New parents may find stairs a little intimidating. As babies start to crawl and become more adventurous, they are often enticed by the new challenges of the staircase. Stairs and children may seem like a bad combination, but with a few safety precautions, the two can happily co-exist.
At the age of crawling and the early stages of walking, all access to stairs should be prevented. Safety gates are a great, immediate, and inexpensive option that will do just that. Look for gates that require two simultaneous actions at once to open. Make sure that the gate is mounted securely and that the height is adequate to discourage attempts of climbing over top.
For children who are old enough to walk, but still young enough for concern, another option is to remodel an existing staircase. First, teach the child or children how to properly and safely use stairs. The dangers of improper use should be expressed.
Consider adding handrails (both sides) that are installed at a height and width compatible for the height and hand size of a child. This will allow children to safely grasp a handrail as they ascend and descend the staircase.
Closing in open risers will eliminate the danger of a small child falling through and will reduce the chance of catching a foot on an ascending tread.
Add a carpet runner to stairs to add traction and prevent slipping.
It is important to remember that all of these modifications cannot replace the safety of common sense. Always accompany young children around any stair system, especially those under the age of two. Keep baby strollers a safe distance from any stair landing. Older toddlers can be taught to safely climb stairs, but should only access stairs under supervision. Keep stairways clutter-free. Items on the stairway are distracting and can also cause a child to trip. Large items should not be kept near the top of the stairs or on any landings. Any safety-concerning damage, like a broken tread, should be addressed and taken care of immediately.
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