Once your baby starts crawling, strategically placed gates can make your life a little easier--and your child a lot safer by keeping him away from potential dangers, such as stairs. You can also use a gate to keep your child and pet separated.
Child safety gates are intended for children between 6 months and 2 years of age. Once a child learns how to open a gate, or can climb over it, it should no longer be relied upon as a safety device.
Gates we have tested have various designs to prevent children from opening them while allowing them to be opened and closed by adults. But we don't have Ratings for safety gates that are currently available.
There are two basic types of gates:
- Hardware-mounted gates are bolted to framing inside the walls of your home. They're appropriate where there's a chance of your child falling, such as the top of a stairway, whether indoors or out.
- Pressure-mounted gates simply press on opposing walls. They should be used only where falling isn't a hazard, such as between two rooms or to discourage your little explorer from climbing up stairs. Pressure-mounted gates are not secure enough to use at the top of stairs, so never use them that way, no matter how much you want to avoid drilling holes into your walls. Avoid accordion-style gates without a top filler bar and gates with horizontal slats or tempting footholds.
Whether you choose a hardware- or pressure-mounted safety gate, look for one that's certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. A sticker from the JPMA on the frame or packaging indicates that the manufacturer claims to have met international voluntary safety standards for the gate. The standards address a variety of safety and performance issues, including the strength of the components, the size of the openings (to prevent finger or toe entrapment), and the integrity of the latch. It specifies that the gate should be no less than 22 inches tall, and that the distance between the bottom of the gate and the floor should be less than 3 inches, so that a small torso can't pass through and there's minimal risk of a head or neck getting stuck.
The following brands of gates bear the JPMA seal: Cardinal Gates, Dorel Juvenile Group (Safety 1st), Evenflo, GMI, KidCo, Lascal/Regal Lager, Munchkin, Inc., North States Industries, Regalo International, Retract-A-Gate/ Creative Frontier, Summer Infant Products, Tee-Zed Products (Dream Baby), and TOMY International (formerly RC2/Learning Curve). About half of all injuries associated with safety gates involve adults who trip or fall when trying to step or jump over one. Pressure-mounted gates also have a threshold at the bottom that poses a tripping hazard. Make sure any gate you buy is easy for you to open so you won't be tempted to climb over it.
You can find gates like the North States Supergate Classic for about $15, an EvenFlo Position & Lock Wood Safety Gate for about $20, and a Munchkin Loft Dark Wood Infant Safety Gate for about $100.