Climbing stairs: Taking the next step

May 11, 2000

We had just finished frosting the bottom layer of my mom's birthday cake when I noticed how quiet the house had suddenly become.

I glanced into the next room where my 10-month-old daughter had been playing with some blocks. The blocks were there, but she was gone.

cont. from lifestyle

"Where's Chloe?" I asked her older brother, Tristan.

"I don't know," he said, looking at me like I had a few screws loose. He had been standing right beside me, helping with our lopsided chocolate masterpiece.

I went from room to room, calling for Chloe, my voice getting a bit higher with every step.

I started pulling out furniture. Then I heard a tiny squeak coming from the ceiling. The ceiling?

I rounded the corner into our foyer and saw a bewildered but oh-so-proud little face at the top of the stairs.


But how did she get there? She had yet to take her first step.

Then I remembered that I left the room to transfer a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer.

"Tristan, did you carry your sister upstairs?"

"No, I didn't, Mommy."

He giggled just enough to plant a seed of doubt in my mind.

Just to see if I had caught him red-handed, I took Chloe to the bottom of the stairs.

With me behind her, she proceeded to scale each one: hand, knee, hand, knee. But was she ever wobbly. How she made it to the top by herself without falling, I'll never know. Her guardian angel had a major workout that day.

After I apologized to my little boy, I got out the stair gates and started thinking about teaching Chloe what to do if she ever decided to pull that trick again.

I asked my daughter's pediatrician, Dr. Paul Shuster, for some advice, and he gave these suggestions:

* Never leave a child unattended near a stairway.

* Always use gates, both at the top and the bottom.

* Teach a toddler to come down a stairway backward.

* Show her how to do this by coming down on your hands and knees.

* If you have more than one child, have an older one show the younger one how to come down stairs while you supervise. Toddlers love to imitate older siblings.

We're using the imitation suggestion with much success. Chloe's learning how to come down the stairs, and Tristan feels important because he gets to teach her.

If only potty training would be this easy. But that's another column.

Tell us what you're trying to teach your child. We'll ask an expert for advice. Call Lifestyle Editor Lisa Tedrick Prejean at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, write her at P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741, send a fax to 301-714-0245 or e-mail her at

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