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Got Stairs? How to Deal With Your Toddler and Stairs

Babies are amazing creatures. They turn your life upside down right from the moment you get home from the hospital. You just start getting some semblance of a routine (ha!) and then you find out ...

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Babies are amazing creatures. They turn your life upside down right from the moment you get home from the hospital. You just start getting some semblance of a routine (ha!) and then you find out that the baby is mobile.

I once walked down the hallway, got a towel from the linen closet, returned to the living room and found my 4 month old had rolled his way across the living room to the glider chair. When I looked at him I noticed that he had his little hand on the glider ottoman and very much like an engineer was rocking it back and forth to see how it worked. After that day, nothing was safe. Luc realized that he could get wherever he wanted as long as he could roll there.

Types of Gates

We live on a second floor apartment and we have an additional flight of stairs to the loft. Each flight of stairs has 18 steps. After Luc got mobile I realized I needed to get some gates in here. Okay, it was more like I was panicked and SPED to the baby supply store to buy every gate I could find. I needed 3 gates; one to protect Luc from the kitchen and one for each set of stairs. Gates come in a variety of styles and models but basically there are two main differences--pressure and installed.

  • Pressure:

    these gates are not permanently fixed to the walls. They are held in place by pressure points that you adjust to fit the gap. You'll need to measure the width of the opening and make sure that the gate you get will fit that gap.

  • Mounted:

    these are not as attractive and there are few available. Installation requires a screwdriver, ruler, and ability to find the stud in the wall. (Make sure you install the bottom anchor first to accommodate for the baseboard.

  • Which Gates Do You Use Where?

    If you need to block a stairway that is going down do not use any other gate but the mounted gate. Pressure gates are nice but should be used with caution. When these little guys get bigger they stand up and try to climb the gates. They pull and push and drive their little cars and mobile toys into the gates. The gates WILL COME DOWN. For true protection, use a mounted gate. These gates are so difficult to open that you will have to let your adult friends in and out no matter how many times you explain how to open it. In addition, I still use the mounted gate at the top of the stairs because it prevents my 4-year-old access to the front door that he is able to unlock and open. If I need to shower, I don't want to worry about him answering the door or going outside without me.

    The pressure style gate is great for temporary blocking and is also mobile. You can take it with you when you visit family or vacation.

    Stairs in Your Home?

    If you have stairs in your home consider yourself lucky. My son was very interested in stairs, mastered them, and soon it was no longer a novelty. Kids that are not exposed to stairs don't learn them as quickly and this is one of those things that you want your kid to master early.

    The stairs that go up to my office are carpeted with a carpeted landing. I started out with the pressure gate on the second step. It gave my son the pleasure of going up and down one stair, learning how to go up and down the stair, and if he did fall it was about 8 inches and given the diaper and carpeting, he was pretty safe. As he got older I moved the gate to the 3rd step and soon I removed the gate because it just wasn't interesting to him anymore.

    When it was time to teach Luc how to walk down the stairs I didn't chose the sit on the bum method. I noticed that he tended to lean forward too much and toddlers are top heavy, so I taught him to walk down the stairs holding the rail in one hand and my hand in his other. It was selfish of me to steal from him the fun of bumping all the way down the stairs, I know, but I really do love holding that soft little hand in mine.

    © Copyright 2002 Claudine M. Jalajas