When I was pregnant, everything in our house suddenly became a death trap for me. All of our old antique dressers, wires, cheap bookshelves, vents on the floor — you name it. The one thing I was thankful for in our bungalow-style house was the lack of stairs — except the rickety scary 1920s stairs that lead to our basement/laundry room. Luckily there’s a locked door hiding that, so I wouldn’t have to worry about my son becoming curious and wanting to go up and down the steps. But why do babies love stairs? Is it the thrill of the danger, or just something new?
Apparently it’s a developmental thing. “Babies enjoy climbing stairs because it allows them to use the muscles to which they have just been ‘introduced,’” S. Daniel Ganjian a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper. “Babies are learning how their bodies work and like to flex/extend their muscles once they get control of them. Once a child's neuromuscular development and hand/eye coordination reach a certain point, they can then try to stand and eventually climb stairs.” How fun (and scary) for us.
What can you do to foster this newfound independence and muscle movements? Ganjian suggests encouraging them to go on the stairs — when you’re present of course. “Stand right under your child and allow him or her to spend some time figuring out how to climb on their own. Make sure there are no others objects on the steps, and make sure the edge of the steps are not sharp in case your child hits their head on the step. Once your child is done playing with the steps, then put the stair gate back up so he or she does not go on the steps by themselves."
As far as how you’ll know for sure your child is ready to master the steps alone, Ganjian says it typically happens when they’re around 2 years old, and then they can walk up steps while holding onto a railing. He suggests a little “test” to see if your child is up to the task. “To see if your child is ready, have them walk completely up and down the steps four times. If they can do it easily without slipping or wobbling, then your child can go up and down by themselves, as long as there are no dangers around (sharp edges or toys on the step, which can cause the child to slip). Furthermore, make sure your child has a good grip on the railing so in case they slip they can prevent falling.”
Babies love to learn and find new things out in the ever-growing world around them. Seeing steps and learning how to maneuver them is no exception. They get to use their newly found muscles they’ve never used before and that’s a blast for a tiny human. Just be sure to always monitor them until they’re able to walk up the steps and hold onto the railing at least four times — typically when they’re at least 2 years old. Otherwise, that’s why the good people of safety companies invented baby gates. (And so you could practice your MacGyver skills getting in and out of them.)