Baby gates are a must-have if you have an active baby in your house. They corral your baby into areas that are safe for him to explore and also prevent him from wandering into unsafe parts of your home. If you're tempted to keep using the baby gate as your child grows into a preschooler, you might want to reconsider. Yes, the gates make your life easier, but they may outlive their safety benefits before you're ready to give them up.
Function and Types
The primary purpose of a baby gate is to keep your baby away from areas of your home that are potentially dangerous. You might also use a baby gate to keep your child within a certain area of the home that you've babyproofed. Purchase a new baby gate that has the safety qualifications listed on the box. Opt for a gate that has a straight top edge with bars or a mesh screen and that mounts to your doorways with hardware, which helps prevent the gate from getting pushed over. Pass on used gates, unless they come with their original packaging so that you know whether they've been deemed safe or not.
When to Use
Once your baby becomes mobile, you'll want to start using baby gates. A crawling or walking baby can get into so many area of your home, and most babies try to take full advantage of this. Put a baby gate at the top and bottom of all stairs to prevent falls. Install a gate in the doorway of certain rooms in your home, too. Because the bathroom contains many potential hazards, such as the toilet and electrical cords from curling irons and hair dryers, you may want to use a gate to keep your baby out. A gate in the doorway of the kitchen is also a good idea. If you want your baby to stay in his bedroom or the living room while playing, put up a gate to keep him interested in other things aside from making a big escape.
Taking Down the Gates
If you notice your child trying to scale the baby gate to get to the other side, it's probably time to take the gate down. Climbing over a gate, especially if it's at the top of the stairs, is more dangerous than removing the gate altogether. If your savvy child has figured out how to take the gate down or open it on his own, that's another sign that you should do away with it. According to KidsHealth.org, you should stop using the gate entirely when your child is about 2 years old.
Tips and Considerations
Never use gates that swing out at the top of your stairs, and make sure that pressure-mounted gates are put up with the release bar facing away from the room your child is in. Choose a gate that is no less than three-quarters of your child's height, which helps prevent him from climbing over. Keep large toys and furniture away from the gate so your child isn't tempted to use these objects to crawl over.