OR “Why you Shouldn’t Multi-Task with Kids”

Do we really have to tell you stairs aren’t safe for toddlers? Apparently over 93,000 families each year are missing the message – and their kids are getting severe enough injuries to bring them to E.R.

Preventable Injuries – can you see them coming?

Previously we talked about preventable injuries in toddlers related to sippy cups and bottles. This time it seems appropriate to talk about preventable injuries caused by stairs. We know they aren’t safe, especially for babies practicing crawling and younger children practicing walking. However, there’s an extra danger with stairs, and that’s you! Yes, you – magic multi-tasking mummy (or daddy). Take a look….


Baby takes a look at the risk

Toddlers’ Stair Injuries

A study of ER visits in the USA from 1999 to 2008 was done for kids under 5 years old. It shows slightly more than 93,000 toddler’s stair injuries each year. Out of an average 100 kids:

  • 35 get soft tissue injuries (sprains & strains)
  • 26 get cuts
  • 20 get a head injury
  • 11 break something
  • 2 dislocate something
  • 6 get other types of injuries

The study goes into a lot more detail about which age of child is most likely to get which type of injury – but you get the idea, some of these are minor and some are more serious: add them up and you get one child in every three with a head injury or broken/dislocated bones.

How are toddlers’ getting stair injuries?

Mostly, they just fall. A few (4 in every 100) fell while in a stroller or other device. (Presumably at the top of the stairs without the breaks on.) A very few either jumped or tripped on an object. Now here’s the interesting number for you….
One quarter of those under 1 who were injured were being carried at the time. If they were being carried, they were 3 times as likely to need a hospital stay. Why? The doctors writing this report say:

These falls often resulted in serious injuries, likely because of the force from the tumbling adult on the child.

And their suggestions to prevent this include:

  • minimize stair use while carrying children
  • keeping the stairs well-maintained and free of objects that could result in tripping
  • Other items should not be carried in addition to the child, because this may make caretakers more likely to lose their balance
  • (Your) spare hand should be on the handrail in case they do slip or trip

What else can you do to reduce toddler’s stair injuries?

To help reduce preventable injuries related to stairs, consider these ideas:


  • Don’t allow kids to play on their stairs. There were over 14,000 kids who jumped down the stairs
  • Watch toddler’s closely on the stairs
  • Discourage them from carrying things on the stairs, especially large/heavy things. These could cause a fall and may cause more injury if the toddler does fall
  • Stair gates help, but don’t assume that’s the only thing you need to do to prevent toddlers’ stair injuries

Was there any good news?

Yes. The number of toddlers stair injuries decreased steadily every year. People are becoming more aware of the risk (and ‘baby walkers’ have been banned).
The bad news? Kids injured while being carried by an adult. The numbers are steadily going up every year. Presumably as we get more inclined to multi-task, answer phone calls without thinking, receive emails and other vibrations in our pockets and generally get distracted.

So, what can you do?

What you can do to prevent toddlers’ stair injuries will depend on your own situation, house, kids, etc. But do them a favour – spend two minutes thinking about it now and decide what you could do…. then do it.
Related: Child-Proofing Windows and Stairs
Credit: Dr G Smith & others. ‘Pediatrics’ Apr 2012: Stair-Related Injuries to Young Children Treated in US Emergency Departments, 1999 – 2008