When you have a baby, safety is priority No. 1. As you babyproof your house, finding the best baby gates is definitely a must. Baby gates are designed to section off spaces or rooms to prevent babies and toddlers from getting into dangerous places, like staircases and kitchens. Statistics show more than 3 million children experience an unintentional household injury every year, ranging from steam and hot-liquid burns to falls and poisonings.
Parents usually start installing gates when baby reaches 6 months, since this is typically when babies are on the move and ready to explore like Dora. But if baby is on the go sooner, then you’ll want to start looking for the best baby gates earlier. Some children are savvy enough to open and close baby gates at age 2, so many parents go gateless at this point. Remember, children develop at different rates, so use your discretion when deciding what works best for your home.
Types of Baby Gates
Baby gates are anything but child’s play. As you shop for the best baby gates, you’ll discover that there are several types, each with its own pros and cons. When making your purchase, there are several factors to consider. There are plastic, metal and wooden baby gates, to name just a few of the materials available. When you’re searching for the best baby gates, consider where you’ll be using the gate before deciding on the mounting style. For stairs and other uneven surfaces, a wall-mounted gate is your best bet. If you’re using the gate on a flat surface like a doorway and want something easy to remove, a pressure-mounted baby gate will work well.
- Hardware-Mounted Baby Gates. Hardware-mounted baby gates are securely attached into the framing of the walls of your home. There’s a bracket that’s installed into either a doorframe or the frame behind the walls to secure the gate in place so that it won’t fall over. Avoid just screwing the baby-gate mount into the drywall or plaster alone, because that won’t guarantee stability. Statistics show that every six minutes a child in the US is treated for a stairs-related injury, so it makes sense to find the most secure option available. Hardware-mounted styles are recommended as the best baby gates for stairs, because when installed properly the risk of them toppling over is much smaller than pressure-mounted ones.
- Pressure-Mounted Baby Gate. Pressure-mounted baby gates use an expandable spring system to lock the gate into place by squeezing it between two walls or other surfaces, creating pressure to hold it in place. There are usually rubber pieces on both sides that help to secure the gate in place and protect your walls. When you’re looking for the best baby gates, even the best pressure-mounted model is not recommended for staircases of any type because the gate could topple over if not secured properly. Rather, pressure-mounted baby gates are best suited for areas that are level and flat, like doorways.
Whichever style you choose, be sure to check with the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to make sure that the best baby gates you buy are certified for safety. This site, as well as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, can also let you know if there are any product recalls.
Best Baby Gates for Stairs & Doorways
The average door height is 6 feet 8 inches, and the most common width for a doorway is 32 inches, so use these dimensions as guidelines when you’re searching for the best baby gates for regular doorways. When in doubt, always measure your doorway or staircase opening so you know exactly what size baby gate you need to ensure a snug and secure fit. A baby gate that your ambitious toddler can climb over or around would be pretty useless, right?
Best Baby Gate for Stairs With Banisters
Width: 24ʺ to 43.5ʺ
Not all banisters are created equal, which is why this KidCo gate is one of the best baby gates for stairs with banisters. If it doesn’t work on your staircase with all the bells and whistles it already comes with, you can buy an additional gate installation kit to customize the gate to fit just about any banister. This baby gate also has a directional stop so it won’t swing past the stairs, making it one of the best baby gates for stairs on the market now.
KidCo Top of Stairs Gate, $42, Amazon.com
Best Top-of-Stairs Baby Gate
Width: 29ʺ to 42ʺ
This hardware-mounted baby gate is perfect for the top of stairs with its four-point mount and door swing control (which you can set to swing one way or both). It’s easy to install, sturdy, extra tall and expandable up to four feet, so it will definitely give you the coverage you need. And it comes in an unobtrusive light wood finish. This baby gate even comes complete with a red/green lock indicator, so you don’t have to guess whether the gate is locked or not. Red means locked and safe; green means unlocked and keep baby away.
Evenflo Easy Walk Thru Top of Stairs Gate, $40, Babies R Us
Best Baby Gate for Bottom of Stairs
Width: 26ʺ to 40ʺ
When you’re talking about the best baby gates for stairs, remember that the bottom of the staircase is an enticing prospect for any new crawler or walker. The auto-lock feature makes this Cardinal model, available in classic black or white aluminum, one of the best baby gates for stairs–just swing the gate shut and it closes automatically with a satisfying click that tells you the area is safe and secure.
Cardinal Gates Auto Lock Gates, $55, Amazon.com
Best Pressure-Mounted Baby Gate
Width: 28ʺ to 38.5ʺ
Although a pressure-mounted baby gate is a no-go for stairs, it is a great choice if you want to keep babies out of a room like an office or a kitchen without damaging your walls with drill holes. The double-locking system on this baby gate means you can open and close with just one hand–an added bonus for all the multitasking mamas out there.
North States Easy Close Triple Lock Gate, $60, Walmart.com
Best Hardware-Mounted Baby Gate for Doorways
Width: 28ʺ to 48ʺ
Have only one hand free? No problem. Made of sturdy steel and available in two colors, this North States Easy Swing & Lock Gate has a safety latch design that lets you open and close the gate with one hand and self-locks after you pass through, ensuring a safe, secure space for baby. And since it is a hardware-mounted baby gate, it can also be used for stairs if needed. Sounds like a win-win to us!
North States Easy Swing & Lock Gate, $38, Amazon.com
Best Baby Gate for Wide Opening
Width: 29ʺ to 52ʺ
Size matters when you have wide doorways and rooms but still want to keep baby safe. You can still find the best baby gates; you just need to look closely at the width specifications. This best baby gate for a wide opening from Regalo, made of steel and available in black or white, can be pressure mounted or hardware mounted and expands to 52 inches. That’s a whole lot of coverage!
Regalo Extra Wide Baby Gate, $40, Target.com
Best Tall Baby Gate
Width: 28ʺ to 48ʺ
Some parents look for an extra-tall gate so they don’t have to bend down as much when opening and closing. This model from Summer Infant ranks among the best baby gates because it not only can be pressure or hardware mounted but also has a removable door stopper that prevents the gate from swinging open toward the staircase. All these options mean you can choose to use it between level rooms or near stairs.
Summer Infant Multi-Use Deco Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate, $56, Amazon.com
Best Retractable Baby Gate
Height: 30” Width: 50”
This fully retractable gate gets out of your way when you don’t need it—like, when baby is safely asleep and you and your spouse want to veg in front of the TV without feeling as if you’re in a giant playpen. Works for stairs doors and any opening up to 50-inches wide. Bonus: It has as a tasteful silver satin finish so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, even when you have it up.
Buy it: Summer Infant Retractable Baby Gate, $73, Jet.com
Best Design-Forward Baby Gate
Height: 30.5” Width: 40”
Stylishly fashioned out of sleek aluminum, you could put up this hip swing gate in an industrial-chic loft and people will simply assume it’s part of the design. Besides form, it’s got function too. A quick-release wall mount allows you to put it away when you have grown-up guests over, and put it right back up when someone suddenly shows up with their kid. You can station it across openings 26.5 to 40 inches wide virtually anywhere in the house, thanks to its integrated tuning system that abuts snugly to any wall, even when it’s not level.
Buy it: Munchkin Loft Aluminum Gate, $122, HomeDepot.com
Best Baby Gate for Irregular Spaces
Height: 32” Width: 141”
You can mark off a good span of adults-only territory (or baby playspace, depending on how you look at it) with this extra-wide baby gate. Easy-to-angulate panels adjust up to 141 inches, so you can easily fence open kitchens and double-wide staircases. Parent reviewers love the less-than-30-minute set-up and easy-on-the-eyes grey mesh; they’ve noted how sturdy it is, especially considering the price.
**Buy it: Summer Infant Extra Wide Baby Gage and Playard, $63, Walmart.com
Best Transparent Baby Gate
Height: 34” Width: 37” (48” with extensions)
If you’re a fan of the Philippe Starck ghost chair, then this see-through pressure-mounted baby gate may be right up your alley. Its transparency is not only stylish, it’s practical too, lending an unobstructed view of what baby is up to. High-grade acrylic holds up to the rowdiest of tots and a special indicator let’s you know at a glance that the gate is securely latched. Last but certainly not least, a glow-in-the-dark strip prevents sleep-deprived parents from accidental collisions (because we’ve all been there).
Buy it: Qdos Crystal Pressure-Mount Baby Gate, $160, RegalLager.com
Updated October 2017