Updated on September 30, 2020 by Lyric Fergusson
When you have a baby, your life changes. Something as simple as doing the dishes or laundry has now become a lot more complicated. Babies are very curious, so they can get into all sorts of trouble if left to their own devices, even if it’s only a couple minutes. That’s why it’s important to have a safe space where your baby or toddler can roam and play while you’re busy.
To create this area, you’ll need a baby gate, so I’ve compiled a list of my 7 favorite retractable baby gates to help you pick one out.
The Best Retractable Baby Gate
(Best value — $)
Why it’s great: This is the classic wood, diamond design that’s been around since the beginning of baby gates. The design has stood the test of time and is still a favorite in baby gates. It expands out to 60 inches wide, so you can use this in wider areas, not just regular doorways. It’s easy to open and close with just one hand, so you won’t have to put your baby down to get in or out. It also opens and closes from either end, making it very convenient.
Keep in mind: There is a safety rail at the top so you don’t get your fingers pinched when retracting, but it’s still possible that your child could get their hands or feet stuck in the diamonds.
Good for: Parents who need a gate on a budget.
(Best space saver — $)
Why it’s great: This gate fits extra wide areas up to 71 inches and is extra tall too, so it’ll work for a variety of areas. The best part about this gate is that it retracts and rolls up into a thin little post when not in use. Most gates fold when they retract and end up being a wider rectangle at the end. It also has a nice handle and is easy to open and close with one hand. It is a mesh panel, so you don’t have to worry about your child sticking their hands through it either.
Keep in mind: This one must be installed between rigid surfaces, so it won’t work against stair banisters.
Good for: Those that want a gate that is almost non-existent when not in use.
(Best for wide areas — $$$)
Why it’s great: This is the ultimate baby gate. It can fit huge areas up to 192 inches wide! It comes in 8 different panels, so you can adjust the size and shape as needed. It can go straight across a huge area, curve around a fireplace, or turn into a stand-alone, circular playpen. 4 wall mounts are also included, so you can potentially set up two smaller gates in different areas. It also has a door that is easy to open and close with one hand.
Keep in mind: Because of the immense size of the gate, it doesn’t fold up very small. It ends up being the length of one panel.
Good for: Parents that need to block off an entire room or want to be able to make a playpen.
(Easiest to move — $$)
Why it’s great: This gate comes with two sets of mounts, so you can move it from one area to another, giving you two different options for safe spaces. It comes in black, white, or grey so you can try to color coordinate with whatever room you want to use it in. Not only does the lock at the top keep the gate closed, but it also keeps your baby from pulling it out when the gate is retracted and open. There’s also an easy to grip handle to pull the gate open or closed.
Keep in mind: This one is for smaller areas and only opens to 55 inches wide.
Good for: Parents who want to be able to block off different areas.
(Best for doorways — $$$)
Why it’s great: The BabyDan gate is very easy to mount on door frames. It folds up nice and small when it’s open and it doesn’t have a bar at the bottom, which means you won’t trip when you’re walking through it. It’s very strong and sturdy, so you won’t have to worry about it breaking or falling over if your toddler tries to pull on it (or if you have a dog jumping up against it). It is one of the more attractive gates and doesn’t look like traditional baby gear.
Keep in mind: This one is specifically made for standard sized doorways, but you can buy extensions if you need it to be longer.
Good for: Parents with more adventurous kids and/or dogs.
(Best for stairs — $)
Why it’s great: The mounting system on this gate is very easy to install and can even be used on stairway banisters. The safety latch is easy to operate with one hand, but complicated enough that your child won’t be able to get it open on their own. The door only opens in one direction, which makes it perfect for use on stairs as the door won’t swing out over the top of them. It’s made of heavy duty metal, so it’s nice and sturdy too.
Keep in mind: This one should really only be used indoors. It will start to rust a little when exposed to outdoor weather.
Good for: Parents who need to block off their stairs.
(Most versatile — $$)
Why it’s great: The Babepai is very simple and easy to both install and use. It also comes with extra mounts for multiple installations and is easy to move. It is durable enough that it can be used outdoors if you need a gate to block patio stairs. The mesh is easy to wipe clean as well. You can open and close it with one hand, but the mesh is also flexible enough in the middle that you could step over it if needed.
Keep in mind: It needs to be attached above the baseboard, which leaves a gap at the bottom. You can buy spacers to fix this though.
Good for: Parents who need a sturdy gate for indoor and outdoor use.
FAQs about retractable baby gates
1. Why do I need a baby gate?
A baby gate has many different uses. You can use it to block off stairs, a fireplace, or any dangerous area of the house. You can also use it to create a safe space for your child to play. A lot of people also use gates to keep their pets in or out of certain areas of the house.
2. What kind of material is the best?
You have some choices in material for baby gates. Wood, metal, and mesh are the most common types. The one that is best for you will be determined by what you need from your gate. Are you looking to block off an opening? Wood is the cheapest option and should be fine. Do you need something sturdy that your child or pet can’t climb or knock over? Metal is best. Mesh works great for keeping arms and legs from sticking through the gate and is usually the easiest/smallest to store.
3. What size gate do I need?
Gates come in a variety of sizes. You’ll need to measure the opening where you’ll use the gate to determine the size. A lot of gates are adjustable, so getting a bigger gate that can also fit your space is a good option. That way if you move or need it in a bigger area, you don’t need to buy a new one. However, if you want the most space when stored, getting the smallest size that will fit is best.
4. What do I do with the gate when I’m not using it?
You’ll have to decide what you prefer for this. Some gates have to be detached and put away. Others fold into small rectangles against the wall. The mesh usually rolls up into a little post. Any of these are fine. It just depends on personal preference.
5. What are the safety concerns?
As with anything that you’re using around your child, supervision is always best. Since the main purpose of the gate is to keep your child safe, there’s a little more leeway here. I would watch your child around the gate for a few days once it’s installed to see what kinds of dangers could arise. Are they able to climb over it? Are they strong enough to knock it over or open the latch? Can they get their arms and/or legs stuck between the bars? You’ll want to know these answers before you leave your child unattended near the gate. And I would still recommend that you check in on them often.
Whether you’re just trying to take a quick shower or are working from home, you want to know that your baby is somewhere safe. Baby gates are a great way to contain your child when you have other things you need to get done. They also protect them from dangerous objects or areas in your house.
When shopping for a gate, ask yourself these questions first. Where do I want to put the gate and how big is the opening? Do I have multiple areas where I might want to use the gate? Am I worried about animals or children climbing on the gate? Do I want something that saves me a lot of space when it’s opened or am I more concerned with how the gate looks?
Finding the right gate for you is easy if you take the time to think about what you need before you buy one.