Mobile Baby + Stairs = Dangerous Combination!
June 15, 2007 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Our newly walking one-year-old has learned how to climb up stairs (oh, joy), but not down. Help us put in safe a baby gate.

We've used the pressure-mounted type to temporary close off rooms, but the stairs seem to call for something more secure. I'm thinking we need permanently mounted swing-open gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Where should we look? Any style or brand recommendations? I've seen the snazzy DIY versions but that would probably take me months to execute and we need something yesterday.

In a related question, at approximately what age do toddlers learn to safely climb down stairs? How long might we expect to have to have the gates up?
posted by libraryhead to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Because of the configuration of our stairs, we wound up using something very similar to this. We were pleased with it -- it's very easy for an adult to open with only one hand.

As far as how long to leave them up, we never took ours down, because we found we had to vacuum much less pet hair out of the stairwell, but I'd think at most a year or so, if I recall correctly.
posted by trip and a half at 10:12 AM on June 15, 2007

We looked at all manner of high-tech “one handed operation” plastic gates, most of which were frustrating as hell to open, even with two hands. In the end we bought some basic wooden ones that attached to the walls with eye-screws. They were inexpensive, easy to install, secure, and easy to open and close.

This is also the sort of thing, like most baby equipment, that is good to buy used.
posted by bondcliff at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2007

On second look, we also bought some like "trip and a half" just linked to and they were perfect.

The "eye screw" one was a 10-footer that we used to shut off half a room.
posted by bondcliff at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2007

I know this doesn't directly address your question, but one tip I've seen is to mount the bottom gate one or two steps up instead of right at the bottom to help them learn to climb up and down a few stairs safely.
posted by true at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2007

I have owned several baby gates and have never been more satisfied than with this one: Safety1st SmartStair

Not pressure mounted, but screw mounted, on both sides. Open operation is easy for you, impossible for a one-year, possible for a three year old, or an advanced 30 month old perhaps. Close operation is simple, with a push.

Very solid construction, not rinky dink feeling. An adult can lean on a securely installed one without fear.

Also has a handy motion activated light which takes a D battery.
posted by poppo at 10:23 AM on June 15, 2007

We bought a gate at a pet store, but there's no reason it couldn't be used for babies. It's really sturdy, sets up in minutes, and opens/closes with one hand. It keeps our dogs out of my office, and I love not having to step over it.

Four Paws Metal Gate

The description says "not recommended at top of stairs," presumably because a really good shove would push it over. In that case, you could permanently attach it to the wall.
posted by desjardins at 11:09 AM on June 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. That's a serious gate!

We started with a hand-me-down wooden one, but our son had no problem just pulling it down with brute force. Then he started pulling out slats.

So we grabbed a couple of these gates from Wal-Mart (top and bottom of stairs), and liked it so much, we went back for a third for the kitchen. Pretty sturdy (our oldest kid would clamber over it for the heck of it), easily installed (pressure mounted), and a latch you can open one handed but definitely flummoxed the little people.

Our youngest is almost three and only recently figured out how the latch worked, but it still takes a bit of effort. He's also old enough to negotiate the stairs, though, so the gate is mostly for "keep kids in one area of the house" convenience than safety.
posted by pzarquon at 11:11 AM on June 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

We bought a gate at a pet store, but there's no reason it couldn't be used for babies.

I can think of one reason that may or may not apply here (as the pic doesn't show latch detail): pet gates aren't built to protect against animals with opposable thumbs.
posted by davejay at 11:25 AM on June 15, 2007

Good point. I'd be surprised if a one year old could get his/her hand around the latch, but a halfway-smart toddler could definitely figure this out.
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on June 15, 2007

Well, in case anyone wants to see the latch detail, here you go. (Yes, I'm bored.)
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on June 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

For our (now 2 year old) twins, we put up this Kidco safety gate at the top of the stairs to prevent them from going down the stairs. We used a pressure mounted type at the bottom of the stairs, on occasions to stop them from climbing up. Works very well. Installation was fairly straightforward. The latch mechanism (lift the top slightly and swing open) is complex enough that our kids still haven't figured out how to open it.

Even though our kids can competently walk down the stairs now, the gate is still handy, just to restrict their movement in the house.
posted by jaimev at 12:24 PM on June 15, 2007

As far as the when safe on stairs question, this kind of thing really varies from baby to baby, for us it is around 2-3 but I'm still leary of having my 2.75 year old solo on stairs. But then we have a really steep set of stairs to a concrete floor. But he gets down them just fine, and has for 6+ months, and my nervous hovering is merely precautionary.

Not what you're looking for in this instance but of our pressure gates the one I find most functional is this portable one.
posted by nanojath at 12:28 PM on June 15, 2007

The Kidco gate rocks, was rated very highly by Consumer Reports, is easy to open with one hand and our 17 month old has shaken it hard with not a budge.
posted by jeanmari at 1:19 PM on June 15, 2007

Let me clarify...I'm talking about the Kidco Model G20 referred to by jaimev.

I wanted to love the Kidco portable, but our babysitter accidentally broke it. The unlocking mechanism is not intuitive and she forced it too hard. Plus, portables are not recommended for the top of the stairs.
posted by jeanmari at 1:21 PM on June 15, 2007

This is also the sort of thing, like most baby equipment, that is good to buy used.

No - you HAVE to check on any baby furniture to make sure it hasn't been recalled. A car seat that has been in an accident, for example, might have "internal injuries" but look fine on the outside. You need to know the stair gates haven't taken on a lot of stress. No kids/dogs pounding relentlessly at it.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:35 PM on June 15, 2007

I need to pass on something that made all the difference with my three kids. A friend told me that as soon as they learned to climb stairs, to make a game of crawling back down. Go up the stairs with the baby then at the top crawl down the stairs backwards on your knees. Do this as a game for a few days until it becomes habit. Toddlers try to copy adults walking down stairs which they are physically incapable of for at least a few months. That first step is a doozy!
Better safe than sorry and dirty knees are preferable to a banged up head.
posted by readery at 2:08 PM on June 15, 2007

Don't pick a pressure-mounted one -- they aren't approved for the top of your stairs. Go with one you screw in place. We don't have stairs, but my parents do -- and we use a Safety 1st gate that my dad screwed in.

My son is almost 2.5 and able to go up and down stairs. However, we still leave the gate in place, because kids often come running around a corner, down a hall, or slip. We moved to that house when I was 10 and I fell down the stairs many times when I was in a rush (even as a teen).
posted by acoutu at 5:39 PM on June 15, 2007

We taught each of our children to get down the stairs safely before they could walk. The key thing is as readery says, to teach them to slide down backwards feet first -- nice and safe, and fun for them. Walking down is more dangerous for a toddler, so whatever you choose to do about a gate, I should teach them now how to slide down before the walking habit becomes too ingrained. Our kids took less than half an hour to get the habit established -- get to the top of the stairs, reverse yourself, and go down feet first.

We never really used gates -- the kids could be taken to other people's houses and be quite safe without them, because they could handle stairs. Also, I had reckoned that if we had gates, there would inevitably be days when we climbed over them rather than opening them -- not conducive to adult safety.
posted by Idcoytco at 1:19 AM on June 16, 2007

« Older Townes Van Zandt's Mr. Gold and Mr. Mudd   |   Where in NJ should I move to? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.