Baby gates are a great way to help protect babies and toddlers as they begin to explore their environments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in children, with approximately 2.8 million being treated each year. Gates are a big part of many parents’ first line of defense against falls, but baby gates can’t stay up forever.
Gates can be very helpful for preventing falls down the stairs, as well as keeping babies out of unsafe areas, there comes a point when these safety items will be outgrown and should then be removed. When the gate should come down varies depending on the style you’ve chosen, as well as on your little one, but the point when she either starts to be able to open the gate on her own, or starts trying to climb over it is a strong sign that it’s time to teach her how to climb stairs safely or avoid dangers in the rooms that have been gated off, instead of depending on gates to keep her out.
Consumer Reports states gates are intended for children between 6 months and 2 years of age, and should be monitored once your toddler’s chin reaches the top of the gate.
Life after gates
Taking away an item that has provided security and peace of mind in your home seems scary at first, but there are many ways to safely transition away from using gates. Typically, at the point when children start to be too big for gates to fully keep them safe, their receptive language is also growing. This means they are better able to understand your directions, and are able to grasp which areas of the home are safe to explore, as well as the areas that need to be avoided.
A popular area for gates is at the top of the stairs, so it’s very important to teach your toddler about stair safety once the gate is removed. Toddlers begin crawling up stairs, then move toward taking steps two feet at a time with support, before finally being able to navigate two feet at a time without support. By the time your toddler has outgrown the gate, which is often around the age of 2, she should be able to effectively navigate the stairs without support.
However, it is important to remember that navigating stairs without support does not mean without supervision. Talking to Baby about stair safety is important, but so is supervising her while she is using the stairs, regardless of her climbing ability. Gates are great for protecting young children, but there is no substitute for adult supervision, and that supervision will need to increase that much more as you move away from the world of baby gates in order to keep Baby safe.
- “CDC Childhood Injury Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008. Web.
- “Safety Gate Buying Guide.” Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports, May 2016. Web.