Stair climbing is the climbing of a flight of stairs. Each child develops uniquely, and there are times that children may hit a milestone a litter later. Stairs are difficult for children to master. Babies as young as 6 months old try to crawl upstairs, but are typically not coordinated enough to do so without falling. Walking upstairs precedes walking downstairs. One reason for skills emerging in this order is that walking down stairs requires graded control of knee flexion. By 2 years of age the child climbs stairs without holding onto rail or a hand, and by 2 year 6 months the child climbs downstairs without support.  The 3 years 6 months old child walks up and down stairs alternating feet and without support. Stair climbing become possible in part of because of child’s increasing balance.

Tips for encouraging Stair climbing

  1. Step stool: Place a step stool against elevated surface and have child setup onto the stepstool to reach for toys placed on top of the surface. Then have turned around and step down with hand held assistance as needed.
  2. Sit to Stand: Place the stepstool in front of the elevated surface and have your child stand up at to a place a puzzle piece into a puzzle or to get a toy. This is a great strengthening activity which will help with walking up the stairs
  3. Bicycling: This is a fun exercise for children and helps to strengthen the leg muscles.
  4. Single Leg Balance: This exercise is important for children that are learning to climb upstairs. When a child walks up or down the stairs, they have to be able to balance on one leg/ foot in order to bring the opposite leg/foot to the next step.
  5. Stair climbing with visuals: The best way to teach a child to walk up and down the stairs via an alternating stepping pattern is to use visuals. Place stickers or tactile footprints on the stairs to help the child place one foot on each step.
  6. Sensory strategies for Stair Climbing
  • Tactile: Use tactile element on each step (tactile disc, textured footprints, fine grain sandpaper) with child barefoot to reinforce foot placement and encourage weight bearing on each foot
  • Auditory: Use auditory cues or rhythmic cadence, with clapping or song to encourage alternating feet
  • Visual: Strips of brightly colored tape can help encourage alternating step feet on a step stool, or any other surface

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