family & parenting

Choosing Safety Gates Safeguard Your Toddlers

By Rebecca Wicks

When it comes to protecting your child from hazards in your home it’s best to know what you need and implement the best safeguards possible. From baby gates to electrical outlet covers, every parent knows baby-proofing is imperative, but with a bevy of options from a slew of manufacturers and retailers making a selection can seem daunting.

The safety gate may be one of the most important products a parent will use. The following information will help you wade through the many options to find the right choice for you, your home and your little one.

Baby gates: when and where
Baby gates should be installed as soon as your child can crawl. This is vitally important if you have a staircase in your home. Your baby may seem slow now, but she will be able to speed around soon enough. Think about where you don’t want your baby to go for example, down steps, in an office full of wires or to a bedroom that leads into a bathroom.

There are baby gates designed to block all types and lengths of areas from fireplaces and wide stairwell bottoms to large entryways. Some need hardware mounted in more than two areas for security.

Pressure-mounted versus hardware-mounted gates
There are two main types of safety gates – the pressure-mounted gate and the hardware-mounted gate.

The first is the most common and requires essentially no installation. The pressure-mounted style essentially wedges between the door frame so the padded or rubbery pieces on the side press against the door frame or wall. They typically have two sliding panels that adjust to fit the opening and have a pressure bar or locking mechanism that holds the gate in place. This type of gate is generally inexpensive and portable. Of the two types of gates, pressure-mounted are the least sturdy, and are better suited for areas such as between rooms where falling is not a concern.

The hardware-mounted gate is installed by using hardware – usually a series of screws or brackets – to secure the gate in place. Because of this, it becomes a fixed and non-portable solution. They take time to install and will leave holes in your wall or doorframe when you take the gate down. This type of gate is the safest option by far and is recommended for higher danger areas such as the top of a staircase.

Materials and types of closures
Safety gates come in wood, plastic and metal. Metal is most likely the sturdiest choice and is the best choice for the top of a staircase. Wood gates which are generally pressure-mounted style products, are inexpensive and can be moved around the home when different needs arise. For example, a wood gate may be a good choice for grandparents who may not have a baby in the home regularly and don’t want to permanently block doorways. Wood gates may also work fine for the bottom of a staircase.

Always check the construction and make sure wood finishes are smooth. Do not purchase gates with horizontal slates.

Most pressure-mounted gates do not have a walk-through passages and require an adult to step over or remove the gate to pass. There are some models that offer a gate door that swings open. Many metal and plastic model gates offer a swing-away door for adults to walk through. While these swing-away doors are handy, it is not uncommon that older babies and toddlers figure out how to open these.