A baby gate is an important safety product that keeps wandering toddlers from getting themselves into a pickle. There are many versions available on the market but not all are best suited for your needs. Below, we provide six expert tips to help you choose the perfect baby gate for your family.
What baby gate safety features are most important?
- Look for JPMA certification.
Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association places a seal on all baby products that are certified. This means the product has been tested by an independent, third party facility and has been found to meet the guidelines set by ASTM International. ASTM International was previously known as the American Society for Testing and Materials and is an organization that creates and distributes technical standards for a wide variety of products.
- Understand safety standards and check the openings.
ASTM International gets specific with standards and addresses issues that include the bottom spacing of a baby gate. When standards are met, the gap between the bottom of the gate and the floor should be less than three inches to avoid the risk of your baby’s head or torso becoming stuck. In addition, the baby gate slots should also maintain three inch spacing, to prevent little arms and legs from becoming lodged.
- Avoid using certain gate styles.
Accordion-style gates with missing top filler bars and gates that have horizontal slats (which can be used as stepping stools) present hazards for your baby. If you are looking to purchase a baby gate with mesh panels, be sure to only choose a fine weave – anything too wide-holed could trap your baby’s fingers and toes and could provide a foothold for your baby to climb.
How tall does a baby gate need to be?
Your baby gate, according to ASTM International standards, should be at the very least 22 inches tall. However, this is a standard guideline and you should consider your baby’s height to reduce the risk of him or her being able to climb over the gate.
As your baby grows taller, adjust your baby gate product. Always look for a gate that at minimum matches your baby’s height; however, once your child reaches ages two or three, you likely will not require a baby gate any longer.
How to choose baby gate materials?
Baby gates are made from several materials:
Some plastic options may include chemicals and other toxins that are not safe for your baby. To avoid purchasing a product like this, look for labels advising it is PVC-free of polyvinyl chloride.
Wood is a popular choice for many reasons, including its lighter weight and forgiving edges if/when your toddler bumps into it. However, an unfinished wooden gate is also ideal when you want to stain or paint it to match your existing interior décor.
Metal gates are the safest, most durable, and sturdy material used for baby gates. They can be placed anywhere and if your interior décor is minimalistic or industrial, a metal gate will fit right in.
What are the different types of baby gates?
- Pressure-mounted baby gate.
This baby gate style is super easy to install – you just place it within a door frame or between two walls and it is kept in place by pressure. This is a great option when you need a mobile baby gate you can quickly grab and move to another room. However, it is important to understand that since this gate style is not attached to the wall or door frame, it is not completely secure. To offset this issue, only use this style of baby gate in locations where falls are unlikely and never, ever place this style baby gate at the top of your stairs.
- Hardware-mounted baby gate.
This gate style is anchored to your walls with either brackets or screws, which means you can trust its security – this style won’t shift when your baby knocks into it. This is the safer of the two options and should be used in spaces where falls are likely. The top of the stairs should be equipped with a hardware-mounted baby gate.
How to choose baby gate colors?
Some gate materials may not offer the aesthetic appeal you’re looking for, but you do have some options to fix this. Unfinished wood can be customized to fit your décor with a little paint or your favorite stain and while you’ll notice many gates have neutral colors, there are styles that incorporate color. Colored metal, for example, can provide you with a safe, sturdy gate that also serves as an accent piece to complement your overall color scheme.
How to choose the right baby gate latch?
Some baby gates are equipped with dual-action latches, which means you have to push down with one hand before being able to release it. Other styles have pressure-release handles that can be lifted with one hand to open. Some gates incorporate extra safety features, like an indicator panel that clearly identifies when the baby gate is securely latched. You can test out various baby gate latches in store – when choosing the right latch for you, make sure it is easily opened by non-baby members of your household, but isn’t easy for your baby to wiggle and figure out.
Understanding safety standards is the single most important aspect of choosing the right baby gate for your needs. With a set of guidelines in mind, you can move on to deciding which gate type you’ll need.
Finally, when you bring your new baby gate home, take all the time you need to follow installation instructions to avoid creating hazards. And don’t forget, lock your new baby gate every time you leave the room!