Baby sitting on the floor. They are looking at the camera. There is a white baby gate behind them.Share on Pinterest

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As a parent or caregiver, you’re likely anxiously awaiting the day that your baby begins to crawl and then walk. But as soon as your little one hits that milestone, there’s a whole new world of babyproofing that’s waiting for you! While you could previously keep your baby corralled in a playpen, now you need to somehow block off entire parts of your home.

And more importantly, you’ll need to protect your baby from dangers like stairs or easy access to exterior doors. Stairs are one of the most common methods of injury in small children.

At 8 to 12 months of age, little ones start to wiggle around and are more mobile. At this stage, it’s time to invest in a good set of baby gates to help prevent your young one from getting injured.

A baby gate is a physical barrier designed to keep your newly mobile little one safe. Install one at the bottom and top of the staircase or in a doorway, for example, and you can block off access to potentially dangerous areas.

It’s important to follow all directions to ensure that you’re using a baby gate safely.

Do I really need one?

While a baby gate isn’t a substitute for supervision, particularly with infants and toddlers, it can be really helpful.

Small children are naturally curious, and there are all sorts of potential risks in homes — even those that have been thoroughly baby-proofed. By blocking off specific areas, like staircases, home offices, bathrooms, or kitchens, you can create spaces in which your child can explore more safely.

In 2019, unintentional fall-related injuries were the leading cause of nonfatal emergency room visits in the United States for children under age 4.

Experts recommend using approved safety gates that attach to the wall at the top and bottom of staircases.

Baby gates come in a range of styles. The type you choose will depend on:

  • your home’s layout
  • your budget
  • whether you’re looking for a permanent gate or one that’s more mobile and can be repositioned around the house

Below are the most common types of baby gates.

Hardware mounted

These types of baby gates are designed to be permanently installed — at least for the duration of your baby’s vulnerable years. These can be mounted in doorways or hallways and are good for blocking off stairways. However, these baby gates will leave marks at the installation site.

Pressure mounted

These are the baby gates that many people are familiar with. They rely on tension between the gate and your walls to create a barrier. These are good for doorways and won’t leave marks — but they’re not good for stairways because they can be pushed out of place.

Stairs-specific baby gates

These types of gates are hardware mounted for a secure installation. But they’re also designed to accommodate banisters and usually don’t feature a step-over rail, which can be a tripping hazard.

Step-over baby gates

As the name implies, these gates are designed for you to easily step over them. They’re best for when your child is small and in the crawling stage.

Freestanding baby gates

Freestanding baby gates are also great for when your baby is very young. These gates are great for creating a separate area. However, just like in the cartoon Rugrats, these aren’t toddler-proof once your child can walk or figure out how to push them out of the way.

Retractable baby gates

If you only need a baby gate for temporary purposes, you’ll prefer something that can be easily moved without taking up a lot of space. Retractable baby gates are usually made from mesh.

Extra-wide baby gates

These types of gates are perfect if you have hallways or door frames that are larger than standard baby gates can accommodate.

Taller baby gates

If you think you’ll need to use a baby gate well past your child’s toddler years, then a taller baby gate is a smart investment. These types of gates are best if you have a little climber on your hands.

To create this guide, we looked at a range of important features, including:

  • ease of installation
  • mounting style
  • locking style
  • size
  • price
  • online reviews

We also prioritized gates that didn’t leave marks or damage but were sturdy enough to stop even the most determined toddler from escaping.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$80
  • $$$ = over $80

Best baby gate for stairs

KidCo Safeway Top of Stair Baby Safety Gate

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: quick-release system makes it easy for adults to use
  • Cons: hardware mounting is made of plastic, which could affect longevity

This gate is a favorite for parents and caregivers who need to cordon off stairs — it’s specifically designed just for that purpose. It’s sturdy due to its hardware mounting that can be used at any angle. It fits stairways (and also doorways and hallways) up to 42 1/2 inches (in.) wide.

Some reviewers don’t like that the hardware mounting is plastic, but many praise the gate’s durability.

Best budget-friendly baby gates

Evenflo Position & Lock Farmhouse Gate

  • Price: $
  • Pros: sturdy design, classic look
  • Con: pressure-mounted system can make it a little challenging to use

Many of us remember growing up with those classic, wooden-style baby gates. This budget gate channels a bit of nostalgia while also offering an easy-to-open push latch feature. It promises not to mar surfaces with pressure-mounted rubber bumpers and fits door frames and halls from 36 to 42 in. wide.

Some parents dislike the fact that it’s challenging to securely lock this gate into place.

North States Supergate Ergo Baby Gate

  • Price: $
  • Pros: pressure-mounted and hardware-mounted options
  • Cons: some reviewers dislike the plastic material

This simple option is quick to install and easy to travel with if using the pressure-mounted option. But for placing it more permanently, it also comes with a hardware-mounted option. It can handle widths ranging from 26 to 42 in.

Some parents complain about the same thing others praise: its plastic material. One pro is that it makes the gate lightweight and portable. But one con is that plastic can be less durable than other materials.

Best retractable baby gate

Perma Outdoor Retractable Baby Gate

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: one-handed operation
  • Cons: may not work well if your child is a climber

This gate is perfect for when you need a temporary barrier to keep little ones from wandering into dangerous areas. This gate is 33 in. tall and can extend up to 71 in. wide. While it’s promoted as an outdoor option because of the UV mesh, it can also be used indoors and features a one-handed operation. It comes with the installation kit to securely mount it.

Still, this is probably best used as an occasional gate for outdoor use under supervision. Some parents note that it’s not great if you have a little climber on your hands.

Best baby gate for wide doorways

North States Quick-Fit Wire Mesh Baby Gate

  • Price: $
  • Pros: accommodate wide doorways, taller profile
  • Cons: no option for wall mounting

If you prefer a pressure-mounted baby gate and have wide doorways, this option is for you. It fits in halls and doorways ranging from 29 1/2 to 50 in. wide and clicks into place once securely installed. It’s also 32 in. tall to deter little ones from climbing.

Best baby enclosure

Evenflo Versatile Play Space

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: creates an entirely enclosed space
  • Cons: not a true baby gate

If you’re looking to create an enclosure, the Evenflo Versatile Play Space is one of the best options. This six-panel design can create 18 1/2 square feet of play space — making it a good option for babies in the crawling and pull-up stage. It has pads to prevent scratches on hard flooring and features one-touch door access on each panel. It’s 28 in. tall and portable for use inside or outside.

While this is an easy enclosure option, remember not to leave little climbers unattended.

Best easy-to-open baby gates

Regalo Easy Step Safety Gate

  • Price: $
  • Pros: includes extension kit to accommodate wide doorways
  • Cons: two hands needed to open latch

If you’re concerned about your little one figuring out how to unlock a baby gate door, you’ll like this one. This pressure-mount baby gate features a very secure latch that requires two hands to open it. It comes with a 6-in. extension kit to fit openings 29 to 34 and 35 to 38 1/2 in. wide as well as the mounting kit.

Some buyers note that you should check the specifications and measure your doorway carefully in order to ensure this gate will fit.

Flalivi Auto Close Safety Baby Gate

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: one-handed design to open
  • Cons: some reviewers report installation issues

Baby gates have a reputation for being difficult to open, but this gate has a two-button system that only requires one hand. It comes with two extensions to accommodate door frames and hallways that range from 29 1/2 to 40 3/5 in. Plus the pressure-mount design makes this baby gate easy to install.

Most versatile baby gates

Regalo Super Wide Gate and Play Yard

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: convertible design makes it really versatile
  • Cons: can be time-consuming to switch it from a play yard to a baby gate

If you want a baby gate that can grow with your needs, you’ll love this Regalo wide gate. It’s convertible — transforming from a play yard to an extra-wide adjustable baby gate. It can also work double duty as a barrier for stairways and fireplaces thanks to the eight panels. And each of the panels is designed to be adjustable, which gives you the freedom to configure it as you like.

Many parents note that reconfiguring the design is more time consuming you might expect since disconnecting and reconnecting the joints takes time.

Toddleroo by North States 3-in-1 Arched Decor Metal Superyard

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: versatile design
  • Cons: some reviewers report that it’s difficult to install

If you don’t want to shop for multiple baby gates, the Toddleroo by North States 3-in-1 Metal Superyard gives you the freedom to transform from a freestanding play yard to a hardware-mounted baby gate. With a total length of 144 in. and six panels, you have the option to close off rooms or create a barrier around hazards with ease.

You do need to use an even number of panels to install it correctly. And speaking of installation — one complaint among reviewers is that it’s difficult to install due to unclear instructions.

Most durable baby gate

Cardinal Gates Stairway Special Safety Gate

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: can be installed on an angle
  • Cons: some reviewers find installation instructions to be a little vague

Cardinal calls this gate their safest yet. It’s made with lightweight but durable aluminum and includes a latch system that adults can open easily with one hand. The gate is available in white, black, or brown powder-coat finish, and it can be installed at an angle of up to 30 degrees.

Another bonus? It can be installed with hardware or pressure mounted.

Best fabric baby gate

The Stair Barrier Baby & Pet Gate

  • Price: $$$
  • Pros: sustainable fabrics, choice of colors, easy installation
  • Cons: some reviewers report that it’s not very easy to roll up

The Stair Barrier is a fabric baby gate designed for use between a stair banister and wall, and it stands out for its creativity in the market. The sustainable fabrics come in a range of colors and designs and roll neatly to the side when not in use. Plus, even the most adept little climbers will find it difficult to climb fabric!

The fabric panel is structurally reinforced for safety and can’t be pulled down or lifted up. However, some parents note that the three dual-sided release buckles can be a little tricky to open.

Best auto-close baby gate

Ciays Safety Baby Gate

  • Price: $$
  • Pros: opens both ways and automatically closes
  • Cons: can’t be hardware mounted

This adjustable-width gate has a few notable features. It opens in both directions and automatically closes securely if it’s been opened less than 90 degrees. If you open it fully, the gate will remain open.

It has an ergonomic handle that operates with one hand, which is a useful feature if you’re holding your baby. Reviewers praise this gate, which they call sturdy and easy to install.

With so many baby gate options, it can be hard to decide on which one is best for your home and your child. But here are a few things to keep in mind so you can make an informed purchase.

Installation style

Which is more important to you: A baby gate that’s easy to install, one that doesn’t leave marks, or one that’s portable? Keep this in mind as some gates are inherently more difficult to install because they require hardware — or must have an even number of panels (for multi-panel convertible play yards) to be effective.

Dimensions

Always check the dimensions where you plan to install a baby gate. Not all baby gates are compatible with certain widths — especially if your home features wider door frames or hallways. Likewise, if you think that your home might have wider walkways, focus on baby gate models that come with expansion panels.

Materials

Although plastic, metal, and mesh tend to be the most popular materials used for baby gates, you need to decide which material is best for you. Keep in mind that although metal is the sturdiest option — especially when hardware mounted — it can also pose a pinch risk for little fingers.

Access style

Some baby gates are designed for you to walk over them while others feature doors with latches. Which do you prefer? And if you opt for a latch door, how easily can you open the door — especially with one hand?

Safety recalls

This consideration is especially important if you “inherit” baby gates from someone else. While any new baby gate bought in a store won’t be under recall, you should always confirm that a used baby gate or play yard isn’t listed by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association or Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.

Your baby

Do you have a determined climber or adventure seeker? If so, even the most capable baby gate might still struggle to corral your child.

While baby gates can help to prevent babies and toddlers from accessing potentially dangerous areas or wandering off, nothing is a substitute for proper supervision. And this is doubly true once your child begins to climb or figures out how to push a play yard gate out of the way.

Price

Baby gates come in a range of prices that will work for any budget. However, keep in mind that multi-panel or convertible style play yards tend to be more expensive. Likewise, models made from metal as opposed to plastic or wood are also going to be more pricey.

When can you stop using baby gates?

There’s no firm timeline for taking down a baby gate. But if your child has learned how to climb over the gate or use the latch to open it, it’s no longer serving its purpose as a safety device and should be taken down.

If your home has stairs, make sure to practice going up and down safely with your child. Remind them that the stairs aren’t a play area, and make sure to supervise.

How do baby gates work?

Baby gates are designed to limit access to certain areas, such as staircases or rooms, by creating a physical barrier. Depending on the design, a baby gate might be pressure mounted or installed with hardware into a doorway or between a stair banister and wall.

How can you install a baby gate without drilling into a wall?

If you want to avoid hardware that’s installed directly into the wall, look for pressure-mounted baby gates. However, if you need a baby gate for a staircase, the safest option is a gate designed to be hardware mounted.

How tall should a baby gate be?

A baby gate should be at least 22 in. in height. Be sure to keep your child’s height in mind while you shop.

Baby gates are a great way to keep curious little ones from injuring themselves or wandering off into areas that lack supervision. However, with so many styles and installation options available, it’s important to pick the model that best fits your budget, lifestyle needs, and your child’s capabilities.