Once a baby goes mobile, the stairs are a frequent attraction. Although your toddler innocently sees a fascinating challenge, you see a serious accident waiting to happen. Teaching a toddler how to negotiate stairs safely will help avoid some accidents. Of course, no amount of instruction should take the place of careful supervision.
Follow That Toy
Give your toddler a little encouragement to develop stair climbing skills by using a favorite toy, suggests Kim Elise Barker, author of “Talented Toddlers.” Under your close supervision, and standing below your toddler on the steps so you guard him from any mishaps, hold a favorite toy on a step just out of your little one’s reach. Maneuver the toy in an enticing way to encourage your toddler to climb the stairs after the toy. Continue the climbing practice up each step, holding the toy where your child can see it. If your child feels tired or frustrated, discontinue the climbing activity until he feels ready to try again.
When it’s time to descend the stairs, a little one sitting on each step and bumping down on her bum might be the perfect method, according to Gina Ford, author of “The Contented Toddler Years.” With your child sitting on the step, stand on a lower step, facing your child, so your upper body is roughly the same height as your child’s body. Help your little one move forward slowly off the step, just enough so that she “bumps” down onto the next step. You might give this action a little entertaining flair by saying “Bump!” with each bump down the stairs to make it enjoyable for your toddler. When you get to the bottom, give her a big hug.
Crawling down on his tummy with feet first can be another ideal way to travel down the stairs safely, advises Angela McKenzie, author of “The Safe Baby Book.” Stand below your toddler on the stairs to prevent any accidents. Encourage her to move her legs down to the step below and then follow with her body and hands. It’s important that your little one not get carried away as she goes down -- the crawling shouldn’t turn into sliding down in an uncontrolled fashion. Give lots of encouragement as she slowly makes her way down the stairs.
While your child learns stair skills, stay vigilant to keep him safe. Carpeted stairs are safest for a toddler, but if hardwood steps are unavoidable, dress your toddler in clothes that will provide friction as he learns. If you can avoid steep stairways while learning, do so. An enclosed stairway with walls on either side will provide more security for a child learning stairs, according to occupational therapist Nancy Silverman-Konigsberg.