When it's time for your baby to become mobile, install baby gates to keep him safe from a tumble down the stairs or out from a room he shouldn't access. Choosing the right baby gate depends on several factors including your child’s age, mobility, the area you want the baby gate to be and your personal design style. A variety of baby gates exist, and with a bit preparation and time, you will find the right baby gate for your needs.
Measure the opening where you want to place the baby gate. Standard baby gates fit openings of up to 45 inches wide, but specialty gates with extension packs can fit openings of almost any width. Measure from wall to wall in two locations: floor level and at the top desired height of the baby gate. Some openings aren't completely even, so you might need a gate with adjustable knobs to accommodate the different measurements along the opening.
Decide what type of gate you want and need. Two basic child safety gate configurations exist: pressure-mounted and hardware gates. A pressure-mounted gate uses tension to hold the gate in place while a hardware gate installs into the wall. Pressure-mounted gates are easily moved and stored but should only be used for an opening that is level on both sides, such as the entrance to a bedroom or kitchen. Hardware gates are semi-permanent and are not easily moved or stored. These gates work well at the top of stairs and when there are different levels on each side of the gate because they are sturdier and less likely to dislodge by accident.
Check the gate label for certification by the American Society for Testing and Materials or the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. These certifications indicate the gate meets safety standards regarding the strength of material, gate height, space between bars or slats, and hardware integrity.
Measure the distance from the bottom of the gate to the floor. The gate should have no more than 2 inches of open space between the bottom of the gate and the floor to prevent a small child’s hand, head or torso from becoming lodged under the gate. The top of the gate should be at least 22 inches up from the ground, according to the Consumer Reports website.
Choose a mesh screen gate or one with sturdy vertical slats with no more than 2 3/8 inches between slats, according to KidsHealth.org. Avoid gates with horizontal bars or similar designs to prevent your child from placing a foot on the bars to climb over the gate.
Test the gate's opening mechanism to ensure you are able to open the gate easily, but that it is sturdy enough to prevent an inquisitive toddler from opening the gate.