Stair gates – when to use?

Stairs. They are an important centrepiece of the home and a large point of curiosity for babies. They have likely witnessed many people in the home going up and down them at various speeds and as soon as babies start to crawl, they often cannot resist the challenge of making their way up the stairs. Parents respond to this new development in several different ways. The main one being the use of stair gates.

Some parents immediately rush off and buy two sets of stair gates, one for the top of the steps and one for the bottom, simply labelling the stairs a total no go zone. Other parents will perhaps buy a stair gate, but will endeavour to start teaching the baby how to safely navigate the staircase. Most babies learn to crawl up the stairs, but the issue can come with being able to get down again.

One way of teaching children to safely get down the stairs is to teach them to sit on the step and slide down one step at a time. Another way is to teach the baby to slide down on their belly, feet first. Babies are incredibly spatially aware, and often, if they are given the opportunity to explore in these ways, they will quickly learn how to do it safely.

Parents still understandably have a number of concerns when it comes to stairs. Some stairs are not carpeted, and have quite a hard surface. Other staircases have hard floor landings made of stone or tile. If a child slips on the stairs and crashes down onto such a landing it can be quite painful, if not dangerous.

Often it is impossible for a busy mother to constantly monitor her child’s activity and it can be reassuring to know that a stair gate is there if the child has still not completely mastered handling the staircase. Yet other parents resist putting stair gates up, fearing that their children will miss an important learning opportunity that is good for their brains as well as their confidence and independence.

With all things in parenting, it’s good to get the balance right. When you cannot see the stairs then it may be a good idea to put a stair gate on at certain times. Equally, spend time teaching your child how to use the stairs safely when you are less busy. For homes with soft padded carpeting, parents may feel the need to rarely use a stair gate at all. This is entirely up to the parent and to have a stair gate or to not have a stair gate should not be seen as a measure of how responsible a parent is.

Stair gates can be a useful tool, but they are by no means a guarantee that your child will never get hurt. If you teach your child how to use stairs, it can be useful if you are visiting a home without a stair gate.

When you decide to use a stair gate, you can either use one that screws into the wall, or use a pressure fit one. The ones that screw into the wall are more secure. However, they affect the wall itself, whereas tension gates can be removed with no lasting marks.

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