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How to Make Stairs Safe for Children

Mandi Rogier

Stairs are a necessary evil in two-story homes, but this part of the house can pose a serious hazard for small children. It’s all too easy to trip and fall on the stairs and very serious injuries can result from this type of accident. Refrain from letting your children climb the stairs until they’re ready. The Child Accident Prevention Trust recommends waiting until toddlers are about two years old. Your job isn’t finished when kids can climb the stairs, though. Stair safety persists throughout childhood in the form of maintaining a safe and easy place to climb.

Stairs pose a serious falling hazard for children.

Step 1

Remodel if necessary to make the staircase child-friendly. Stairs must have closed backs to keep children from falling through. Board up railings that are too far apart, as small children will slip right through – or get stuck trying. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends no more than 2 3/8” between crib slats; this is a good rule of thumb to follow for assessing stair railings for safety as well.

Step 2

Replace damaged, fraying or loose carpet with secure, tight-fitting carpet. Even a little wrinkle in old carpeting can catch on the tiny toes of children. Place a secure runner or slip-resistant pads on wooden stairs to keep soft socks from slipping.

Step 3

Install a lower rail inside the first one so children have something at their height to hold onto. Make sure you have railings on both sides of the stairs.

Step 4

Place gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. To make it easier for adults to climb the stairs, keep the top gate along the landing rather than flush with the stairs.

Step 5

Keep all toys, shoes, magazines and other clutter off the stairs at all times. Keep baskets off to the side at the top and bottom for stashing these items. Loose items left on the stairs pose a tripping hazard for both children who are unsteady on their feet and adults who may be carrying babies or toddlers.