Advice on features to look for when choosing a stair gate with information on the safety of extending and pressure based baby safety gates.
For an infant learning to walk or crawl the stairs become a very dangerous place. Stairgates are designed specifically to prevent your baby from attempting to climb up or down the stairs unattended.
There are a huge variety of styles available and although most are made from solid metal or wood, material roller blind varieties are also available. As stair gates vary in width so it is important to select one that will fit securely across your stairs; most manufacturers display the dimensions of their gate to help you with this. However, gate extension kits are available for those with particularly wide stairs.
Stair gates also vary in how they open and where the opening is; some open at the side, others in the middle, some gates can be opened in both directions, some only in one. Additionally, the style and complexity of the fastening on the gate is also likely to differ. These features are all things to consider when choosing a suitable gate.
The most secure way to fit a stair gate is by screwing it to a solid banister or wall, this is advisable at the top of a flight of stairs. However, many gates are secured using pressure mounting - by using this type of fitting you can easily move the gate if needs be plus you avoid making holes in your wall (good if you are in rented accomodation). Adhesive fittings which stick the gate to the wall are also available but should only be used on smooth walls as any texture may reduce their security. Regardless of the type of fixture you choose, you should follow the instructions provided to ensure it is secured properly and regularly check that the gate is fitted tightly so as to avoid accidents.
When choosing a gate you should go for one with narrow rails so that little heads can't be put through, one without horizontal rails that could be stood on and one without openings in which fingers could be trapped. Additionally, you should check that your child is under the maximum age or weight that the manufacturer states as the gates suitability level (usually 24 months). You should also check that the gate is marked with BSEN 1930-2000 as this means that it meets European standards (if you purchase your gate from a well known retailer they are likely to have made their own safety checks too).
It is advisable to have a stair gate at the top and bottom of a flight of stairs and although it is tempting, you should always go through the gate instead of climbing over it as this not only sets a bad example to baby, but could be incredibly dangerous if you or another adult fell. Stair gates can also be useful for blocking access to any other rooms in the home that are not baby-proof.
By choosing well made stair gates, installing and maintaining them properly, without a responsible adult the stairs should be off limits to your baby until they learn to navigate them safely.
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