Whether you are having your first baby or your fifth, you know how important baby proofing your home is. You can’t have your eyes locked on your child 24/7, try as you might, and accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Baby gates are important both for making safe obvious dangers such as stairs, but also for creating a fertile and happy developmental environment for your toddler. Yes, at times a decent play yard is convenient, but in general, I am a firm advocate of creating as much “yes space” as possible within your home. This is safe and secure space that your toddler can explore and move about in without constantly being told “no” and physically restrained.
There are many things you have to consider when baby proofing your house, but baby gates definitely top the list. Perhaps there is a room you want to keep off limits or stairs you want to make sure are blocked, or maybe you just want to keep your child in one area while you sit down for a few minutes to grab a much-deserved chocolate chip cookie. Whatever the reason, you are bound to find yourself purchasing at least one baby gate through your time as a mom. No fear, we’re here to help with some buyers tips and favorite picks.
Parent Guide and Buying Tips
Not all baby gates are built alike. Some require special tools for installation, and you have to take into consideration getting the right baby gates for stairs. No worries, though. Here’s a quick outline of considerations to keep in mind as you shop.
Installing a gate with a pressure mounting system is generally pretty easy. Simply put, the gate uses natural tension force to stay upright and in place. This is a huge selling point if you don’t want to drill into your walls to install what will ultimately be a temporary barrier. You will want to keep in mind that these gates often have a bar on the bottom that you have to step over, so tread lightly when you’re passing through them.
You’ll have to break out the toolkit to install these types of gates. While having to drill into your wall might not be high on your wish list, these gates allow for extra stability and security. When correctly installed, your baby can shake, rattle, and roar without you having to worry if they will knock the gate down. Because of this reason, experts highly recommend that you install this type of gate at the top and bottom of stairs, and at any other doorway that leads to a room that isn’t babyproofed.
Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JMPA) Certification
A gate that has met JMPA certification standards is a plus when you are buying. Their safety requirements include a minimum 22″ height and a bottom gap between the gate and floor that is less than 3″. This assures you that your baby can’t climb over the gate or get his head stuck in the bottom gap.
While you keep these things in mind, let’s move on to our reviews so you can get on your way to baby proofing your home.
Best Pressure Mounted Baby Gates
Aside from their easy installation, pressure mounted gates tend to be less expensive than their hardware mounted counterparts. Here are some of our favorites.
Your roaming toddler won’t get too far with this no-nonsense gate. It’s not a looker but gets the job done. It features a door that swings open both ways, or you can set it to only open in the direction of your choosing. The handle is simple to use for an adult but will stymie a curious child. You can install it with the included wall cups for extra security, and this gate is JMPA certified. If you need to extend it to fit a larger opening, you can purchase additional extensions for a maximum 54″ width.
Width: 29.5″ – 35″ (37.72″ with included extension)
This JMPA certified gate is as ready to go as your baby. Simply pull it from its packaging and get to installing, no additional assembly required. The easy open gate door features a triple locking system and can lock open at a 90° angle. This is a great feature if you are carrying laundry or groceries from one room to another; just watch out for that bottom bar. When the door swings shut, it automatically locks so you know your baby is secured.
Width: 28” – 31.5” (38.5 with 2 included extensions
Best Hardware Mounted Baby Gates
While generally a little more expensive, these gates give that extra security that many mothers crave. Another plus; most hardware mounted baby gates don’t have a bottom rail to step over when you’re moving from room to room.
Another JMPA certified product, this gate is a favorite among parents. Installing it is easy, considering that it’s a wall mounted model. One drawback is that some parents have found the screws to be a little too short, but this is easily remedied by purchasing longer screws that will meet your needs. The door opens smoothly in both directions for parents, but the unique “pull and twist” latch will prove virtually impossible for your little one to navigate. When swung shut, the door automatically locks. Another safety feature is that this baby gate includes a stop bracket you can install that will prevent the gate from opening over a stairway. You can never be too careful when it comes to stairs!
Width: 26″ – 40″
This simple to secure wooden gate proves that there is no law stating that baby gates must be an eyesore. It also takes the guesswork out of measuring your doorway’s width with a Precision Fit template and is JMPA certified. The door has optional hardware that you can install to prevent it from opening over the stairs and can be easily opened with one hand. Be warned; this gate looks great, but some moms have noted that it can be difficult to install. However, the height of this model, along with the extra included safety features, make it one of the better baby gates for stairs. Just keep in mind that you will need to purchase additional hardware if you are attaching it to a banister.
Width: 30″- 48″
Best Baby Gates for Stairs with Bannisters
While on the topic of stairs, we wanted to point out a few baby gates for stairs with banisters. Most models require that you purchase additional kits or hardware to install them in these areas safely. However, here are a few baby gates made for the job of securing to stairs with banisters.
Fun fact: Kidco was the first company to introduce metal gates to the US market. They continue to innovate with their products, all of which meet or exceed federal safety standards. While some parents have found the installation to be difficult, this particular model is ideal for mounting on angled surfaces, including that banister of yours. The mounting hardware is quick release so that you can remove it with ease, and a directional stop means the gate won’t swing out over the stairs.
Width: 28 – 42.5″
Technically this gate does require a mounting kit to fit on a banister, but since the manufacturer includes it in the initial purchase of the gate, we figure it has earned a spot on our list. This baby gate is JMPA certified and features a squeeze lever that’s easy for you to open with one hand, but too difficult for your child to finagle. A huge perk of this product is that the mounting kit used to install this gate to your banister won’t damage or mark up your wood; there’s no drilling required.
Width: 34 – 55″
Best Affordable Baby Gates
Admittedly, you will get what you pay for in a baby gate. But, if you’re on a strict budget, or just want something affordable to block off a room or two, we’ve got you covered.
This classic design is super easy to install, adjust, and remove when needed. Rubber bumpers on each side serve to protect your walls against damage, and as long as you face the locking bar away from your child, they’ll be hard pressed to pull this gate off the wall. A drawback is that you have to either remove or step over the gate when passing from room to room, but if security and affordability are what you’re going for, this gate is a go.
Width: 26 – 42″
At under $20, this gate is similar in style to the Evenflo listed above. It is pressure mounted, so it installs easily and requires no tools, and you secure it with a lock bar. You’ll have to step over this gate to move through doorways, which is certainly a con, but it is a secure and safe barrier for your home.
Width: 27″ – 42″
With so many baby gates on the market, you are certain to find one that meets your needs. Remember to frequently check your gates to make sure that they remain secure through every tantrum and barrel roll your little one will throw at it. And they will throw a lot at it. Just remember, even though baby gates can be a nuisance, one day you will have a teenager and you will think back to those baby barriers and wonder if teenage-proof gates are a thing. For the record, they’re not, so enjoy these sweet baby years while you have them. Or slip through the gate and sneak that chocolate chip cookie. We don’t judge here.