Staircase Railings & Child Safety

By Shelley Frost
Julija Sapic/Hemera/Getty Images

Stairs rank as one of the top 10 causes of toddler and child injury, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Those injuries typically occur due to falling down the stairs. A loose or missing railing can contribute to the falling injuries. The spacing between the spindles on the railing can also present a risk to kids. Keeping stair railings safe reduces your child's risk of injury.

Railing Stability

You want your child to hold the railing when going up or down stairs, but you also need to make sure those railings are stable. If the railing is loose or wobbly, secure it by tightening the screws that attach it to the wall. An outside railing on a deck or deck stairs might need additional screws to secure. If the wood is rotten, replace the railing with new material. Your child could fall if a railing breaks loose.

Spindle Gaps

For stair railings attached to banisters, the spacing of the spindles is an issue. Kids sometimes try to squeeze through tiny spaces, which can result in getting stuck. If the gap is more than 4 inches, your child's head could become entrapped between the spindles. Check the gap between the floor and the railing as well. A much larger gap could allow your child's entire body to fit through the space, allowing her to fall to the floor below. KidsHealth suggests using a special guard designed for stairs if your child fits through the gap. You can get special clear plastic or Plexiglas shields to cover the railings in older homes or outdoors with gaps wider than 4 inches.

Open Staircases

In houses with an open floor plan, you may encounter railings and banisters that are open to stairs below. A child who leans over the railing or climbs up and over it could fall several feet to the open stairs below. Position furniture away from the open railings, especially if you have small children. A chair or couch against the banister gives your child the perfect boost to climb up to the top of the railing. Supervise your child in those areas with open staircases. Horizontal railings present a similar risk since they provide an easy way for a child to climb up. Vertical spindles are recommended instead of horizontal ones for this reason.

Child Education

Don't underestimate the power of teaching your child how to behave safely on the stairs. Even a toddler can learn how to safely navigate stairs. Your child will learn based on what you teach her and how she sees you go down stairs. KidsHealth suggests teaching a child to go down the stairs backwards. The AAP recommends teaching your child to go up and down stairs without anything in her hands. This helps her maintain her balance and keeps her hands free so she can hold the railing. Encourage her to stay close to the railing when going down the stairs. Discourage playing on the railings or sticking things through the spindles. Maintain adequate lighting in areas with stairs and railings so your child can see as she navigates the stairs.

About the Author