My family has always made fun of me for the way I ascend and descend staircases. I don't know what's wrong with the way I climbs stairs, but plenty of people will point out that I look "funny" when I do it. I guess it's no wonder, then, that my daughter seems to have difficulty walking up and down stairs. At 3, she shows no signs of being unable to use stairs, only of looking a little odd when she does it.
Climbing stairs, however gracefully or clumsily, is actually an important milestone for toddlers. It signals that they are developing the gross-motor skills and neurological stability necessary for long-term mobility and well-being. Here are some points to consider about stair-climbing as a developmental milestone for toddlers.
1. Toddlers begin stair-climbing fairly early in their development. Toddlers start climbing stairs well before they can do it safely. A child from 18 months to 24 months may sneak away from his parents and try to climb up or down a flight of stairs, but toddlers this age can't usually navigate stairs with any grace or dexterity.
2. Until at least two and a half, toddlers need help with stairs.Toddlers under 30 months need help with stairs, even if they seem to be able to climb them well. For toddlers (and even some preschool-age children), stairs simply pose too significant of a danger for parents to allow unsupervised exploration. Until your child has positively mastered stair-climbing, he needs your help and supervision on all staircases.
3. Toddlers can climb stairs correctly at an average age of 2.5 years. At an average age of 30 months, most toddlers gain the ability to ascend stairs one foot at a time. At this point, a toddler's stair-climbing may look ungraceful due to his relatively undeveloped motor skills and his small stature.
4. Any age between 28 and 36 months is a normal time to climb stairs correctly. Some toddlers can walk up stairs, using alternating feet, as early as 28 months. Others may not climb stairs correctly until age 3. Although some precocious, dextrous kids may be able to climb stairs before 28 months, and some healthy kids may not be able to do so until after age 3, the 28-36 month span is considered normal.
5. Get in touch with a pediatrician if you're concerned.Stair-climbing difficulty alone is rarely the only sign of a developmental problem for toddlers. However, if your toddler still can't walk up stairs with alternating feet by his third birthday, mention it to his pediatrician. Your child's doctor can determine if your child has an underlying disorder affecting his motor skills or coordination. If there is an undiagnosed problem, early diagnosis and treatment can mitigate its long-term effects.
Click here for a comprehensive list of milestones for toddlers and babies.
Related Work by Juniper Russo