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Every parent anxiously waits for the day that their 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 might need to protect your baby from serious dangers like stairs or easy access to exterior doors. (In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics categorizes stairs as one of the top 10 causes of injury in small children.) When you reach this point in parenting, it’s time to invest in a good set of baby gates.
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.
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 ideal for blocking off stairways. However, these baby gates will leave marks at the installation site.
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 ideal for doorways and won’t leave marks — but they’re not ideal 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 ideal for when your baby is very young. These gates are great for creating a penned off 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
- 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.
- $ = under $50
- $$ = $50 – $80
- $$$ = over $80
Best baby gate for stairs
This gate is a favorite for parents 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 wide.
Some reviewers don’t like that the hardware mounting is plastic, but many praise the gate’s durability.
Best budget-friendly baby gates
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 the pressure-mounted rubber bumpers and fits door frames and halls from 36 to 42 inches wide.
Some parents dislike the fact that it’s challenging to securely lock this gate into place.
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 inches.
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
This gate is perfect for when you need a temporary barrier to keep little ones from wandering into dangerous areas. This gate is 33 inches tall and can extend up to 71 inches 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 ideal if you have a little climber on your hands.
Best baby gate for wide doorways
If you prefer a pressure-mounted baby gate and have wide doorways, this one’s for you. It fits in halls and doorways ranging from 29 1/2 to 50 inches wide and clicks into place once securely installed. It’s also 32 inches tall to deter little ones from climbing.
Best baby enclosure
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 ideal 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 inches 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
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-inch extension kit to fit openings 29 to 34 and 35 to 38 1/2 inches 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.
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 inches. Plus the pressure-mount design makes this baby gate easy to install.
Most versatile baby gates
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.
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 inches 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.