Toddler-Proofing the Spaces Between the Banister

Your toddler is getting around better now that he's walking, and might be fascinated with his ability to go up and down the stairs. While you don't want to crush his newfound skills, safety is always a critical issue with stairs 1. A banister shield is an important safety tool, but don't let it replace your quick reflexes and the eyes in the back of your head 1. Rather than stocking up on butter to remove your child's head, toddler-proof the spaces between the rails.

Safety Guidelines

The safe distance between banister rails differs among experts, but anything wider than 2-1/4 inches increases the risk of injury to your toddler. That might seem narrow, but toddlers are notorious for wedging themselves into impossibly small spaces. Some banister rails are as far as four inches apart, which makes it more likely that a curious toddler will try to stick her head between them at some point. These guidelines are a good rule of thumb both for indoor and outdoor stairways, though the type of banister shield you choose to thwart her attempts differs on interior and exterior steps.

Indoor Stairs

A banister shield is a safety precaution parents can use for added peace of mind, especially if you have a toddler who is particularly adventurous 1. Most baby supply stores sell banister shields 1. If you don't want it to be obvious, choose a clear version, which blends with your stair rail better, provided your toddler hasn't decorated it with hand and lip prints. Most banister shields come with the hardware necessary to install them, which usually includes sturdy zip ties. You might need a hole punch, if your toddler hasn't hidden yours, to create spaces for the ties, though some kits include one.

Outdoor Stairs

Most banister shields are designed for indoor stairways 1. If you have an outdoor deck with steps that worry you, buy a netting-type shield that can be trimmed to the right shape and size for keeping a slippery toddler from sliding through the opening between banister rails. Most outdoor banister shields are sold with the hardware needed for installation, which is similar to indoor banister shields. Align the material where needed and secure it with zip ties.


If you are purchasing a new home, measure the banister rails and install guards before moving in 1. If you toddler gets lost in the chaos of unpacking, you may not realize he's gotten stuck on the stairs. While people laugh about children getting their head stuck between the rails, it poses a risk of suffocation and neck injuries, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Inspect your banister shields regularly to ensure they haven't cracked and that the zip ties haven't loosened. Replace a damaged banister shield right away 1. For added stairway safety, add gates to the top and bottom of the steps and keep the stairs well lit to prevent your toddler from taking a tumble.