How to choose and use the best baby safety gate

When babyproofing your home, one of the most important items you may purchase is a gate. Baby safety gates are good for either keeping children within a room or preventing them from having access to a dangerous part of the house, perhaps a stairway or bathroom. Don’t put babyproofing off. The time to babyproof comes faster than you think. By the time your baby is rolling around and sitting up, it’s time to start looking for that gate and getting it installed.

Types of Gates

There are two basic types of safety gates. One requires mounting it in place, usually between two walls or within a doorway. The other requires pressure to keep it in place. Gates that require mounting in place with hardware are typically more costly, but also tend to be sturdier than their pressure-use counterparts.

Determine Your Needs

When you look for a baby safety gate, think about your needs first. Do you need a gate that will allow easy adult and big kid access? Perhaps a gate that swings open will do the trick. Few mounted gates swing open, so you may have to pick a pressure gate if you need the swing open option.

Do you carry your baby around a lot? Look for a gate with a one-hand release to open the gate mechanism. If the gate is for a hallway (rather than a staircase), you may like a dual swinging option. This allows you to open the gate in either direction.

Once you determine where you need the gate, take measurements. It’s essential that you find a gate that will work with those measurements. You want it to fit in the space properly or the gate may become a hazard rather than a form of protection. Don’t forget to look at the height of the gate. If your child is pulling herself up, you don’t want her to be able to reach over the gate.

Standards

Safety standards are voluntary. This means that manufacturers are not required to fabricate gates with certain safety features. Look for the ASTM/JPMA certification seal. The seal indicates that the gate was manufactured with those voluntary safety standards. Look at each gate; a manufacturer may create only some of its gate lines with these standards.

Gate Basics

If the gate has slats, make sure they are close together. Slats that are farther than two or so inches apart pose a hazard to small children. Installation kits are available to help you mount the gate in a number of ways while still ensuring the best fit. There are also extension kits available for those larger spaces. Don’t want to ruin your home decor? Don’t worry you’ll be able to find gates in several different materials, from soft mesh to metal to wood, to complement your home.

Hazards

Unfortunately, the very item you purchase to protect your baby can be a hazard if not utilized properly. If the gate is not mounted properly adults may trip or babies may topple over. Accordion-type gates may pinch little fingers and sometimes provide footholds for your child to climb up. If you opt for the soft mesh gates, make sure the mesh squares are no larger than one square inch. You don’t want to provide your child with a foothold of any sort.

Nothing is Foolproof

Do not rely on a gate to monitor children. There should always be supervision regardless of any childproofing devices you have in place. Gates are a great tool, but they are only as vigilant as you are. You need to ensure they are mounted properly, that you always close the gate behind you and that no objects are nearby that can be used to climb over the gate and render it useless.

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