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July 01, 2020

Montessori Babies and Stairs

Teddy is moving, moving. Over the last 6 to 8 weeks, I would say he spends more time just moving around than anything else. He has gone from mostly rolling to crawling, pulling to stand, and cruising on his feet during this time. It's been a huge explosion. And with that explosion has come a new found discovery - our stairs! 

We live in a 4-split level house. So we have 2 "upstairs" areas and 2 "downstairs" areas. They are separated by a large staircase (regular size). Then each of the other levels are separated by a small stair case (4 steps). So, stairs are a big part of our family's life and something that kids need to learn to use independently. I thought I would share a little about how we approach stairs in our Montessori home. 

Parenting advice for Montessori babies and stairs. Here's some tips on how we approach stairs and keep everyone safe.


First, I just want to make our goals clear here. 

Safety: I want my kids to be safe in our home. And I firmly believe that giving gross motor opportunities without adult intervention (just spotting) keeps my kids safe. They learn the limits of their own bodies and understand what risks they can take and which they cannot. Following natural gross motor development practices help keep Ted safe. 

Independence: Our goals are never to push independence on our children before they are ready for it. But, to support the amount of independence that they want and are ready for. By giving access to our stairs, we are opening up opportunities for independence. He can access his bed and bedroom, he can access the bathroom. If we closed the stairs completely, these opportunities would be gone. 

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Big Stairs

I do want to make a distinction between the types of stairs in our house because we approach them differently. Our big stairs are gated. The risk of injury is much higher on those stairs because of their size so closer supervision is necessary. While I would let Teddy climb up them, I don't want him to independently access them at this point. We use this gate which I love because it can be opened up by pretty young toddlers. It's also easy to shut which is great with so many kids coming up and down them. 

If these were the only stairs in our house, I would still make a daily (probably even more than once a day) effort to give access to the stairs to Teddy at this point. He is more than capable, but it's a matter of being able to supervise him closely enough to give free access. 

Smaller Stairs

Now our smaller sets of stairs, I don't use gates - ever. From the time our babies are born they are given access to the stairs. They discover them on their own, pull up on them on their own, start to climb up and down on their own. Every movement they make is their own. They learn to trust their bodies, they gain confidence and skills at the pace that is right for them, and ultimately they learn to become quite safe and agile on the stairs.

I see my job only to spot for safety. Of course, I'm not going to intentionally let them get hurt. At Teddy's age, we watch him very carefully to see if he's playing with the stairs. I can often be found sitting on the stairs with my older babies as they go up and down for long periods of time. 

One thing I won't do is move their bodies. I will catch them if they start to fall (which honestly is very rare) but every movement is their own. I am there not to teach but as a safety net. 

Just as a reminder, I'm sharing what works best for our family and our situation. Every family will need to do what they feel comfortable with. But, I encourage everyone to really consider risk, benefits, and not to underestimate babies. 

Parenting advice for Montessori babies and stairs. Here's some tips on how we approach stairs and keep everyone safe.

How do you approach stairs at home? 

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Unknown said…
Two questions:
1-how do you teach going down stairs?
2-we try to allow open exploration of the stairs (going up), but I find that when I am engaging with my 2-year-old, I’m forced to stop in order to spot my baby. How do you handle this?
Anonymous said…
My 16 month old daughter will, on occasion, independently start up the stairs when I’m several feet away. If she goes up more than 2 steps, I walk over to spot her. However, she immediately freezes up and gets scared like she doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps she wants to come down when I walk over and doesn’t know how? I don’t say anything and just try to stay relaxed; she’s not in trouble. I do help her get down when she gets upset. How can I best support her and keep her safe in this learning experience?
Taren said…
Thanks for sharing, the photos of Teddy exploring the stairs are so sweet.
My daughter Zoe is the same age as him and we're going through the same exploration- they're so determined aren't they?

Zoe comes down the stairs backwards, i'm not sure if this is common as she also crawls backwards to get out of tight spots!
KT60 said…
I have lived with my grandson ( and parents) since his birth. When he began to be able to climb onto couches, beds and stairs we gave a reminder that he had to do a "safe dismount". That, he learned was to turn his body around and go down backwards. He learned this very quickly. We lived in a bungalow with a basement so those were the only stairs (erstwhile a hard tumble if he fell), so we always stayed behind him just in in case. We did not use the gates, but the top of the stairs had a door, so when we were all upstairs, so was he.