Make It Fit
Nearly every baby gate out there is adjustable or expandable. This should make finding the perfect fit easy, but it can actually make things trickier. You need to consider both the width and height of the baby gate as well as the type of door frame or other opening that you’re looking to block. Avoid common pitfalls by measuring your opening before purchase and thoroughly reading the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you’re using a pressure-mounted baby gate, be aware that many appear to be warped or curved, which makes some parents fear the gate is faulty. This is an intentional design feature, though, and it ensures a proper, solid tension fit. To install retractable baby gates on banisters, hollow walls, or iron railings, purchase a special gate installation kit to ensure a safe, sturdy fit.
Measure the Slats
You don’t want little arms and legs (or heads) getting stuck in between the bars of your safety gate. Make sure the slats on your gate are less than three inches apart. This should prohibit most children from sticking their necks (or other body parts) out. You can avoid this concern altogether by purchasing a gate without slats, like our number three pick above.
And don’t forget about your four-legged family members. Pets can also get stuck in an opening between slats, so keep their heads and legs in mind when measuring as well. Beware of unusual spaces in decorative baby gates, like those on our number six pick (see comparison table). Users of this gate report rambunctious puppies and kitties getting their heads stuck in the bottom of the gate where the bars stop.
Test It Out
Sometimes there’s no way to know how something’s going to work out until you give it a try. Before you leave your baby to play near a safety gate, give it a thorough once-over to ensure everything is working properly—especially if you’re using it as a fireplace safety gate or Christmas tree gate.
After the gate is installed, test how sturdy it is. You want it to remain firmly in place no matter how much pressure your child places on it. Check all locks and latches to make sure they work correctly. If you have older children in the home, teach them how to properly lock and unlock the gate so that no one accidentally leaves it open. If your gate has a self-locking latch, test it to make sure it securely locks each time.
Watch Which Way It Swings
Many baby gates include walk-through doorways that can swing both ways. This makes it easy for grownups to seamlessly move from room to room, but it can present a hazard for babies and toddlers—especially if the gate is used by stairs. Gates placed at the top of stairs should only swing away from the stairs, toward you as you approach and open the gate. Child stair gates that swing out over the stairs can lead to an accidental spill if your little one somehow gets the gate open.
If you have a baby gate with a walk-through door that swings both ways, make sure you can lock it into the appropriate swinging position before placing it atop the staircase. To be extra safe, only place gates with doors that swing one way at the top of stairs.
Baby Gate Safety Tip
Never let your child watch you step over the baby safety gate. Little ones love to copy us, and this is an open invitation for them to plot an escape. Avoid putting risky ideas into your baby’s head by using the walk-through gate or opening the gate every time you pass through under their watchful eyes.