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Your baby probably will start trying to climb stairs standing up soon after she learns to walk. This often happens about 12 months old, but she may take her first steps anytime between 9 and 18 months.
Before she starts walking, you may notice your child "climbing" stairs by crawling up or down them on her hands and knees. If she enjoys this activity, show her how to scoot down stairs feet first on her tummy — that's the safest way. As long as you're right next to her to prevent falls, crawling up and down carpeted stairs is a safe activity that helps strengthen large muscles and increase coordination.
You can encourage her climbing skills by allowing her to climb up and over padded cushions, mats or sturdy crates.
If you haven't already installed safety gates at the top and bottom of your staircases and covered banister openings with mesh or plastic covers, do it as soon as possible. "Never let your child play unattended on or near staircases unless there's a gate," says Victoria J. Youcha of Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization devoted to the healthy development of infants and toddlers. "And keep your safety gates up until your child is at least 3 years old."
Once your child starts walking, it's safe to let her climb stairs on her feet, holding your hand and the railing for support. Make sure she doesn't have to stretch so far that she loses her balance. Some early walkers prefer the hands-and-knees method of climbing for a few months until they feel comfortable enough climbing the stairs standing up.
By 24 months old or so, your child will probably be able to go up and down stairs on her own while holding onto the railing, though you should still stay close by to prevent slips and falls. Outdoor play equipment with a short ladder to climb or steps up to a slide are great practice, too.