically for your child. It should be one that is lower and narrow enough to be gripped by little hands. This will help keep your child steady and teach her good habits when using the stairs.
Of course, you should not solely rely on household updates and products like these to keep your child safe. As she continues to grow, she will become more adventurous and resourceful. This includes climbing. That gate will look awfully tantalizing to a small child who likes to climb. She may even slide a chair or box over to climb on top of to try and get over a gate or bannister rail. Always keep an eye on your child, especially when there are stairs involved.
If you want more information – Check out our complete guide to child proofing here.