Poor parents. When you think about it, it's amazing that more parents don't have a nervous eye twitch and a completely white head of hair by the time children start school! They have to pay attention to so many things: crib safety, choking hazards, sharp corners on tables -- the list goes on and on. If all that isn't enough to give you stress wrinkles, you need to pay serious attention to the risks associated with staircases in the home; both the stairs themselves and the railings can pose dangers for kids.
What Are the Safety Issues?
If staircase railings aren't properly childproofed, they can pose a few different dangers. Handrail posts that are spaced too far apart can allow a child's head to get stuck and allow young children to squeeze toys through the slats onto the stairway, which can cause slips or falls for both children and adults. Staircase railings can also be climbed over, which can lead to injury in young kids if they fall on stairs -- or decide to slide down them on a throw rug or tricycle. Bouncing down the stairs might sound like super fun to a toddler -- but probably less so to worried parents! Even if kids don't fall and are able to climb over staircase railings without injury, doing so can be dangerous because it allows them access to stairs and parts of the home that you may not want them in.
The first line of defense to ensure your child's safety is to purchase and install safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases, advises Safe Kids. It's also a good idea to get wall anchors and secure furniture to walls, this will keep strong and determined youngsters from pushing chairs or couches over to the railing to climb on. Banister guards are also very important. They keep kids from being able to get a grip on the posts to climb over the banister, as well as providing some protection from energetic toddlers who want to push their favorite stuffed animal through the slats of the banister.
Supervise children when they are near staircases. Don't put furniture up against railings where it will make climbing easy. Push furniture and stacks of toys or books away from staircases. Don't hang jackets or purses on the knobs at the top or bottom of a staircase railing as this may prove to be too much of a temptation to children to get close to railings and inspect your purse for exciting things like gum or lip gloss.
Talking to Kids
For children who are older toddlers or preschoolers, sit down and have a discussion about staircase railing safety. Explain what the rules are related to the stairs and why it's important not to climb or dangle over railings. If children are old enough to understand but still don't listen, enforce time-outs or other age appropriate discipline such as not allowing the child to watch a favorite television program.