You know what’s amazing? Watching your kid learn to walk. You know what’s terrifying? Remembering your kid is learning to walk in a home with stairs. Even if you have the observation skills of a snowy owl, you can’t watch your kid all the time (although being able to swivel your head 360 degrees is really fun at parties). Be ready to install one or more of these baby gates at the top and bottom of a staircase, and possibly between rooms, at even the slightest hint of mobility in your kid, lest your little Magellan do some head-first exploring. Before you do, a few notes:
Top Of The Stairs
A hardware-mounted gate with wall anchors that locks solidly and sits flush with the top of the stair is the only safe option for the top of the staircase. Pressure-mounted gates can be toppled by a very strong/heavy baby (or excited dog) and weaken over time. Yes, kids are remarkably resilient when dropped, but not so much when dropped down a flight of stairs.
Bottom Of The Stairs
This is where you can use a pressure-mounted gate that stays in place with friction, which makes for easier installation and removal. It’s safe at the bottom of the stairs because even if Hulk, Jr. smashes it forward there’s not that far to fall. Baby’s first physics lesson.
You’re going to be doing a lot of kid-wrangling now, so consider replacing fat banisters and railings with ones you can wrap your entire hand around for the best grip. Then, for god’s sake, keep your hand on it while you’re carrying your kid up and down the stairs. And make sure your kid is the only thing you’re holding. (No, not even a beer.)
The BabyGearLab top pick from a year ago is sturdy, screw-mounted, and expandable. A removable swing-stop mechanism keeps it from swinging over the stairs and a red-green indicator lets you know if the child-proof mechanism is securely locked. Your kid is gonna crush the traffic light lesson at daycare.
Fit Range: 29- to 42- inches
Height: 30 inches
This gate is pressure-mounted and comes with hardware for screw-mounting — versatility that helped make it number one on Amazon. It’s easy to install, durable, and one-hand operable. Two-inch gaps between bars will stop your kid but some reviewers note kittens can still slip through. Although, if that’s your concern, you’re doing something wrong. Or raising kittens right. Either way, you’re on the wrong site.
Mounting: Hardware and pressure
Fit Range: 29- to 40-inches (with 6-inch extension)
Height: 30 inches
This gate’s range — anywhere from 96- to 141-inches wide — makes it ideal as a room divider or barrier to areas you don’t want your kid to access, if not necessarily for staircases. Buy 2 and build a freestanding baby cage! (Sorry, “play yard.”) Mesh walls mean kids can charge like the tiny wildlings they are and walk away unscathed when the gate holds.
Mounting: Hardware or free-standing (room divider)
Fit Range: 65- to 143-inches
Height: 30 inches
Ideal for travel, because you want to get out and explore the world, while keeping your toddler confined to theirs (sorry kid, just 17 more years of this.) This portable baby gate conforms to almost any doorway or opening to give you some peace of mind in unfamiliar places. The last thing you need is your 2-year-old discovering the minibar. “Hey dad, who pays $10 for M&Ms?!”
Fit Range: 28- to 45-inches
Height: 27 inches
One of the best pressure-mounted gates you’ll find and it expands from 29 inches to 38.5 inches wide with included (read: “Won’t cost you any extra”) extensions. It also latches with one hand, self-closes, and swings both ways, which sounds like the beginning of a horrible line that’s definitely not #DadJokeBot-approved.
Fit Range: 28- to 38.5-inches
Height: 29 inches
If you need to keep your off-the-grid kid inside your tiny house or, you know, have a deck, look no further than what seems to be the only weatherproof baby gate out there. It’s made of sturdy stainless steel and lightweight aluminum and powder-coated for easy cleaning and durability, and guaranteed to keep that pesky critter out of your radishes.
Fit Range: 27- to 42.5-inches (up to 53 inches or 64 inches with additional extensions)
Height: 29.5 inches
This thing costs more than twice what you’d expect to pay for an average gate, but it’s also unique in pretty much every way that one of these things can be. It’s JPMA-certified for the top and bottom of stairs, opens and closes quietly, affixes to spindles or stair posts, and retracts into a compact roll when not in use. So, no, it’s not just a clever name.
Fit Range: 52- or 72-inches
Height: 34 inches