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Stair Safety

It's a familiar scenario: Your toddler lunges toward the stairs. Your heart lunges in your chest. To keep her safe:

Attach  -- and latch  -- baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Toddlers are natural explorers, says Mary Weck, a physical therapist at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Top gates can keep her from tumbling down, of course, but bottom gates prevent a potentially dangerous expedition up.

Give her some practice time, but only when you're there to supervise and in a position to block a fall. (Carpeted stairs are safest; carry your child on ones without risers, railings, or walls.)

Let her ascend solo using her arms and legs at first. When she's bigger and more stable (around 18 months), hold her hand as she walks up stairs.

Guide her to come down on her belly, feet first, to prevent headlong topples. Descending upright and facing forward requires more advanced motor skills  -- let your child try it, holding your hand, when she's around 2.

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