With an active baby on the loose, a gate or two can make your life a little easier and your child a lot safer by keeping him away from potential dangers, such as stairs or a bustling kitchen. You can also use a gate to keep a pet away from a child and vice versa. Child safety gates are intended for children between 6 months and 24 months. All the gates we tested can be opened and closed by an adult but have various designs to prevent children from opening them. Child safety gates come in two basic types, based on the method of installation: Hardware-mounted, or permanent, gates and pressure-mounted gates.
Whether you choose a hardware- or pressure-mounted gate, look for one that's Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certified. Situated on the frame or packaging should be a certification sticker showing that the gate meets the ASTM International voluntary safety standard, and that its manufacturer participates in the certification program administered by the JPMA.
The ASTM standard addresses issues such as the bottom spacing—the distance between the bottom of the gate and the floor—so a small torso can't pass through and there's minimal risk of head and neck entrapment, gate height (not less than 22 inches), strength of top rails, slats, and framing components, latching mechanism integrity, and upper-edge configuration—any openings more than 2/3 of an inch deep can be no wider than 1 1/2 inches. The following brands of gates bear the JPMA seal: Cardinal Gates, Dorel Juvenile Group (Safety 1st), Evenflo, GMI, KidCo, Kolcraft, Lascal/Regal Lager, Learning Curve (The First Years), North States Industries, Regalo International, Retract-A-Gate/The Creative Frontier, Summer Infant Products, and Tee-Zed Products (Dream Baby).
Install the gate according to the manufacturer's directions.
Never use a pressure-mounted gate or the pressure-mount option on a gate that can be installed either way at the top of stairs—no matter how much you want to avoid drilling holes into your woodwork. Choose a gate with a straight top edge and closely spaced, rigid vertical slats or a mesh screen.
Avoid accordion-style gates without a top filler bar (with open points at the top) and gates with horizontal slats or similarly tempting footholds. If you choose a model with mesh panels, look for a fine weave—wide-holed mesh may provide a foothold for climbing or could trap fingers. Follow the safety recommendations for installing and using gates and use our Ratings below as a buying guideline.
Use safety gates to childproof other people's homes
A pressure-mounted gate or two is an easy way to make a hotel room or a relative's home more child friendly. When traveling with a baby or toddler and visiting friends, grandparents, or other relatives, install a pressure-mounted gate at the bottom of stairs and between rooms you consider unsafe, like the living room with a fire roaring in the fireplace or the kitchen when people are busy cooking. Also keep bathroom doors securely closed or blocked off with a gate.
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