Little ones grow fast and start exploring their surroundings before you know it. Once they start crawling, and even before, parents need to take precautions to keep them safe during moments when curiosity takes over.
Child safety gates are best for children between 6 months and 2 years of age, and most expert advice on when to remove baby gates recommends that they no longer be relied upon once children learn how to open them or can climb over them.
There are some parents that are concerned about the relative safety of baby gates, citing horror stories of accidents stemming from baby gates that were not installed correctly. The key phrase there is not installed correctly — when installed and used correctly, baby gates are perfectly safe for your little ones and keep them out of harm’s way.
Read our guide to see the benefits of using baby gates, installation options and what you should look for when you shop.
Benefits of Using Baby Gates
- Safety for Baby
Your children’s safety is first and foremost. Baby gates positioned at the bottom or top of stairs, in doorways or around objects such as fireplaces keep them away from dangers.
- Less Stress/Worry for You
Children are highly curious about their surroundings and exploring them as they learn and grow. The peace of mind that comes with knowing your children can play and explore in secure areas without constant supervision is priceless.
- Create Play Zones
Baby gates can create safe play zones for children by closing off areas that are unsafe, such as kitchens and bathrooms, or out of view of parents. For even more control over the play area, parents can use baby play yards to create a freestanding enclosure.
- Separation of Pets and Children
If you want pets and children to be kept separate while they get acquainted or just don’t want them playing together unsupervised, baby gates are the perfect solution.
Types of Baby Gates: Installation Options
There are two main options for baby gates in regards to how you want to secure them to walls and doorways — hardware mounted and pressure mounted.
Hardware mounted gates require drilling holes in walls or doorways and screwing the gate into place to secure it. These gates are the best option for places that you want a more permanent solution such as between a living room and kitchen, and they are the only safe solution for the tops of stairs. A gate at the top of a stairway that isn’t hardware mounted poses the risk of being pushed down by a child or pet and causing injury.
Pressure mounted gates are secured into position using pressure from the two surfaces the gate is positioned between. These gates are quicker and easier to install, don’t damage walls or doorways with holes and can be moved to different locations with ease. These gates are a great solution for any place where falling isn’t a hazard (like the tops of stairs).
What to Look for in a Baby Gate
When you shop, whether online or in a store, make sure to have width measurements of doors or openings and avoid gates that will need to be at their maximum width to fit. Here’s what else to look for:
The baby gate should open and shut smoothly so parents can easily walk through the gate with or without their baby in their arms (but not allow your child to open it on their own). Options for baby gate openings include sliding, swinging and even smaller doorways in the center of your gate.
The gap between the slats should be under 3 inches as recommended by Juveniles Product Manufacturing Association (JPMA). Wider gaps could lead to children squeezing between them or even getting stuck. The slats should also always be vertical to prevent climbing.
To prevent extra-adventurous children from attempting to climb over a gate (even one with vertical slats), the one you buy should be at least three-quarters of your child’s height. Any gate you purchase should be a minimum of 23 inches high for safety.
Any baby gate you buy must be certified by the JPMA or the American Society for Testing. The products certified by these organizations are deemed safe to use.
All North States products are tested by independent test labs and are certified to meet or exceed all juvenile products standards and government regulations set by JPMA.
Size and Adjustability
As mentioned, make sure your gate will not be stretched to its limits to fit the opening. Gates stretched to their max width might not provide enough security for an ambitious toddler. The gate should ideally expand or contract to fit a variety of openings.
Safety gates should retain their pressure and strength for a long duration of time. Look for sturdy construction and an even finish. Reputable products will also come with a warranty to replace parts or your entire gate if any defect is found.
Depending on your specific needs, you may want a gate with additional features such as lights for safe use at night or extra wide for archways. Once you have your measurements, explore your options and find the perfect solution for you and your baby!
What Not to Buy
In general, always buy a new gate rather than accepting a hand-me-down. Old products may be outdated, have unsafe features or even have safety recalls issued for them. It’s best to go with something guaranteed to be the safest for your baby.
Avoid old-fashioned accordion-style gates and gates with V-shaped openings at the top that do not have a horizontal filler bar at the top. These pose safety hazards. Newer versions of these gates will have a rail or filler bar across the top to make them safe.
Have more questions about baby gates or how to install them? Reach out to our team today!