How to Choose a Safety Gate

An active baby is a blessing - and one that must be guarded. One of the best ways to keep your baby safe when he or she becomes mobile is to install baby gates in your home. These gates not only protect your child from tumbling downstairs but also can keep your child out from underfoot when you’re cooking or cleaning. They also serve as a pet gate, protecting your overly enthusiastic child from your pet—and vice versa—and can work as a pet gate for years to come, allowing you to cordon off pet-free areas. To ensure that your gate offers the best protection, think about where you’ll use it and choose one that specifically addresses the potential dangers found in that area.






Types of gates:

Pressure-mounted gates

These are the most flexible of the child safety gates because they’re removable and can be put up and taken down in a matter of seconds. They’re also usually the most inexpensive. Because they’re pressure mounted, there’s no drilling required, meaning they won’t require repair work for your walls or doors. Some parents feel that a pressure-mounted gate isn’t as secure as a hardware-mounted gate, and keep in mind that they should never be installed at the top of stairs. If a pressure-mounted gate appeals to you, look for no-mar rubber bumpers to protect your doorway from damage.

Hardware-mounted gates






This baby safety gate is for installation at the top of stairs and offers a sense of security that comes with the knowledge that it’s permanently attached to the wall. This also means, of course, that it requires installation, and when you’re finished using it, you’ll have to repair the areas that were damaged by the gate’s installation.

Walk-through gates

A walk-through gate combines baby safety with easy operation, which makes it ideal for heavy traffic areas. Look for models that provide a one-handed operation to keep the other hand free for baby, grocery bag, or a laundry basket.

Freestanding gates

Freestanding gates are a great solution for the yard or a large open area of your home. These large enclosures offer children plenty of space to play but keep them safely away from a lawnmower, active pet, or pool.

Features to consider:

  • Expansion. Because doorways are built in different sizes, a gate with the ability to expand or contract based on the size of your doorway makes it more adaptable. You can also buy expansion kits for some gates.


  • Two-way swing gate. Hardware-mounted gates that can swing either toward you or away from you give you flexibility. You want a product that’s easy for you to operate and nearly impossible for your child to operate.


  • Clear views. Choose a gate that has clear plastic, mesh, or slats so you can clearly see your child on the other side. One word of caution: If your gate has plastic, it may be difficult to keep up with the smudges that can mar the surface.


  • Construction. Look for a wooden gate that’s sturdily built and a plastic gate with heavy-duty construction. Ensure that the edges and surfaces are smooth to protect your child’s hands.





  • Dimensions. Make sure you measure your doorway before you shop so you know you’re getting a good fit.


  • Seal of approval. Whatever type of gate you select, make sure that it was manufactured after 1985, meets or exceeds safety standards and is JPMA-certified.


  • Vertical slats. If you choose a gate with slats, make sure they’re vertical. Horizontal slats can give your child a foothold to climb, which is very dangerous.


  • Expanded sizes. If you want the flexibility of using the gate for years to come, select an extra tall baby gate—typically found in a freestanding model—that can contain older children. And an extra wide baby gate is ideal for larger openings in your home.

The Bottom Line

Safety gates are an important aspect of keeping your child safe as soon as he or she becomes mobile. Select the type of baby gate that’s appropriate for the area you want to block, making sure it’s easy for you to use and difficult for your child to disturb.


Our Mom Expert





Caron Webber, 37, is the mother of five children, ages 2 to 12.

“We have two sets of stairs in our house, and we chose to purchase pressure-mounted gates. This requires extra vigilance at the top of the stairs, of course, but the trade-off is that after my toddler is safely in his crib for the night, I can take the gates down and not have to worry about dodging gates on the stairs.”

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