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I'm struggling to figure out how to best childproof this stairway. The banisters get in the way of most every mount kit I can think of. Any creative ideas? I can of course put a gate on the 7th or 8th step but that's still quite a ways to climb and fall.

Front view

side view

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    you might try posting this question on the Stack home improvement site-the folks there might have some good ideas for your particular configuration. – Jax Nov 3 at 2:54
  • You might also want to consider carpeting the stairs. Kids taking a tumble on hardwood is going to hurt more. Your staircase looks exactly like mine (same banister shape, same colors, same kind and color of wood) and I am so glad we carpeted them, especially now that I am getting older. Less chance of slippage and more comfortable to bare feet. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Nov 7 at 18:15
  • Slide plywood through the bannisters. – Adam Heeg Nov 8 at 23:17
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I have two stairways in my house, one in the kitchen, which has a door we could shut, and one in the front hall that is a “formal” stair that we found impossible to attach gates to due to the elaborate stair parts. Our solution there was to use four panels of an 8 panel play yard which can be found here: We put this at the bottom of the stairs. One side was fixed “permanently” with zip ties fixed to eye hooks screwed into some wood trim and threaded through the panels. The other side was tied to eye hooks attached to the stair trim with a strong cord and a knot we could untie but the kids could not, also threaded through the panels. It formed a “U” shape (one panel on each end and two across/parallel the first step) around the stairs-a good foot away on all sides so there was no chance someone could reach the railings to pull themselves over. You might need more panels to get all the way around, I have an L shaped stair-yours is straight.

I don’t have any pictures because we haven’t needed this in a few years, but, at any rate, this product linked above, or any similar play yard, has many many ways to be configured at the bottom of your particular stairway. Actually, our play yard got a LOT of use, from blocking stairs to protecting the Christmas tree and dividing the playroom between two quarreling brothers. It even had less practical uses such as a superb sleep-over blanket fortress frame.

Someone else mentioned that any barrier is a “challenge” kids WILL accept. It’s true. It’s better to imagine a barrier as a way to buy you time to intervene. For this reason I also suggest you put bells on it so you know when a small person is doing some “problem solving” near the stairs. My daughter was a climber-she scaled THREE gates stacked vertically in her doorway to try to get out of her room once (I was moving something heavy down the stairs and needed her out from under foot. I caught her at the top thankfully but she nearly gave me a heart attack). Never ever think something is truly child proof. It isn’t.

  • I like your answer - all of it - so +1(wish it were more) from me. However...I have that very same 'gate' set up - I've had a series of puppies who need time to calm down - and may I say that those gates are a b**** to move around? I hate them, but I keep using them because plastic. (They were gifted to me from someone happy to get rid of them.) – anongoodnurse Nov 3 at 16:46
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    They are a pain to maneuver. And take apart, and put back together. But, that means the kiddos can’t do it either. – Jax Nov 3 at 17:16
  • :) Kiddos and the elderly! (me.) Also, great reco to the OP. Wish I had thought of it. – anongoodnurse Nov 3 at 17:37
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I'm no builder or carpenter, but if this were my problem, I think I would do the following. Please forgive me for not knowing the terms for one part of the staircase.

The ballusters not attached to the bottom step (steps 2 through 5) rest on a wooden base. It meets drywall near the 6th step. I would have two plywood panels cut to fit the area from base to just below the bannister and attach as securely to the ballusters as possible without ruining anything (or easily fixed with wood putty and paint.) I would then put the gate between these two plywood panels.

That would also eliminate the possibility of a child sticking their head between the ballusters (I can't tell how far apart they are, but the spacing looks farther apart than a modern crib's, which is the safest distance.)

It won't be attractive, but it will be functional, and functionality/safety trumps appearance. Put gates at both the top and the bottom of the stairs. Leave the top gate open when everyone is downstairs to minimize the hassle of opening two gates every time.

Note that wooden stairs like yours are slippery in stocking feet.

One of my kids just had surgery on their foot after slipping on the steps - in stockinged feet with a baby in arms - and breaking it at the bottom. It's much easier to put on slippers or take off your socks than to get around on crutches or a scooter. Being well aware of this problem, I had runners on my stairs because my little ones usually ran around in their stocking feet.

  • For that matter, you could slide a plywood panel between the rungs across the bottom step to create a makeshift sliding door. – Ian MacDonald Nov 6 at 15:13
  • @IanMacDonald - This is true, and a good idea. It wouldn't solve heads between the ballusters, and is far more likely to damage the woodwork, as well as be a potential source of injury (sliding a piece of plywood across a step with baby in arms is harder than clicking open a gate. But worth considering, certainly. Thanks! – anongoodnurse Nov 6 at 21:49
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    Oh I definitely didn't mean it as a long-term solution, but maybe a solution that a tired parent of a little one might be able to quickly do while mentally preparing to do a more permanent solution. ;) – Ian MacDonald Nov 7 at 13:56
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A good friend of us is was a brain surgeon at Boston's Children Hospital. He was not a friend of gates in general and he absolutely freaked out when he saw gates at the top of the stairs. Kids climbing a gate at the top of the stairs than then taking a bad fall head first was the #1 reason for the really difficult cases he had to deal with.

Most kids WILL try to climb the gate and you need to assess whether that's better or worse than just dealing with unguarded stairs.

We had a similar stair case and three small kids. At the end we decided not to gate anything and handle it with a bit of supervision and training. Turns out the kids figured this out really quickly. Crawling up or down with the butt towards the downside is quite effective and easy to learn. Even if they slip or miss a step they will just slide or roll down a few steps with no significant impact. We had a nice fluffy carpet at bottom which probably helped. This method worked well without any major incidence and it certainly makes life easier not to have a gate in the house.

  • First, this doesn't answer the OP's question; second, as an ER doc, I never saw such a case, whereas I saw lots of spills down stairs and other injuries. Thhe number one cause of head injury in infants and toddlers is child abuse. -1 from me for NAA and exagerrating the danger of gates at the top of stairs. – anongoodnurse Nov 6 at 21:52
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Have you considered specialized adaptors or mount kits like the ones below, which are used on round banisters in combination with multiple types of gates?

Alternatively, child-proof a wider area (around the staircase). Use multiple less expensive, more common, easier to open, close and move “pressure mounted” gates. Here, the staircase itself is not childproof, but the entire area around it is childproof. This might be a solution for some houses, especially those where some areas adjacent to the stairs need childproofing or to be otherwise off-limits to the child. In my experience, this solution worked quite well.

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