I have short stairs in the house, between ground floor (where the kitchen and kid's game room are) and 2d floor (where their bedrooms/bathroom is).

For safety reasons, they aren't allowed to run up/down stairs because their preferred shoes make it too easy to trip on the stairs.

The kids are perfectly well aware of the rules (they are 6/7 YO) and generally follow them well.

But when they play together downstairs and get rambunctious, they get into the "run around mindlessly" mode; and if they need to get upstairs, they run.

Are there some good approaches for fixing this issue?

Please note that standard approaches don't work at all (carrots don't help - they know perfectly well what the rules are on rational level, just forget them when being boisterous; sticks don't help either - for example not permitting to play downstairs after runnnig up the stairs).

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    Perhaps some sort of speed sensor wired to an electric shock? 3:) – Karl Bielefeldt Jan 16 '14 at 18:54
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    @KarlBielefeldt - post as an answer :) – user3143 Jan 16 '14 at 18:55
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    If you discover an answer to this, please share. My kids ONLY run up and down the stairs--rarely do they walk although sometimes they will hang on the railing and slide down. I think this is just a thing that kids do and they'll eventually grow out of it. Sorry. – Meg Coates Jan 16 '14 at 19:17
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    The carrot and stick approach should work. Put loads of carrots and sticks on the stairs; then it will be impractical to run on them. – tobyink Jan 17 '14 at 20:05

May I suggest that if the issue is "their preferred shoes make it too easy to trip on the stairs" you fix it by making them wear something else for indoor running around? I don't know what their preferred shoes are -- there are plenty of articles saying flip flops are not safe (just google "flip flops dangerous") -- but running is natural to kids and stopping at a few steps is not. Can they just have bare feet? Wear snug sneakers?

If the issue is they crowd the stairs and someone always ends up getting pushed and falling, of course, that's a different story. You need to ban the indoor running around -- or enforce that it stay on one level -- until they can be more considerate.

Alternately... Have a rule that the first person you catch running on the stairs has to spend the next half hour standing by the stairs reminding everyone else to walk up and down them. She cannot leave to go play with the other kids until the half hour is up or she catches someone else running on the stairs -- at which point that child replaces the first child as Guardian of the Stairs.

(But I really think they should be allowed to run on the stairs, if it can be made safe.)

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    +1 for Guardian of the Stairs; not sure if that's practical but it sounds fun at least... – Joe Jan 17 '14 at 15:50
  • I hadn't thought of it that way! It was meant to be a deterrent, but I guess it could work if it was part of the game... – Ossum's Mom Jan 17 '14 at 16:25
  • The best deterrents are fun, right? :) – Joe Jan 17 '14 at 16:26

If it's primarily going up that they're at risk, and your stairs are 'short' as you describe, I'd just let them fall and learn the hard way. Falling up the stairs isn't very dangerous in a child; it hurts, but it doesn't usually do any permanent damage from what I've read (too short to get concussions easily from the fall) and falling 'up' is even safer from the permanent point of view since you're going a shorter distance and can usually catch yourself. They might eventually break a wrist or somesuch, but if they're that boisterous they probably will at some point anyway - that's part of growing up.

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    Been there. Done that. Didn't learn a damn thing. – user3143 Jan 16 '14 at 18:41
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    I'm with Joe. They ran on the stairs, they fell, and they still run on the stairs. Learning to run on stairs is a great skill. You learn your limits by having accidents. Your job is only to make sure the stairs aren't life-threateningly dangerous - carpet or rubber treads or rubber mat at the bottom. – MJ6 Jan 17 '14 at 2:19

Perhaps the key is to put some obstacle that will require them to get out of the "run around mindlessly" mode. For example, put some kind of gate in front of the stairs, the will close by itself, and only will open if some complex action is performed, like turning some digits to the correct position, or entering the correct sum... (no that I've seen any of this to sell before, it would be more like something you would need to do yourself).

That way there would be something to interrupt the mind state, and it would be a bit easier to remember to go upstairs more slowly.

  • I have to disagree with this. Even before our kids could talk, they learned "no". I always found it easier (after the first hour or so) to stop them from crawling down the hall than it was to block off the hall. – corsiKa Jan 16 '14 at 23:09

I don't think the problem is the stairs. I think the problem is the uncontrollable rambunctiousness. Sure, falling on (up or down) the stairs is a concern, but they're certainly of the age where they are both willing and able to be safe on them. The fact that they're disregarding their safety when they get all riled up isn't limited to the stairs.

If they're forgetting their safety about the stairs, they're forgetting their safety about their toys, their aggression, etc. They're also probably forgetting things like their manners, their respect for property, resource consumption, etc.

Now, we know exactly why they get all riled up: they're 6 and 7. This isn't going to exactly change, and I'm not suggesting you cut off their supply of fun. But I would focus less on the stairs and more on their ability to recognize when they have "turned their safety switch off" and get them to come back down to Earth on their own.

It sounds small, but this is the exact same kind of behavior that leads to gaming addiction in teens, excessive partying in university, and poor financial planning in adulthood. (Yes, I specifically separate university from adulthood!) This isn't to say that kids playing in a basement at 6 will turn them into alcoholics at 22, but it is saying that the habit of being so wrapped up in their entertainment that they forget the rules by which they live and operate is a bad habit to have, and a hard habit to break.

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    "If they're forgetting their safety about the stairs, they're forgetting their safety about their toys, their aggression, etc" - definitely a correct assessment :) But I am not quite sure what you recommend as a solution? – user3143 Jan 17 '14 at 4:08
  • Hopefully the fact that they are 6 and 7 will change sometime... perhaps this time next year? :) – Joe Jan 17 '14 at 15:49
  • True enough, Joe. But, this time next year, 6 and 7 year olds (and, if experience is any clue, 7 and 8, and 8 and 9 year olds) will still be easily riled up for any and every reason they can find. – corsiKa Jan 17 '14 at 20:08

You aren't going to win this one. They're energetic kids, and they're going to keep on running where they shouldn't when they're all wound up. You'd have to get VERY heavy-handed to have any hope, and there comes a point when the punishment is worse than the crime.

They might even fall now and then. It does happen, and it's very rare that you'd get really hurt from falling on the stairs at that age, especially going up. As a parent, it's really easy to imagine the worst case scenario, but sometimes you just need to step back and realize that the benefits of letting your kid do some of these low-risk things outweigh the risks.


Why don't you try putting a gate across the stairs when they're playing. Make it compulsory that before they start the gate is closed and at other times it can be open. This will make it harder for them to run up or down or at least slow them down if they try. Eventually it'll get ingrained not run up the stairs and you wont need the gate anymore.

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