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Baby Gates

Once your baby stars walking, at about 6-8 months old, you'll find that a baby safety gate can offer peace of mind when it comes to stairs and rooms that are "off limits." The standards are few on these items: They can be pressure-mounted (to avoid screwing them into the wall), swing both ways and, of course, they lock. Look around a bit more and you might find see-through gates made with a variety of materials from plastic to nylon, gates armed with "memory" locks (so you only have to adjust the gate to the door's width once) and "no-climb" construction that's free of footholds or handholds for little climbers. (Note: Pressure-mounted gates are not safe for the top of stairs.) There are four general kinds of gates. Each is designed to accommodate a different function and location, so you're sure to find one that's appropriate for your child.

Types of Gates

Pressure Mounted Gates

  • Suitable for use at the bottom of stairs or between rooms
  • Panels slide apart to fit the doorway or opening, a locking mechanism uses pressure to secure the gate in place
  • Pressure mounted gates should never be used at the top of a stairway

Hardware Mounted Gates

  • Must be used at the top of stairs; also ideal for window openings
  • Mounted with screws directly into the wall for added strength


Walk-Through Gates

  • Good choice for high-traffic areas
  • One-hand release allows adult to swing the gate open in either direction


Free-Standing Gates or Enclosures

  • Multiple panels attach to each other to enclose a safe play space for your child
  • On some models, every other panel opens like a gate


Real life story: "Wall-mounted (screw-in) gates are the best because they adjust to fit properly, even with uneven walls or after a house settles," says Heather Shears, a Fredericton, NB, mom of three.

Another real life story: What to avoid? Gates made with steel tubes with a nylon-and-mesh panel, says Sandra Maxwell, a mother of two in Grimsby, Ont. "I used one in a wide opening, but you had to twist the rods on either side to adjust it," she says. "It was time consuming and a nuisance."

While some parents prefer models that can be unfastened with one hand, leaving one arm to carry a child or load of laundry, Laura McBride, a mother of one from Courtice, Ont., has a different perspective. "I prefer the ones that take two hands to work. I figure if it takes two of my hands to get them open, then it would be pretty hard for a little one."

Additional Features:

Available in a variety of materials, you can chose from wooden, plastic, plastic-coated steel, or soft mesh gates to match your decor. Most gates are washable, portable, and easy to install. For extra safety and convenience, look for the following additional features:
  • One-hand release, allowing you to open and close the gate with one hand
  • Dual-direction swing opening so you can open the gate in either direction without re-installing it SAFETY NOTE: If you're using your gate at the top of a stairway, look for one with a swing-stop mechanism that will prevent the gate from swinging open over the stairs.
  • Expandability that will allow your gate to fit different sized doorways or openings
  • See-through clear plastic or mesh panels so you can have a full view of baby on the other side of the gate
  • Installation kit to make it easier to mount your gate on various surfaces
  • Extension kits - some can enlarge your gate to fit openings up to 13' wide.


Safety Tips:

A safety gate can help keep baby away from danger, but there are some precautions that you should keep in mind when using them. Most importantly, remember that your child should never be left unsupervised.
  • Never install pressure-mounted gates at the top of stairways
  • A gate should never be less than 3/4 of your child's height
  • Always install the bar side away from baby when using gates with expanding pressure bars
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing and anchoring your safety gate
  • Always close the gate behind you
  • Do not use older gates that are not certified for safety. Older safety gates are more likely to present a safety hazard.
  • Gates with vertical slats should have no more than 2 3/8" space between the slats
  • Accordion-style gates, with V- or diamond-shaped openings, must have openings that are less than 1 1/2" wide

Safety gates are a great way to give your child the freedom to develop curiosity and motor function within a safe play space. Add one to your registry - it won't be long before you precious little one begins to explore his surroundings!
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