What are Baby Gates?

Paulla Estes

When a new baby comes into our lives, we must do everything possible to make our home safe for the new little one. There are several items and pieces of equipment on the market today that protect our little darlings from danger, from escape, and from themselves. One of the most useful and practical items that every home can use is a baby gate. Baby gates are plastic or wooden gates which attach to walls and doorways in order to prevent a mobile baby from entering an area that might pose a danger, or that we simply don't want him to enter.

Most toddlers do not have the motor skills needed to open a baby gate.
Most toddlers do not have the motor skills needed to open a baby gate.

Baby gates were first invented as rickety wooden contraptions designed to keep a baby from falling down or crawling up a staircase. These early baby gates were inconveniently bolted to the walls or doorway at the top and bottom of the stairs, successfully keeping baby safe, but often posing a danger to the adults who were forced to climb over them or detach them each time they needed to use the staircase.

Baby gates are helpful for controlling baby animals.
Baby gates are helpful for controlling baby animals.

In the past couple of decades, baby gates have become more user friendly, and they are now made for many uses other than just staircases. Today, nearly all baby gates are made of plastic and most of them they have hinges and a convenient latching system, so they can be installed and then open and shut easily. Gone are the days of climbing over baby gates to get down the stairs. Now there are baby gates made for fireplaces and extra-wide or irregular openings, and there are even extensions made for the baby gates we already own.

Baby gates should be installed before baby becomes mobile, which usually happens sooner than we expect. Often parents will sit babies up in a rolling walker only to find that they can begin scooting across the floor as early as four or five months of age. The baby gates should stay in place until well after the child is old enough to walk up and down stairs safely or understands and obeys orders about where he should or should not go.

Even when your children grow past the baby stage, baby gates are handy for pets. If you want to keep your puppy in the kitchen but you want to be able to see and hear him, lock him in the kitchen behind the baby gate. Baby gates are also convenient to keep on hand for visitors who bring along their toddlers or small children.

Remember to follow the directions when installing a baby gate. Test it to make sure it opens and shuts properly and will not come loose from its attachments if pushed or pulled. With your baby gate safely installed, you can rest at ease that your baby will be safely contained.

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