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.


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.


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

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