Teaching Stairs Safety
Stairs present one of the classic scary scenarios for parents -- a headlong tumble down them is too easy to imagine -- so treat them with a healthy dose of respect. When your baby is crawling, it's easier to keep him away from stairs than when he's an ambling toddler. Once he's walking, install and use child gates at the top and bottom of stairs and keep them latched. Dr. William Sears advises that parents of early walkers, in particular, need safety gates.
However, you want to give your toddler time to practice going up and down stairs with your careful supervision, reminds Penelope Leach, the renowned British child development expert. Around 15 months, start encouraging your child to go down stairs backwards on his hands and knees while standing below him to break his fall. At about 18 months, or when your child is more stable on his feet, you can start holding his hand while he walks up stairs.
Descending stairs upright and facing forward takes more advanced skills which many children don't master until their third birthday. All these skills translate into the playground -- climbing up to slide down a slide, for instance -- so it's fun to watch them develop. Just remember to stay close while your child is navigating stairs until he's at least 3 years old.