47 answers

What Age Should a Child Be Able to Walk down Stairs?

My in laws are aghast that my almost 2 year old can't walk down stairs by himself. Should he be walking down stairs at this point?
Also, should we teach him how to go down backwards on his belly or would that delay him learning the right way to go down the stairs?
Thanks so so much!

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I have a 21 month old also and I taught her to go down by scooting on her bottom. I also have a 5 year old and taught her to go down the stairs the same way and she walks down perfectly now. I can't remember what age exactly she started to walk down but I think 21 months is really early I am still afraid she will fall.

Hi M.,

I don't think a child this age should be going up and down the stairs unsupervised, but I also don't think he should be carried. When my son was this age, he would do the stairs holding the bannister on one side and a grownup's hand on the other side. That's how he learned. My mom thought we ought to teach him to climb down backwards but I just didn't see a need for it, if he was ready to do the stairs, then he could do it the correct way.

Good luck

Any way he can get down safely is fine....my 22 month old still scoots on his bottom and is just starting to hold the railing to walk down (holding my hand too) but can by no means do so by himself!! My oldest son scooted on his belly at this age and it did not delay anything.....better to get down safe!

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He's Two: I think this will come in time - a little boy that size is still TOP HEAVY! If he falls (and having small hands as well as being shorter than the rail will not help) he will go head first. Not a happy thing.

If anything, I think grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends should come with a volume knob. when the really bizarre advice and expectations come, the knob should go to zero. I love my parents and my DMIL, but they have come up with some really bizarre expectations that just don't make sense. Not trying to be mean, because I haven't figured out a nice way of saying something that happens to stick in their memory that what they are saying is not what I subscribe to. I'm nice about it, it just doesn't stick.

Like: Let your newborn cry it out. Don't let them rule you. They need to eat solid food. S/he doesn't weigh enough, you're starving them. Stuff like that. Like, spanking a two-year-old is going to teach them anything.

They have their whole life ahead of them. Going downstairs will come with time, and if the babe doesn't feel comfortable walking upright, either they are cautious *a good trait to have in a child, or they have problems with their middle ear (possibility, but if nothing else has tipped you off thus far, I don't think this is it, but IANAD either!)

Cheer your baby on (and I do it in front of the g-parents! :) and they will respond.

I include the deaf version of hand-clapping, which is waving the hands in the air. My DS really responds to that which he can hear AND see. His joyous smile tells me I'm on the right track.

Good luck!

I still hold my daughters hand when she walks down the stairs. We count actually and that seems to help her concentrate.

However, whenever possible, we encourage her to sit on her bottom and go down each stair carefully. (suggested by a friend)
It seems to have given her confidence and when I hold her hand I am barely supporting her.
This also gives her the alternative of using the stairs without me SAFELY!
So far so good.

M.,

I wouldn't worry too much about what other people think, unless they are confirming something you are already beginning to question. As far as developmentally, remember that all kids progress at different rates. That being said, I can share with you my experiences and philosophy on emerging independent behavior.

I have 4 kids and all but one learned to go down the stairs backwards first. The one who didn't took longer to learn how to navigate going down, but still did so by 15 months or so. I would say, show your son a couple of times, maybe even hold his hand while he navigates, and then let him try. If he wants to be with you or his toys badly enough, he'll figure it out.

With 4 kids, I try to teach my kids to do as much as they can independently. I'm always surprised when I take my 5-year old son's friends in the car and they don't know how to buckle the seatbelt. I definitely check it, but I think there's a lot to be said for equipping them to figure out how to do simple tasks. It's my job to protect, teach, equip, and then watch them fly.

Again this is just my opinion, and you need to parent in the manner by which you are convicted. I hope this helps.

S.

M.,
I found that backwards on the belly worked really well! I don't think it's abnormal that your son is 2 and still can't walk down the stairs...it's better to be safe then sorry. My husband and I bought a house when our son was 18 months and it had two sets of stairs one being fairly steep. I refused to be nervous all the time around the steps so that's when we made the decision to teach him to go down backwards. It was the best thing we could do! Our son is now three and he can walk up and down no problem so I don't think it delayed him in anyway.

D. S

My son is 17 months old and is starting to walk down the stairs holding onto the banister. He started on his belly when he was about 1. We have stairs all over our home and I felt that it was important for him to know how to get around. I don't think you should have any problem teaching your son to slide/crawl down on his belly. I'm sure you'll be surpirsed with how fast he progresses!

My youngest learned really early, at least by 16-18 months. Instead of always helping him, I would make him do it himself. I believe it made him more independent and rely on his own balance instead of always relying on me. He's 23 months now and since we redid our 2nd floor, he's been escaping up a 20+ stair flight by himself for MONTHS now by himself. (my boys like to hide from me upstairs). He tolds on to the railing (36" heigh by fire code rules) and walks like normal standing up.

If you are worried about him falling, maybe ease up a bit. They have to have some falls or else they won't learn. Teach him the sit and scoot method if all else fails. Sit down and have him scoot his butt down from stair to stair.

Above all, keep him facing foward so he gets to realizes how balance works. Turning him on his belly doesn't allow him to see where he is going and can also cause scratches on his stomach, as well as accidents to his face if he looses his grip at anytime.

Any way he can get down safely is fine....my 22 month old still scoots on his bottom and is just starting to hold the railing to walk down (holding my hand too) but can by no means do so by himself!! My oldest son scooted on his belly at this age and it did not delay anything.....better to get down safe!

My daughter will be 2 in June and she is not going down stairs alone - and NOBODY thinks she should be. I say your in-laws should just SHUT IT. My mother-in-law said to me when my daughter was only 16-18 months that she wasn't talking enough and I should watch her because that's a sign of autism.....I don't know what's wrong with in-laws - when it comes to the woman - it's like they want to make you feel bad. Anyway - my daughter will be two in June like I said and she has very many words in her vocabulary today. Don't worry about what they say - all children develop at their own time - you will know if something is wrong or "not right" - you're his MOM - have faith in yourself!!!!!! and GOOD LUCK

My daughter is 21 months and still goes down the stairs on her belly. She can't reach the banister yet so she hasn't even tried going down by walking yet. I think I would go crazy if she was trying to walk down them by herself. I would be so afraid that she would fall. She tries on her own a little on the outside front stairs where she can reach the railing but she winds up turning around. Don't worry when your son is ready he will go down on his own.

Jenn

My kids knew how to go up and down stairs at an early age, i would say BY atleast 18 months

i never used gates, they offer a false sense of security
and I watch them like a hawk.LOL

One thing tho, he will fall, and you should still watch him.
closely.

but it could happen at anytime, My oldest NEVER fell,
my middle NEVER
and my youngest constantly falls but knows how to hold on to the rails so he is able to catch himself,

M

My daughter turned 2 on December 22nd. She was sliding down stairs on her belly during that time and in the last few weeks has just started walking down holding on to the wall or railing. Hope this helps! All babies move at their own pace, be thankful you don't have to chase him up and down yet!!

Hi M.,
My 2 year old can go up and down stairs by himself because I had to let him learn, while I stood behind him the whole time, and still do. He is tall enough now that he can hold onto the rail and really is doing good. He only fell once down a couple of stairs and was not hurt, but that was enough to make him pay more attention. For myself as a first time mom, I see that I totally underestimate my sons ability because I still see him as my baby, and he is so little still (Preemie). In reality, he is very competent when given the chance. Example: He can crack an egg all by himself now.
Trust him more and let him figure some things out.
Good Luck
N.

I wouldn't be concerned at all. When a child learns how to walk downstairs varies as much as when a child learns to walk. It depends on how many opportunities the child has to practice and their own developmental timeclock. For example, my middle daughter learned to walk by 10 months, but we live in a ranch, so she has few opportunities to practice on stairs. So at 3 she still is hesitant when walking down a flight of stairs. She can do it, of course, she just lacks the confidence she would have from lots of chances to practice. Don't let your in-laws worry you.

Personally, I think if your two year old can walk down by himself more power to him! I think children learn things when they are ready and some excel at some tasks more than others. I would, however, be around to monitor it for now. Those little agile yet clumsy little feet...you never know what you're going to go! So, if it were me, I would not want to squash my child's spirit. I'd let him. But, I'd stand 2-4 steps below so if he fell I'd be right there.

my daughter will be 2 on saturday, and up until about 2-2 1/2 months ago we lived where there was a HUGE staircase and we only allowed her to go up the stairs (with someone behind her). now that we're in a place with many stair cases, but 5-7 stairs/case she's up and down them all on her own throughout the day (sometimes i don't even pay much mind to her going up and down). the 1st couple of days here i would show her how to go down by going down on my butt one step at a time, and having her follow behind me. now she already had no problem going up, so that wasn't an issue...but going down, it only took a couple days to go down on her own with NO concerns. at this point, (2 months later) she SOMETIMES walks down the stairs, but WON'T try to do it without someone holding her hand. i think that the butt thing is the easiest for them because they can control it AND see where they're going, the belly is a little harder, my daughter tried that a couple times and got her feet caught up under her and went back to the butt deal. hope this helps.

He probably should be going down stairs at this point and how he does will be a milestone the pediatrician asks about soon as they are supposed to progress from two feet per step to alternating steps by a certain age.

For now I would have him turn around and crawl down the steps backwards at this point. I would not let him go near steps alone regardless!! That is the best way I have heard of them starting though. I wouldn't worry about delaying him. It's more important he go through the steps to learn to do it safely and comfortably.

I am guessing you are a first time mom and I remember being scared to death about everything with my oldest. I was so afraid my oldest would choke, I started on Rice Krispies instead of Cheerios! I have three now and am much more laid back with them. :)

Believe it or not but descending stairs is a very important part of children's large motor skill development. As scary as stairs are it is important that you begin to teach him immediately.

I have always started teaching my kids before they could walk. I'd hold onto them and pretend they were doing it by themselves. This was more or less just silly times for us but it was a good introduction.

My 24 month old is just at the point where I will let him walk down the stairs by himself as I wait in the other room ready to explode with fear! When he was 18 months he tumbled down the stairs from the top right to the bottom with only a couple bumps & bruises.

At 2 years old I wouldn't bother with any alternative ways to descend. The normal way is best at this age. You're past the age of going backwards - unless he has fear.

And by 4-5 years old he should be walking down the stairs with one foot on the step at a time. In kindergarten we call those who can't do this "two-steppers," and the phys. ed. teacher pulls them out of the classroom to teach them how to do it with one foot. HTH!
A.

Tell you in-laws to relax, my two year old can't walk down stairs either. Don't worry

Hi, my daughter is almost two also and I don't let her walk downstairs as a rule. She can go up with no problem, but I don't let her go down because she is way too clumsy still. We have let her sit on her butt and go down with us a few times, but going down on her own can wait. It doesn't help that I have a friend who lets her two yr. son go downstairs alone and one day I was there and he went end over end from the top and had to go to the ER because of the huge knot on his head. I would put off going downstairs for awhile.

If that's all they have to complain about to you, good for you!!! :) Point out things he does well to them that they might not be aware of. My oldest and middle guys have always been fearless. My little one is more cautious.
I'd be more concerned about his safety around stairs, than his ability to walk down them at this point. Encouraging him to develop his gross motor skills in general is important. Give him opportunity to walk, run, jump, dance, climb, & play safely and the skills will come in time.

hi M.-

my son is 28 months and still does not walk down our stairs on his own. we have a very long, hard wood stair case, and frankly, if he fell, he could be injured for life. its not worth the risk. kids around this age are clumsy. somedays he is great and does the stairs alone w/ me next to him, but other days, he slips. the rails are too high to be of much use. this is your child. you know what is best for him, and you are doing the right thing. follow your instincts!

My youngest ones are 27 months, and 17 months. The 27 month old has been going downstairs without my touching him at all for maybe 6 months. I first taught him to go down backwards on his knees. Now he will sit down at the top stair, and scoot on his butt until he reaches the handrail. This particular set of stairs doesn't have a rail all the way to the top because of the shape of them. My 17 month old only goes up by himself. I have no even started to teach him how to go down on his own. Neither of my little boys are allowed near the stairs without me right there. I hope for your sake that your inlaws aren't around very often, so you don't have to listen to their "way to raise a child".

Dear M.,

All kids are different and each child develops at a different pace. That being said, however, we recently had our 21 month old daughter evaluated by a PT (she was a preemie, so we have her evaluated periodically) and the PT said that it's fine that she's not walking up and down stairs on her own yet, (She does go up and down on her belly, but that's something we taught her several months ago because we have a sunken living room and we wanted her to be able to get into the living room on her own), but encouraged us to start making helping her do so a part of her daily routine. Since your son is almost 2, each day I would hold his hand and teach him to walk up and down the steps and then eventually have his hold a railing.
Don't listen to your in-laws! ;-)
Trae

My daughter just turned 2 last month. The only time she walks down stairs is when someone is holding her hand. I can understand the nervousness about them walking down the stairs. I would think teaching him to go down on his belly would be good so he doesn't try to walk down by himself. My daughter can go down on her butt. Good luck.

Kids will do things at their own pace. I taught all my kids(I have 3) to go down the stairs on their bellies or bottoms. They all started that way and progressed to walking when they were ready. I don't think this will slow your son down at all. You have to give him a starting point. If he doesn't like doing it that way he will figure something else out, but at least you have gotten him started.
If your son is ready, he will learn it very quickly. Good Luck and don't let you in-laws get to you. When this is over it will just be something else! =0)

Every child develops at their own rate, so no worries! We began teaching our son to go down on his tushie, but he began walking them right away. Just make sure he holds the banister(-:

Don't worry about what anyone says about the development of your child, except maybe the Dr. All children develope in their own time.
We have three sets of five stairs in our split level home. What worked for us: we taught our two children (5 and 3) to go down backwards on their bellies. The children then would hold the railling or our hands. Most two year olds still have trouble walking and balancing. You will know when the time is right for your son to walk down the stairs by himself.

Most of all don't concern yourself with what other people think you child should be doing. You decide.

D.

tell your in-laws to relax. my 2.4yo still needs a hand.

I am not an expert (my son is 7 months), but over Easter I was with my 2 year old nephew. He can go down the stairs okay on his own, but really needs someone to hold his hand. I think your son is probably just fine in his development.

My 14-month old very quickly learned how to go down the stairs on his tummy when there's nothing to hold onto. If there is a railing at his height, he actually prefers to go down standing up. Unfortunately his legs aren't quite long enough to reach, so someone has to be around him watching as he goes both up and down the stairs.

Personally, I think a two year old is still a little young to be trusted on the stairs by themselves. But that's just my personal feeling. Stairs are rather dangerous (my sister-in-law broke her collarbone falling down the stairs when she was three!), and I would prefer being the overprotective parent rather than risk a trip to the ER.

I would start teaching your little one how to go up and down the stairs safely, however. Going down on the tummy is a great way to start, and I don't think it will delay him from learning how to go up and down standing up when he's ready.

Good luck!

The best way to star him going down the stairs himself is to teach him to go down on his butt. When he feels comfortable he'll star trying to walk. Make sure he uses the railing and understands that stairs are no where to play or run and he should be fine.

That is funny...I get the opposite - people can't believe I LET my kids go up and down the stairs by themselves! When my second story in my house was finished, I started teaching my oldest to go up and down on his behind. At the time, he was just under 2. He fell down the stairs probably two or three times, but he learned (as scary as it was for Mommy!!) My little one and his cousin both learned at about 14 mos. Because their legs were too short yet, they couldn't go down on their bottoms, so we taught them to go down on their bellies, and now (18 mos) they fly down those stairs five or six times a day and I don't ever have to worry about them (they only each fell down the stairs once, and right near the bottom - thank God!!) I say teach him whatever way he is comfortable and don't ever worry about what someone else says about your child's development. You know him and know what is best for him, trust in that!!

That is just crazy!!! And you can tell them I said so!!! You can teach them anyway you want it will all shake out in the end. My 19 month old is learning but it is a process. He sometimes goes one at a time on his booty, sometimes on his belly and if the steps are not too deep then he will try to hold on and go one at a time. You are the parent and you know your baby better then anyone...... this is not going to make or break his life ..... he will go down when he is ready just like with talking riding a bike and the list goes on and on. Tell them to get a hobby other then your son going down the stairs!!! This kind of stuff makes me crazy!!!

I have a 21 month old also and I taught her to go down by scooting on her bottom. I also have a 5 year old and taught her to go down the stairs the same way and she walks down perfectly now. I can't remember what age exactly she started to walk down but I think 21 months is really early I am still afraid she will fall.

I think your child is about the right age to start learning how to climb down stairs and backwards worked just fine with my kids. They are still so little that its much safer for them with those little legs its more difficult to navigate the stairs.

Tell you in-laws to save being aghast for when he comes home with both his ears pierced or something. Its ridiculous to be worrying you with something like this,he's just a little guy for crying out loud. If he fell down the stairs now because he was walking down by himself, they would probably be aghast at that as well so keep on keeping on, you are doing just fine.

L.

Hi dear-
I think that your in-laws are totally out of line. All though they sound like my mother-in-law. I don't think that at the age of two your child should be going down the staris by themselves. At this age they are still trying to find their "legs", meaning its too easy for them to fall. My son truned two in Feb. and he goes down the stairs like we do except he has to hold our hand. At about the last two steps he attempts alone and thats fine, b/c the distance he can fal is MUCH shorter.

I think its that they are from this age where if your kids not crying after they bump thier heads then they're fine and you should be asking if thier ok. You know what I mean here. It's a different era, however they are also very relentless when it come to their beliefs and your kids I'm sure, bn/c I know. If I were I'd tell them to back off, as nicely as possible and if that doesn't work get firm about it.

Your child is probably progressing the way a normal child should. What does your pediatrician say? If they don't see a problem then neither should you!

Good Luck
A.

M.,

I have a 22 month old who has been going up and down stairs by himself - for what seems like forever; however, he still comes down on his bottom - I would probably go grey if he were already coming down them like his big sister! It takes a lot of coordination for them to master coming down stairs on two feet! I'm not sure which is the preferred way - bottom or belly - I think both of my kids went through both stages. My little one is just getting good at navigating what I call half a step - maybe a 3-4 inch drop off - and I'm thrilled with that. I'd tell your in laws that when he's ready - he'll show you! Every kid goes through their developmental milestones at their own pace!

My daughter was crawling up and down the stairs before she turned 1. I think that's what prepared her for walking up and down the stairs (around 16-17 months). She walks with one hand on the banister and one hand in mine. She can actually go up and down faster if she just crawled but she adamantly refuses. I think your son just needs time to practice. Once he gets the hang of it, you won't be able to keep him from the stairs anymore!

Hi M.,

I have been working to get my 18 month old son to learn to go up and down the stairs on his belly- he is getting better and is definitely not ready to walk up or down- I believe that this will come when he is ready. Since we live in a second floor apartment, it is very important to us that he learn to handle the stairs as soon as he can (for safety reasons).
All the best.

My almost 2 year old who is talking and potty trained and very advanced in many ways is very very wobbly on the stairs and will definitely fall if unaided. Stairs are dangerous- a few months ago another baby who could climb better knocked mine down the stairs- it only took seconds- my baby got a concussion. Tell your inlaws to be patient:)

I have 2 sons aged 7 and 5. My first son never wanted to come down the stairs by himself until he was almost 3. He wanted to be carried. That being said he did know how to. First I would teach my child to come down the safe way. Crawling down backwards with his belly against the staircase. It is important that he knows how to handle stairs even if he isn't feeling ready to.

I hope this helps.

J.

Hi M.,
Nothing different from the other moms. Just chiming in here. My kids started going down the steps on their tushes. When they got the confidence, they stood up and walked. Your child can start slowly on his tush. They think it's more fun anyway. Supervise him and make sure he's gripping the banister at each step. I've had to catch my kids a coupla times, but those are the bumps and bruises of being a kid. Ask the parents to lighten up a little. He'll get there at his own pace, and have fun doing it. Good luck!

Hi M.,

I may be late in the game and you've had million reponses but what's one more? Could it be that he senses your fear of him falling? All of us with our first child are more careful and anxious, that could be one reason. Another is he isn't secure yet and that is different in every child. My son would only walk down the stairs clinging to the railing and put one foot down then the other next to it and continued down the stairs. Instead of one foot per step. I took him to an eye specialist to see if there was maybe a depth perception issue. There wasn't he suggested I go see a nurologist to see why A wasn't connecting to B. I refused to do that. I wasn't going to put him through massive tests because he wasn't running down the stairs like other 2 year olds. Needless to say after practicing walking down the stairs and just natuarally maturing and gaining confidence he goes down the stairs like everyone else. Don't let the in-laws get to you. You're boy is fine and at his pace he'll go down the stairs unassisted. Good luck. A. B

I may be asking a stupid question, but do you live in a home with stairs? The reason I ask this is because my 2-year-old is JUST starting to get more proficient at ascending and descending stairs, and still most of the time with help. I am not concerned about it because we live in an apartment, and there are not a lot of opportunities to go up and down stairs everyday like other children may have in a home with more than one story. So, look at the environment in which you live before you drive yourself crazy wondering if he's fallen off the developmental milestone chart. Also, in my opinion, 2-year-olds should still be supervised going up and down stairs -- one slip or fall could be devastating.

Heck no! He should go up and down on his belly until he develops the muscles and coordination to do it standing up; you want him trying the right way, but when he's tired or hasn't quite mastered it, he should have a safe alternative for getting down. It won't delay him. My son just turned 2, and I still hold his hand up and down, though I know he can go up on his own holding the rail, but down takes a bit more coordination. Its a matter of practice; just keep practicing until he gets comfortable and develops the coordination. Have your in laws practice with him if they're so concerned... :)

My daughter is 22 months old and she slides down the stairs on her butt. When your son is ready, he will do it. Don't worry about it and don't let other peoples' comments get to you.

Hi M.,

I don't think a child this age should be going up and down the stairs unsupervised, but I also don't think he should be carried. When my son was this age, he would do the stairs holding the bannister on one side and a grownup's hand on the other side. That's how he learned. My mom thought we ought to teach him to climb down backwards but I just didn't see a need for it, if he was ready to do the stairs, then he could do it the correct way.

Good luck

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