A 6-inch gap between slats, a sharp corner as you round the bend, plus it's attached to stairs? A child's dream -- and your nightmare -- is a banister. While banisters are necessary for safety and balance, a child can make you rue the OSHA rules that put them in place. One stuck head or bruised forehead and you've got yourself a trip to the emergency room or a call for an ambulance. Childproofing your banister is a must.
Pad the Slats
The banisters that are not against any wall will have supporting beams keeping them lodged to the stairs. The space between these beams is usually just big enough for a young child to fit her head through, but not big enough for her to get it back out. You need to eliminate the gaps. You can pad each beam with Styrofoam or rubber, then paint the offending material to match your walls. With the padding, the spaces between the beams will be too small for a young one to push her noggin through.
Solidify the Gaps
Alternately, you could get rid of the space between the beams altogether by fashioning a solid, if temporary, wall over them. Buy thin wooden material, sheet rock or even oak tag to set up perpendicular to the banister top and the floor. Measure and cut out room for the stairs, then place the sheets of material into the space as if putting together a puzzle. Use screws to secure the panels to the end beams. If you're creative, use the blank space to paint a mural with your child, or simply varnish or paint to match your surrounding rooms.
Cover the Corners
Few hurts hurt more more than a gash to the head. Table tops, chairs, and counter surfaces are usually the first to be covered under the foamy childproof material, but sometimes banister corners are left unattended. Do not make this mistake. One misplaced race down the stairs will end in tears if the proper precautions are not in place. Use any childproof patch meant for corners. They'll be bent and turned to cover all sides of the offending corner, and their inner side will be lined with a sticky, but not corrosive, substance. You should be able to stick them right on, and then take them off years later, when all parties in the household are tall enough not to bop their heads on the corner of the rail.
Once the imminent threat of injury is abated, you can go on to worry about the germ factories that are toddlers and preschoolers. Keep a stash of sanitary wipes near the stairs and wipe the banister once a day to cleanse all the muck and mess off from grubby child hands. Your children will hang onto that banister for dear life going up and down the stairs, then touch their eyes, nose and mouth with those hands immediately. If anyone has a cold in the household, consider a thorough wash of the handrail at the end of each day. This will stop you from reaching for your banister for balance and pulling your hand back in sticky, goopy disgust, too.