How to teach your child to master stairs

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One more skill down, one more to keep mom busy!

For the past few weeks Sienna has pretty much mastered climbing stairs (of course it's always with our eyes closely on her and one of us is always behind her in case she loses balance). Although it's a bit scary for me to watch, Sienna loves practicing one more skill that gives her independence from mommy and even more activity.

At her Gymboree class there is a set of soft stairs the babies and toddlers use in their classes. While Sienna was practicing, climbing up the stairs one of the instructors asked if I had taught her how to climb DOWN the stairs. To be honest, the fact that she was going up was frightening enough... but the instructor was right, in that it was an important skill for her to learn for her own safety. It's also great because it gives Sienna a lot of exercise, which leads to better naps and a more restful night sleep!

The first tip the instructor gave me was something that is applicable with every new skill: repetition. The only way Sienna will learn to do it correctly and safely is by practicing over and over.

Second - make sure she has a verbal association with the action. In other words, every time she practices going down the stairs make sure you repeat a phrase you pick. For example, every time you get her to practice say "feet first" or "belly down". That way she'll associate the command with the action.

I did find a helpful website: Teaching Toddlers to Use the Stairs.

The experts contributing to this article stress that although this a skill a baby should learn, the stairs are NOT a play area. Even if it appears your baby has mastered going up and down the stairs, it is important they are blocked off with a baby gate anytime you are not actively engaging in the activity with your child.

The article goes on to offer some helpful tips for parents if there ever is an accidental fall. This would include refraining from screaming or crying immediately after the fall.

Remember, the baby reacts to your reaction.

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