Kids start learning stair skills as early as 12 months (some even earlier!), and are constantly progressing their skills to be adult-like until 3-4 years old. That's a long time to be working on one skill! There may be several hiccups along the way, so I'm here to talk to you about the most common ones that I see as your littles are learning this skill!
1. Always wanting a hand to hold
A common cause of kids not walking up and down the stairs independently is because they have learned to rely on a hand to hold! This is okay for some time as they learn, but I'm here to instruct you on how to bridge that gap to get them to walk independently up and down the stairs!
First, show them where the railing is. They can either hold it with one hand or turn towards the railing and hold with two hands if they need more support. If that doesn't quite do the trick, give them a doll to hold onto instead. Say "let's help our baby walk down the stairs" and you can each hold one hand of the doll.
2. Not alternating feet
This is a pretty common one. If you need some help with milestones and aren't sure when your child should start alternating their feet, check out my last post on stair milestones.
Try these two options. First, you can try to hold the "stabilizing leg" or preferred leg that they normally use to go up or down. If they aren't quite getting that, physically place the foot you want them to use on the next step. Start pairing with a verbal cue ("right, left" or "switch, switch") early that way once they don't need support anymore, you can cue them verbally to alternate their feet!
3. Trying to crawl down face-first
This is also very common. Kids like to see where they are going, so when they want to go down, often times they'll lead with their head instead of turning over onto their tummy and going backwards, the much safer option.
The most helpful hint for this is to physically show them at first and pair it with a verbal cue EVERY TIME you go down. Once they have the verbal cue down, you will no longer have to physically help them and they will start doing it on their own.
4. Fearful of going up/down
Some kids don't like the stairs because they look scary. Imagine looking up a hill that is 10 times bigger than you! Here's how to combat that!
Put them on the last 2-3 stairs. Three stairs look WAY less intimidating than a whole flight and is much more manageable with a baby's strength and endurance.
Has your child run into any of these hiccups while learning the stairs? Are there any more that I didn't mention that your child had trouble with? The stairs provide an awesome opportunity for improving strength, endurance and coordination, but let's always remember to put that baby gate back up when we're done practicing!