In this review, we check out some of the best baby gates on the market. There are some clever designs out there for surprisingly modest prices. Baby gates simply help you define a boundary for your little one. While they are called baby gates by most people, they actually work for a range of ages of little lovebugs including toddlers and pets. They reduce your stress because you’ll know exactly where your baby or toddler is at all times. You can simultaneously keep them out of mischief and unsafe parts of the house (such as stairs) while creating a safe play area without requiring you to close the door. No matter what type of space you’re working with, there’s a baby gate that will provide you with a first line of defense against scooting, crawling, or walking babies. Some sturdy baby gates double as an excellent pet gate to keep your pet at bay when the dreaded vacuum cleaner comes out to terrorize the house or other such purposes.
First, we talk about the types of options you have when you’re shopping for a baby gate. While they are a simple design, not all are created equally, and some are better for older children or wider gaps. We then summarize the benefits of the best baby gates available, talk about the install process, and then mention a few things to watch out for before you make a final purchase. Our last section on this page is the review section, where we’ve selected the best baby gates of this year.
Types of Baby Gates
Sure, the purpose of a baby gate is pretty simple, but the number of designs has grown quickly. Manufacturers have figured out there is a very wide range of home, staircase, and yard sizes. You can find a baby gate to fit nearly any application nowadays.
#1 Pressure Mounted vs. Hardware Mounted Baby Gates
Pressure mounted baby gates are easy to install — no tools required. Much like a tension curtain rod, they use pressure to stay in place and are adjustable. The great thing about these types of gates is that they can easily be relocated from room to room and are portable enough to take on trips. They usually are less expensive than hardware mounted gates and you don’t have to screw holes into your wall or banisters. A hardware mounted baby gate on the other hand, is installed in one place permanently. They are more secure and can even hold up to a charging dog for example.
#2 Step Over vs. Walk-Through Baby Gates
As the name implies, step over baby gates are built to be stepped over, and usually are pressure mounted. These are great for temporary installations or to bring with you on the go. However, if you have a very high traffic area in your home, it can become a pain for everyone to constantly be stepping over them. You’ll hear the occasional bang and “Ooooow!” every time someone doesn’t raise their leg high enough to step over. Another thing, stepping over these gates with a baby in your arms isn’t too pleasant either. Conversely, walk through baby gates can usually be opened and closed with one hand and are ideal for high traffic areas such as the top of stairs. Some walk-through gates are pressured mounted while others are installed using hardware.
#3 Extra Wide Baby Gates
There are many instances where an extra wide baby gate is called for. Many modern homes that feature open floor plans require a wide baby gate. There are gates that are designed to actually go and fit up to 72″ wide openings. If you’ve got an even wider spot than that, you may want to consider an accordion fold type gate. These are great for setting up a play area outside or even in an extremely large house. Some of these can be broken down into just as many sections as you need, excelling at cordoning off areas like unsafe hearths or the yearly Christmas tree.
#4 Extra Tall Baby Gates
Sometimes certain situations call for an extra tall baby gate. These types of baby gates discourage children from trying to hop the gate and making a run for it. They are also wonderful for large dogs who are known to hop like bunnies. All extra tall baby gates are designed to easily be walked through. No adult will be able to hop over them unless they are an Olympic hurdler.
#5 Outdoor Baby Gates
These baby gates are made specifically to withstand the brutal beating mother nature can shell out. Rain, snow, hail the size of golf balls, you name it these can stand up to the elements. Some are built to be concave and some come in extra wide styles. Typically they are metal or wood with a weather resistant coating. You may commonly seen aluminium used for these gates because of its rust-proof properties.
#6 Fabric vs. Metal vs. Wood Baby Gates
Material type is another distinguishing characteristic of baby gates.Wooden baby gates and metal baby gates are probably the two most popular material types. Mostly this is a matter of personal preference. What will best match the style and look of your home? Typically manufacturers will offer their more popular baby gate models in multiple styles.
#7 Portable Baby Gates
Some baby gates are much easier to take on the go than others. If you frequently visit relatives or vacation, keeping the portability factor in mind is worthwhile. Many of the pressure mounted baby gates are pretty portable, especially if they aren’t extra tall or wide.
#8 Top of Stairs Baby Gates
The top of the stairs is a special danger zone. Many standard, hardware mounted baby gates will work for most straight staircases. That being said, some baby gates are built specifically for the top of stairs. The key is having gates at this high risk area as secure as possible, with zero threshold to trip over too. That means the gate is a walk through baby gate that opens towards the upstairs direction and does not swing open over the stairs the opposite direction. Ideally, this gates will also have a safety auto lock feature in case you forget to close/lock it in the midst of everyday action. Oddly shaped banisters can present unique challenges and unless you want to drill directly into your banister, you’ll want to choose carefully. One of our favorite solutions is the KidCo Stairway Gate Installation Kit. This means you won’t have to drill into your railing or banister which is always nice. Some baby gates are even made specifically for the bottom of stairs and some specifically for the top of the stairs.
#9 Play Yards
This is a unique solution that takes up a lot of space. If you’ve given up on sectioning off every little area that is dangerous you may just want to get a play yard aka play pen. Play yards are great for creating a large perimeter indoors or outdoors. This lets one or more children play in their own little space. Many times these gates have separate extension pieces so you can adjust the size. These extra panels either come with the set or are sold separately.
Safety Considerations — Check for JPMA Certification
One of the best things you can do before buying any baby gear or equipment is check it it has a certification from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. The standards for JPMA certified baby gates is that they are at least 22 inches tall and that the distance between the bottom of the gate to the floor is no more than 3 inches of a gap. This will prevent little ones from getting their head or neck stuck under the gate.
Also, you may want to select a baby gate from the top rated brands which coincidentally usually have JPMA certification. Try to avoid unspecified products from eBay or cheap imports from websites like Alibaba. For used baby gates, the only risk is that it may not come with all the original parts. Pressure mounted baby gates isn’t so much of a concern here, however hardware mounted gates (which usually come with little baggies of parts) you have to be a little more careful. If you find one on Craiglist and everything checks out however, there is no reason not to buy used.
- Safety 1st
- Cardinal Gates
- North States
- Summer Infant
Things to Look for in the Best Baby Gate for You
What are you trying to baby proof? Stairs, hallway, a play area, do you have some rabble-rousing pets that also need blocked off? Your primary purpose is a great place to start to narrow down the options. Other than that, here are a few things to keep an eye on before you scoop one up.
- Sturdiness. Babies will never cease to amaze you in their attempts to thwart your plans to keep them safe. They will push at the gate, pull, ram, climb, hop, maybe even try to chomp their way through the baby gate. For such reasons, it is always a good idea to get a strong gate.
- Locking Mechanism. Ideally you want a child proof lock. A simple button of lift open lock mechanism probably won’t cut it for older babies.
- One Hand or Foot Operated. At the very least, if you have a baby you are carrying around, you want to find a gate than can either easily be stepped over or open and closed with one hand. There are also some pretty clever foot pedal designs that lets you walk through hands-free. That’s pretty helpful when your on your cell phone, carrying groceries, or whatever the case may be.
- Width. If your opening is greater than 31 inches wide, you might need to get an extension or shop for a large baby gate.
- Height. Tall baby gates come in handy as the baby gets older so you don’t have to keep upgrading to taller gates. They serve to keep larger dogs from hopping them as well.
Installing a Baby Gate: Two Things to do Before Buying
The first thing you want to do before buying a baby gate, especially if you don’t have a standard doorway or hallway width, is to measure the width of the opening. Less importantly, you may also want to measure your baby’s height. You want the baby gate to be at a minimum at least three quarters of your little one’s height. Even the most energetic of babies and pets will not be able to scale a gate of that height. Remember, extra long baby gates and extra tall baby gates are always an option. When in doubt, always bust out the tape measure to make sure your getting a gate with the correct width. Measure twice, buy once.
Most baby gates do not take very long to install. They come with instructions and the necessary pieces if it is a hardware installed gate. Obviously, hardware installed baby gates are a more permanent solution and will take up more of your time than pressure mounted gates (but are also more stable). A normal sized doorway or hallway opening is usually about 32 to 36 inches wide. Standard sized baby gates will fit these openings just fine, for anything wider you’ll want to double check the manufacturers specifications.
Best Baby Gates of 2016
Here are the top picks for the best baby gates on the market. No matter what your budget or space requirements are, there’s something for everyone.
1. Best All-Around Baby Gate: North States Supergate Easy Close Metal Gate
2. Best Hands-Free Baby Gate: Step to Open Gate by Summer Infant
3. Best Baby Gates for Stairs: Evenflo Baby Gate Easy Walk Thru Top of Stairs
4. Best Extra Wide Baby Gate: Regalo Super Wide Gate and Play Yard
5. Best Retractable Baby Gate: Regalo Easy Step Walk Thru Gate
6. Best Cheap Baby Gate: Evenflo Position and Lock Doorway Gate
7. Best Tall Baby Gate: Multi-Use Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate by Summer Infant
8. Best Baby Safety Gate: Cardinal Gates Auto-Lock Gate
9. Best Baby Play Yard: North States Superyard Colorplay 6 Panel Playard
10. Best Outdoor Baby Gate: Cardinal Gates Outdoor Child Safety Gate