Kids' Health

How To Prevent Your Toddler From Falling Down The Stairs

Consider yourself a stair master.

Originally Published: 
baby walking down stairs
flickr / Dan Finnen

If you’ve ever watched a “funny” home video show, you know kids fall down all the time — mostly while their parents are laughing like idiots behind a camera. They’ll fall running around like a maniac. They’ll fall cruising along the couch. They’ll fall on the playground. And they’ll definitely fall at home. But bonking themselves in the living room is one thing — after all, kids are pretty resilient — but if it happens on the stairs that’s another story. Because it’s less “falling down,” and more “falling down … and down … and down.”

Unfortunately, falls on the stairs happen way more often than you’d probably imagine. Luckily, though, they’re super preventable (and not just by moving into a tasteful single level mid-century ranch in East Texas).

Stair Falls Are Common

The biggest and most recent study to look into the issue found that in a 9 year period between 1999 to 2008, nearly a million kids under the age of 5 suffered injuries on stairs. That worked out to about 100,000 children every year.

Of those stair falls, around 3 percent of the kids were hospitalized. Which is pretty amazing considering 75 percent suffered injuries to their head and neck. Even more dismal? Children under 12 months old account for 35 percent of all the stair related injuries in the study. The nastiest injuries and hospitalizations tended to occur when adults carrying children fell on the stairs.

You might think that this is odd considering baby gates are very much encouraged in homes with stairs. But the problem is that baby gates have a tendency to be dangerous because of improper installation or use. In fact, a study in the journal Academic Pediatrics looked at the 20 year period between 1990 and 2010 and found 37,673 injuries due to baby gates in kids under the age of 7.

Baby Gate Safety

If you have stairs in your home you should have baby gates installed at the slightest inkling of mobility in your kid. Even if you and your partner have the observation skills of snowy owls, you won’t be able to watch your kid all the time (though you will be able to swivel your head around almost 360 degrees, which is crazy freaky). The trick is making sure they are installed correctly.

  • Top Of The Stairs: Use a hardware-anchored gate that locks solidly and is flush with the top of the stair. Pressure gates at the top of the stairs are not safe and can weaken over time.
  • Bottom Of The Stairs: You can use a pressure gate here that stays in place with friction. It’s safe at the bottom of the stairs because if it’s pushed forward there’s not that far to fall.
  • The Railing: Make sure you replace fat banisters and railing with a railing that you can wrap your entire hand around for the best grip. Then, for God’s sake, keep your hand on it while you’re carrying your kid up and down the stairs. And make sure your kid is the only thing you’re holding. (Not even a beer.)

Of course, if your kid does take a nasty fall, make sure you know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. Then put them on the PUP and bring in that second string kid.

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