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To Baby Gate, or Not? (Plus, 18 Stylish Baby Gates)

April 3, 2018

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We have a crawler, and she’s getting fast! Polly is 8 months old now and I actually feel like she might be running before too long. The girl loves to move. She takes after our oldest in that respect. Greta (8) was a mover and an adventurer as a baby. She started climbing out of her crib before she could walk. And just as she was figuring it all out, we bought our first house with 3 sets of stairs! I thought I was going to have a panic attack trying to keep her safe, while simultaneously counting how many baby gates we’d need. And then someone told me, she’ll catch on quick. Just work with her. Slide her down all the stairs and then let her crawl back up. And then slide her back down (on her belly). Before long, Greta had mastered the stairs as a baby.

Our second, Faye (3), has always been a little more timid. She was curious about stairs but not the kind of child that would enjoy sliding down the stairs just to crawl back up over and over. Maybe once or twice before she would have just preferred to stay at the bottom. Haha. Our solution back in 2014, was to DIY our own baby gate!

It was made of thick plexiglass and wood, was minimal and served us well! You can find the full tutorial right here.

Since then, we got a new, metal stair railing (more on that here), and although we held onto our DIY’d baby gate, we pulled it out and learned it’s not going to work with the new railing. So now we’re left with–To gate or not to gate, once again. What do you do in your house?

If we do end up gating the stairs, I rounded up 18 stylish options I’m considering below! They’ve come so far in even the 3 years since I last looked! I can barely believe it! How cool is #2? 14 is nice and discreet. There are some really nice options on Etsy, now, too! Or, as always, the DIY route is a possibility for us, too. 1. | 2. | 3. | 4. | 5. | 6. | 7. | 8. | 9. | 10. | 11. | 12. | 13. | 14. | 15. | 16. | 17. | 18.

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What do you think?

  1. Jacqui says:

    Do you have any thoughts on installing a gate on exposed brick without ruining the wall?

    • Chris says:

      Unfortunately, not really (that I know of). If it’s a brick pillar you can wrap rope or something around and tie a board to it, but if it’s a wall, the only options would be to use liquid nails (which would be a bear to remove after) or drill into the mortar lines instead of the brick itself, and try to patch it once you remove the gate. But you can get issues with bricks shifting out of place when messing with mortar, so it’s a tricky one.

  2. Krestin says:

    I’m trying to click on the link for the tutorial to make the Plexiglas gate and it takes me to a bed on Wayfair.com

  3. Mary says:

    By the time we were on kid 3 we gave up and didn’t bother with any extras. :-)
    ..no gates, monitors, outlet covers, corner pads, clothe diapers….

  4. Coran says:

    We had one of those stylish baby gates with our 3 older girls. When our fourth girl came along 7 years later we were faced with the debate. We are still debating it now that she is two and a half! Haha! I guess no baby gate won out. This go around we moved into a new house with a different set up that meant no real good options. Lucky for us our fourth girl seems to handle the stairs well and was happy to not go up and down the stairs unless we were with her. We did use a tension gate upstairs to keep her in whatever bedroom we happened to be in or to block part of the hallway off to keep her in a section of the upstairs. Eh. Sounds bad like a pet situation… it worked though!

  5. Rachel says:

    Would it be possible to have the railing company you used manufacture a gate that coordinated? That would be seamless, and you could customize it however you wanted. Not sure it would be worth the expense though.

  6. Sylvia Waller says:

    I think it just depends. For me, we have two kids and I never had to baby proof the house (we had a two story and one story during the “baby” phase) so I really just think it depends on your kids. If you have a curious baby who you often find slips away and explores, then you may want to consider it. However, if your baby is like mine for instance, and just wants to be around you and stays close, then it may not be necessary.

  7. Aminah says:

    We had number 10 at the top of our apartment stairs and i loved it, it is really sturdy and didn’t bother us at all from an aesthetic standpoint. With baby no. 2 we will install it again at the top of our basement stairs in our current house.

  8. Taryn says:

    We got a custom baby gate from http://www.gatekeepersafe.com. One of our best baby purchases and we were super pleased. I’m happy to share more about the experience if you have questions.

  9. Ali says:

    Gate for sure. It’s so easy and you will never regret taking an extra precaution. Have you considered ways to keep the stair rail safer? Maybe plexiglass in front of the tails. My friend’s son climbed their stair railing and fell over onto the first floor tile resulting in a cracked skull. Thankful he is fine now but that was a terrifying experience.

    • Julia says:

      Every kid is different. And I always say the same thing when people ask about our railing; our girls have never climbed it. The tile was set out and explained on day 1 and it just has never even been an issue. But that’s not to say it would be just as harmless in another home.

  10. Caitlin Scanlon says:

    We have to he retract-a-gate which is very similar to #14. You barely notice it and it’s nice that it can be tucked away when you don’t need it up, unlike many other gates.

  11. Tarynkay says:

    It depends on the baby. My first was a speed crawler then a runner and could easily have accidentally tumbled down the stairs. My second is a climber and would climb right over baby gates. We quickly figured out that childproofing devices in general only spurred his determination to defeat them. He is just contrary like that.

  12. Angela Sewell says:

    I couldn’t imagine not having a gate! We used the retractable type and while I loved that they were completely out of the way when not in use, there’s a serious learning curve involved that was a problem for friends and family members not familiar with it. It’s been about 8 years, though, so perhaps they have a better design now. Also, not all gates are approved for use at the top of the stairs, so be sure to check the descriptions if that’s where you will be putting one.

  13. Cassie says:

    #14 is nice looking but HORRIBLE in practice. It’s hard to tell from the photos on the site but I’m 95% sure it’s the same one my mom has at her house and in order to extend or retract the gate you must use two hands. It’s beyond frustrating if you have anything in your hands (baby, glass of water) to have to set it down fiddle with the release. Additionally, it makes a really terrible loud sound when it retracts. If you go the gate route, pick literally any other option lol

    • Courtney says:

      Yes! We have #14 and it’s nearly impossible to operate with one hand.
      That said, we would definitely buy it again, because our staircase is open on one side and there’s no place to attach a gate, so we use it in the wide doorway between the main area and the entry where the stairs are. It’s wider than most other gates and is totally out of the way when not in use. Besides the hassle of opening and closing it, it really is an awesome solution if you have an awkward stair situation. But man, it’s obnoxious to set down the baby to open it. I always end up step/hopping over instead.

  14. Tiffany H says:

    We have a couple of #15. Work great and are a bit more stylish. We don’t use them for stairs but for the nursery and playroom doors when we need to keep an eye on the kiddos but out of the room. We only have two stairs down to a sunken living room so we aren’t too concerned.

  15. Emily says:

    We had a timid baby and a “no fear” baby. Never any problem with the timid kiddo, but Mr. No Fear fell down our stairs (yes, gated!) and ended up with a fractured skull. I shudder thinking about the experience, and it definitely put me on the side of gating the stairs.

  16. Meredith Jones says:

    A little top-of-stairs-baby-gate-advice i have is to make sure you get one that can open more than just a person’s thin body width! We had one at the top of ours stairs very similar to #6 and if you were carrying anything – like a kid! – it was hard to walk through that smaller opening especially at the top of a stair case! Another part of that is some gates have bars a the bottom even when the gate part is open, TRIP HAZARD! We recently switched actually to the exact #16 you linked and love it! it opens the whole span of the opening you have it on and there are no trip hazards! Life changing I tell ya!!

  17. Katie says:

    We have a split level, so we just determined stairs would have to be mastered ASAP. Our first is 3 now and has never fallen down more than a couple stairs, usually a result of doing something he shouldn’t have been. It was so nice not to worry about him at other people’s houses, but I always feel bad because I forget to worry about other kids at our house!

  18. Natalie says:

    My husband is DIYing ours. I watch my friend’s baby only twice a week, so we don’t really want a permanent gate set up the rest of the time. My husband figured out to put two wood strips on each side of the door and build the gate to slide down between the strips. The gate will look like #4 in your post, and I’m putting hooks on the adjacent wall to hang the gate as “art” when not in use.

  19. Austin says:

    My vote is 15. Whichever you get, make sure the older kids can operate it with ease…nothing worse than hearing “help!” every time they want up of down.

    On another note, I get your point with difference in kids…our daughter (4) never wanted anything to do with the stairs but our son (1.5) is a no fear daredevil and we had to gate the stairs.

  20. Staci says:

    We taught our four kids to slide on their tummies down the stairs and never used a baby gate. Worked for us. Was funny to watch the baby or our twins back up to get to the stairs and zip down the stairs…they would go so fast and never fell down the stairs.

  21. Monica says:

    We have option 1. It’s minimal and less offensive than many, but it’s still very clearly a baby gate. As ugly as they are, I’d definitely put one up. It only takes one loss of balance to send a child tumbling down.

  22. Monica says:

    I would definately do a gate- your house is “upside down” so Polly will spend much of her crawling and toddling time upstairs. Falling down the staris would be really regreatable – am sure she can learn staris even if you have a gate, as you other kids did. All in good time! I like #18.

  23. Lori says:

    carpeted stairs – no gate, not carpeted I would get a gate.

  24. Jessica Strayer says:

    We never gated our stairs (3 yo and 18-month old) BUT we spend most of our time on the first floor so I had less concern about them falling down the stairs. I never tried to keep them away from the stairs, and always just stayed right there beside them while they figured it out. We do have to watch the 18-month-old when we are upstairs because she would just walk right off the top if we don’t grab her. She’s getting better, though.

  25. wilma says:

    Our stairs are steep and have no landings. We definitely used a gate. You can always remove the gate when you’re able to watch her, so she can learn to get up and down, as well. Oh–we have three boys.

  26. ndy says:

    I definitely say go for the baby gate! It’s a little different if you just have one kid (easier to keep an eye on them 24/7) but with more than one needing your attention it’s just too hard watch baby 100% of the time. I have two boys (4 year old and 10 month old) and the gate has come in handy even for the 4 year old who occasionally runs and rough houses too close to the stairs (are stairs are right by the living room and go down to the basement)

    You can always have Polly practice going up and down the stairs when you are around- that’s what we’ve done and it’s working well!

  27. Carly says:

    We kind of gated. I am a believer in teaching your kids how to go up and down the stairs but it’s also nice to contain them on one level. We just had the old fashioned baby gates that we would lock at the top or bottom when needed. On the stairs, we just slid it between the banisters #Lazy.

  28. Haley says:

    Love the choices you shared! Not many baby gates work with our stairs, so I was pleasantly surprised when my youngest picked up the steps quickly and there was no need. We have some cheapo ones to close off rooms from the kids, but they’re rarely used.

  29. Kaleigh says:

    We do have a baby gate and it gives us peace of mind. Our son is very good with stairs now but we still keep it closed just in case. It’s simply become habit now. It’s a metal gate similar to #9, it’s black and it actually somewhat matches our decor! I don’t mind it at all. It will likely stay in place till #2 comes along and is completely self sufficient! I always wanted my husband to make us one like # 13, but such is life! Maybe if we get a dog someday I can convince him to make me one of those ;)

  30. Sarah says:

    Just as a warning to anyone with cats or small dogs, you want to avoid any baby gates with angled bars. I was looking for a baby gate a few years ago and I came across several reviews where people had warned that their cat had gotten caught in the angle and hanged to death overnight. I know it’s gruesome to talk about, but I’d be devastated had I accidentally done the same to my cat.

  31. Kristi says:

    We absolutely do the baby gate. I really think the last option with the horizontal slats would be the way to go for you! But black and more spaced.

  32. I’m a big fan of baby gates. I work from home, and monitoring the stairs 24/7 while I try to concentrate on stuff is just not possible. We live in a ranch & my office is in the basement, so we have one gate at the bottom of the stairs, and a door at the top. I like being able to put my kiddos in the basement and know that they literally can’t escape unless I let them! (My parenting style, not for everyone, lol.) These modern ones are all so cute! Might have to upgrade eventually (we just have a Munchkin one from forever ago).

    • Julia says:

      I love baby gates for that exact reason! The only con is when you go to someone else’s house, it’s nice for a baby to be cautious of stairs.

  33. Amanda P says:

    My in-laws have #15. It’s tall and the finish is nice. It looks better in person than it does in photos.

  34. Ros says:

    Ugh, we’re dealing with this now. For our daughter, we had blocked off the tops but not the bottoms of the stairs, because the risk of unintentionally tumbling down a flight of stairs seemed higher than climbing a step or two from the bottom (while supervised) and falling from there. We have something similar to your #9, tied on to the Bannister and drilled into the other wall (pressure-gates can give out if the kid pushes on them, not great).

    My son just turned 1, and is very very quick at climbing stairs, as I discovered yesterday, and then can’t get down yet and falls and requires parental reflexes for mid-air catching, which isn’t good for my nerves. I don’t like pressure-gates on stairs because the bar at the bottom is a tripping hazard (for me, anyway), so… I’m going to take some of the fabric from the couch cushions, make a rectangle with threads, and tie those threads to hooks on the wall and around the banister. It should work for the few weeks he’ll need until he gets competent at climbing, look less horrible than the metal ones, and not be 50$ for that few weeks. It won’t be the cutest but it’ll be cuter than a lot of the commercial options and it’ll be cheaper, so… win.

  35. Kristin says:

    We bought a split-level before we had our third baby, and for the first time had to gate stairs. We ended up going with the Munchkin loft ( http://a.co/78thBiK). It’s aluminum and has a nice modern look. It’s also really easy to slide it out of the brackets and take it down temporarily for entertaining. We love it!

  36. Patricia says:

    Our granddaughter was a climber. The biggest challenge was keeping her in her bedroom at night. Her parents installed “childproof” gates. She slithered right over them. Double gating worked for awhile …

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