Quite possibly one of the worst sounds on the planet is the sound of a small child falling down stairs. You hear horrible bumps and thuds and then one loud crash that culminates in a bloodcurdling scream.
What's even worse? Watching it happen. It's a scene that never leaves your mind. It happened to both of my boys at the age of one and thankfully, they made it through their tumultuous tumbles unscathed.
Baby safety gates were created for these scary scenarios and for those that end much worse. Using baby gates safely can be a lifesaver both literally and mentally for a parent. Protection for your entire family starts with an affordable home insurance policy from our trusted network.
Here are six tips on how to use baby gates in your home properly.
1. Research Before You Buy
Before you buy a baby gate, conduct thorough research on the type of gate that will best fit your residence. Measure the space precisely, consider its location in your home, and check out some reviews for highly rated gates on the internet.
Any baby gate you purchase for your home should come with Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certification. This certification comes with a seal on the packaging that tells consumers that the product has been thoroughly tested and meets or exceeds the highest level of standards currently in use.
There are two different types of gates: gates that mount on the wall and gates that use a pressure locking system. Each type has a specific purpose and should be considered based on the location within your home.
For example, pressure mounted gates should never be used at the top of stairs. These gates can be moved if enough force is used and your child could end up falling down the stairs. Select the gate that will work best for the location where you are installing it.
2. Try Before You Buy
While you are shopping, try opening the gate on your own. Hold something in one hand and determine if you can open the gate with the other. Very often, a parent will be carrying their baby through the gate. If you cannot open the gate with one hand, you are not likely to use that gate. If you have already installed the gate before you figure this out, you may risk your child's safety. It is essential that you be comfortable opening and closing the gate before you buy it.
Kara from Denver, Colorado discovered this the hard way. She was given a baby gate as a gift and felt obligated to use it. "I had not tested it out before my husband installed it at the bottom of our steps. When I tried to run upstairs with my toddler in my arms, I found that I couldn't close the gate properly so I just left it open.
I came back down to find my infant, who had just started crawling, leaning on the first step and considering how he could get to the top. It scared me so much that we removed the gate immediately and purchased one that I could easily open and close on my own."
3. Install Gates Before You Need Them
It may seem that news parent are overreacting when they babyproof the home before the baby arrives. It may be months before the baby tries to stick something into an electrical outlet or reach for a jar on a shelf, but that time is going to arrive faster than we realize. Parenting is a demanding task. The six months before a baby arrives may seem like a long time, but once that little bundle of joy is here time will fly by.
Babyproofing should be done as early as possible. It is especially important to babyproof a new home before you bring a child into it for the first time. Katharine from Asheville, North Carolina learned that the hard way.
"My 18- month-old fell down the stairs at my new house, the very day we moved in, because I hadn't installed the gates yet. We had only been there about three hours. He fell head over heels the whole way down. Thank goodness he was OK."
Babies will often do things earlier than we expect and they often surprise us with something new every day. They move quickly. They defy norms. They break rules. Sommer from Alice, Texas discovered this when her child ate a dishwashing tablet one day. "The cupboard wasn't babyproofed. He'd never gotten in there before so I just never babyproofed it."
4. Regularly Inspect Your Handiwork
Kathryn from Edmond, Oklahoma watched her son fall down the steps. "[My son] leaned against a baby gate on the stairs which came loose and he toppled head first down the stairs WITH the gate...Check your gates every so often."
Children lean on, attempt to climb and even try to "fix" baby gates. This can loosen a properly mounted gate and cause it to become unsafe. Checking the mounting would have saved Kathryn's baby from a scary fall and will keep your baby safe as well.
5. Practice Gate Safety with Older Siblings
It's imperative that older siblings learn how to properly operate baby gates by familiarizing themselves with the features of the gates. It is essential to stress the importance of properly closing baby gates and why they are necessary for safety. This is something that we discuss with our oldest daily, but even so, we ended up having a mishap.
In our case, big brother had come up the steps and unintentionally left the gate open because he was in a hurry. Shortly after, he and baby began to play, and baby went tumbling down the steps. Accidents can still happen, especially in a busy home with siblings. Family discussions about safety never get old.
6. Worry Less About the Decor
Some home owners are leery of unsightly baby safety gates and the way they detract from the decor of the home. Susan from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania made that mistake initially. "I didn't want a baby gate on our stairs that could be seen as soon as you opened the front door. So I didn't install one, promising to be vigilant. Unfortunately, I wasn't as vigilant as I had hoped, and my daughter climbed up the first three steps before I noticed and fell backwards, hitting her head."
Many parents may feel the same when they are considering baby gates for their own homes. However, it is not difficult to combine your child's safety with home decorating. One home owner used her DIY skills to solve this issue. Amy from TheMombot created two baby safety gates for her stairs. She was even able to attach them without harming the woodwork.
Installing baby safety gates around your home is essential to keeping your baby or toddler safe. With a little research and basic hardware skills, it is possible to have a safe, attractive home no matter which type of gate you install.
Of course, accidents will happen, so it's important to work with a local independent agent to find the best home insurance coverage to protect you, your family and your home.