Gates placed at the top of stairs or in doorways are used to keep toddlers away from hazardous areas of the home.
Old accordion-type gates (sold before 1985), are not safe; they have diamond-shaped openings with wide V's at the top. These can trap a baby's head and cause them to choke.
What to look for:
- Measure the doorway or top of the stairs before you shop so you buy a gate that is wide enough to block the space.
- Check the label for an ASTM/JPMA certification (American Society for Testing and Materials, and Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association).
- Look for a hardware-mounted gate that attaches to the door frame without any openings to trap fingers or necks. Pressure-mounted and freestanding gates can fall over if the child pushes hard enough, so these gates are not safe to put at the top of the stairs.
- Choose a gate with a straight top edge with either rigid bars or a tight mesh screen.
- There should be no more than 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) between the floor and the gate bottom to keep a child from slipping underneath.
- Rigid vertical slats or rods should be no more than 2-3/8 inches (6 centimeters) apart, so that the child’s head cannot be trapped between the slats.
- Check for sharp edges and pieces that could cut or hurt a toddler's hands. If the gate is made from wood, check for splinters.
- Do not buy gates with openings that a child could use for climbing.
- The gate should be no less than three quarters of the child's height.
- Keep large toys away from the gate to prevent kids from using them to climb over.
- Pressure-mounted gates may be used for doors between rooms (as long as there are no stairs between the rooms). Remember to place the pressure bar away from the child.
- Gates that swing out should never be used at the top of stairways.
- Stop using the gate when the child is about 2 years old.
Reviewed by: Susan Kelly, MD, and Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: September 2013
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.