Staircases can be the most dangerous place in a home for small children. It’s too easy to trip and fall from the stairs, but toddlers and babies just don’t know that. As soon as they start crawling, they’re attracted to the stairs like a magnet. It’s like a mountain they have to climb, that no matter how many times you try to move them away from it, your baby just wants to crawl right back there. As a parent, it’s one of your responsibilities to maintain a safe place for your little children. Here are the steps on how to make your stairs safe and accident-free:
1. Keep your children away from the stairs until they’re ready to climb it
The primary thing to do to keep babies safe is to prevent them from getting near the stairs. It’s best to wait until they’re about two years old before teaching them how to climb up and down the stairs. And while they can’t go up and down on their own just yet, never leave them unattended around stairs.
2. Remodel your stairs if needed
First of all, your stairs must have railings and banisters. If your stairs don’t have these because of your interior decoration choices before, you have to install railings now that you have babies around. Stairs should have closed backs to keep children from falling through. Railings shouldn’t be too far apart because toddlers can slip right through or get stuck trying. You can also install a lower rail next to your original one if your children are too short to reach the railings. Make sure you attach it to both sides of the stairs.
3. Carpet your stairs
If you have ever considered carpeting the house, now is the time to finally do it. Wood, particularly, can be slippery for babies and toddlers, and carpet can cushion any falls. Carpets will still be useful as your child gets older, as young kids love to run around, and up and down the stairs. If your house and stairs area already carpeted, make sure it is tight-fitting. Replace loose, damaged or fraying ones to avoid accidents. Even a small wrinkle in old carpets can catch on your children’s tiny toes. If you’re not a fan of carpets, install slip-resistant pads or a secure runner on your wooden stairs.
4. Baby-proof your stairs
Since it’s impossible to keep an eye on your crawling baby 24/7, you can install a baby gate at the top and bottom of your stairs to avoid stair-related injuries. Like we said earlier, babies are attracted to stairs and they would want to climb it as much as possible. As soon as he/she learns to crawl, you must block off your stairs at both ends with a baby gate.
But before you go out and purchase one, you need to consider the following things:
- Are your stairs always used throughout every day? If yes, then choose a gate that can be opened and closed as quickly as possible.
- Do your older children need to access the stairs? If yes, then get them to coordinate with your baby proofing plan – teach them to be mindful in closing back the baby gate every time they use the stairs.
- Do you need to carry things or your child up and down the stairs? If yes, then you need a baby gate that can be easily opened using one hand.
- Are the stairs the only section that needs to be blocked off? If you think the adjacent area near the stairs should also be off-limits to the baby, then you would need to find a baby gate that is longer than usual.
- Do you want your baby gate to match your interiors? This is the least important question since your child’s safety must be put first before the look of your home. You can at least choose a baby gate that matches any of the colors within your stairs area or even just anything that’s within sight.
After you have thought of your lifestyle and household considerations, here are some tips you must keep in mind when choosing a baby gate.
Top of the stairs: A gate at the top of your stairs is very important since a child has a lot further to fall from the top. Use hardware-anchored gates that can be screwed to the wall or banister. Make your baby gate as tall as possible also to prevent your child from climbing over the gate. Retractable baby gates are not suitable for the top of the stairs because they can come loose over time since it will be pushed on, leaned against or accidentally bumped. The baby gate you choose should be tightly installed so it won’t collapse when your child attempts to climb the gate or put on too much weight on the side when he/she is playing.
Bottom of the stairs: If your staircase is simple and has no wide open area at the base, choose a baby gate that can fit perfectly inside the entrance to your stairwell. Pressure-mounted baby gates are very easy to install, and it simply needs two flat surfaces – the wall and stair banister – to press against. But you need to remember that pressure gates must only be used at the bottom of the stairs, not the top. Meanwhile, if your staircase is unusual or has a wide stair area at the base, then you should use a hardware-mounted baby gate that has options for extension pieces. There are suitable for wider-than-normal stairs.
5. Baby proof the railings
When baby proofing the stairs, a lot of people forget the banister and the railings at the top floor. For children, it’s tempting to squeeze toys through it; they enjoy dropping a toy from the top of the stairs and imagining it can fly. Now, people below would need to watch out for falling toys from upstairs. And some children, because of a reason we can’t understand, also loves to try fitting themselves in the railing, which leads to some hands or feet left stuck on banisters or railings. To solve this problem, try installing a banister guard. It is a sheet or netting or plastic that covers up the gaps of the length of the banister. The plastic variety would be more effective since the net can eventually tear or shed if your child tries to play with it. Plus, plastic banister guards come with zip ties that secure it to the banister.
6. Declutter your stairs
Keep all shoes, toys, magazines or any other stuff off the stairs at all times to avoid accidents. But even if you have tidied up, toys can end up anywhere especially if your children love to throw something on the steps. Once you see an object on the stairs, be quick to pick it up, because accidentally stepping on it can send you or your children sprawling down the staircase.