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Time to Tackle the Stairs?

When will your tyke tackle the stairs? At about age 10 months if you have a staircase in your house; at 11 months if you don't, according to a new study from the College of Staten Island, the City University of New York. Why only a one-month difference? "Even if you don't have a staircase, your baby is exposed to steps  -- at the park, daycare, or Grandma's house," says study author Sarah Berger, Ph.D.

The other finding: All babies typically figure out how to come down stairs  -- with assistance  -- at about age 13 months. To keep your little one safe while he's summiting, follow these tips:

Get the safety gates up. They can be a pain to fit and install, so browse early for gates that work with your staircase. Most experts suggest you put them at both the top (to prevent tumbles) and the bottom (to stop a speedy climber who could then fall down).

Clear clutter. Instead of leaving items that need to go upstairs by the steps (as I tend to do), try to keep a clear path to avoid creating toddler tripping hazards.

Practice. As often as you can, help your child climb up and down stairs. You'll build his skills, and his progress will give you peace of mind, too.