Gated Community

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You'd think that with the (seemingly) hundreds of baby gates on the market, it would be easier to find one that actually works and fits in the spot you want to put it. But we're not having much luck, and we have an increasingly mobile and curious toddler who thinks that climbing the stairs is the

Our biggest problem lies in our banisters. The one at the bottom of the stairs is pretty tall, so we can't find a gate tall enough to be able to line up the tension rods with the flat parts of it. So we figured we'd have to get one of those banister kits to adapt the best/tallest gate we could find--a Dream Baby Extra Tall security gate--but then we noticed that when we use the tension rod against our sorta-loose banister, the tension was actually forcing the banister over to the side a bit, causing some of the molding surround the banister to rip apart. NOT GOOD.

The other issue with the bottom of the stairs is that I guess you're supposed to put the gate on the bottom stair, as opposed to the floor? If that's the case, we've got bigger problems since we have a pretty thick and cushy carpet as a runner, making the surface area unlevel when you go from left to right.
For the top of the stairs, we have the same type of banister, but it's a bit shorter. We bought a Summer Infant Sure and Secure Extra Tall gate, because it was one of the only ones I found that was (hopefully) the right height AND could be hardware mounted (a safety requirement for top-of-the-stairs placement). We don't have it in our hands yet, because our local Babies 'R' Us and Toys 'R' Us stores were out of stock, so we had to have my sister-in-law pick it up for us in the city where she goes to college, and we won't see her again until Saturday. But since the banister is a little loose upstairs, too, I'm nervous that this won't work, either. When you hardware mount, does it still require tension against the surfaces you're mounting on?

Our trim molding is not the easiest thing to deal with either, as it also semi-interferes with mounting--both tension and hardware styles. Fun.

And then there's part of me that is thinking we should just save our money and buy a cheap, removable-on-a-daily-basis gate that we can somehow rig at the bottom of the stairs, and just very carefully supervise (like we have been) whenever we're upstairs. At what age do kids generally learn how to go down stairs safely? When are they old enough to start teaching them to scootch down on their bellies, backwards?

For downstairs, if we can't figure out a bottom-of-the-stairs solution, our only other option is to put a gate in the doorway to our kitchen, then put a (very wide, and probably very expensive) gate across the opening into the playroom, effectively blocking off our entire foyer. This is less appealing to me because I feel like the gates will be more "in your face" this way, as opposed to being relatively inconspicuous in our stairway.

What do you think? Any suggestions for us based on our photos? Do you live in a "gated community," or do you let your kids roam free? If you do the former, what is the system you've found works best for you? If the latter, how on earth do you keep your kids away from stairs and/or watch them every second?


Jacki January 19, 2012 at 8:50 PM  

I don't know if you've looked at it yet, but after a lot of research and recommendations we're going with the Evenflo Easy Walk Thru.
Good luck!

denise January 19, 2012 at 9:21 PM  

The evenflo crosstown gate worked for our crazy openings. Since it is a tension gate, it still needs supervision, but gives you 10 seconds extra to race to the kid. Sometimes mounting an extra board on the wall or bannister with zipties will help even out openings.

Anonymous,  January 20, 2012 at 12:06 AM  

Do a latch connect point to the banister. All baby gates have the expansion ability to fit within the opening. In your scenario, you do NOT want to utilize the tension system if the banister is weak. You should use a standard gate latch attachment you would normally see on a fence gate (with minimal damage to the banister). Someone else out there has to have had this same situation and can tell you the way to do this without too much damage to your banister. Good luck!

Rachael Farris January 20, 2012 at 1:56 AM  

If you want a cheap and easy DIY solution check out this link: She made hers out of PVC pipe and fabric. Or try this one: This one is just fabric (I think)

Or you could just get a piece of plywood cut to the measurements you need, staple on some batting and then cover with a pretty (or inconspicuous fabric) and voila!

I can't wait to see what you come up with! I hope I was able to help!

Sending you sunshine,

Rachael @ You Me and Natalie

Anonymous,  January 20, 2012 at 8:59 AM  

We are a open community at our house. I feel like a minority reading the other comments, but our neighbors with a 17-month old are the exact same way. Our 13-month old is comfortable on the stairs going both up and down and has been doing so for a few months. I don't think it is too early for Nora to learn she needs to climb up and then go down backwards.

DD was obsessed with stairs around 8 or 9 months and that was when we were having to constantly watch her. The steps are pretty much old news now, though. The only time she goes up and down is when we ask her if she wants to for one reason or another. If Nora only recently started showing an interest it could be a phase that passes once tires of it.

Melanie,  January 20, 2012 at 9:12 AM  

Our main level has stairs going up and down. We have a hardware mounted gate going down and nothing going up. Our 11 mo old is just entering her 'stair' phase and I want her to learn to navigate them so I don't want to block them off entirely (but if they were blocked off I could pretty much give her 100% freedom on the main level, which would be awesome). Sigh.

Katie P January 20, 2012 at 12:11 PM  

We are also a completely open house. The only baby proofing we did was move the chemicals to the garage. When we bought our house we actually undid all of the baby proofing that was already in it! I'm due in July and when this little one starts moving we'll gate at the top of the stairs only. Hope that helps!

She's probably ready to learn how to go up and down safely. Carter LOVED going down the stairs on his belly. He thought that was a really fun game.

Helen January 20, 2012 at 1:09 PM  

Our kiddo is older, but we are an open house. He learned how to go up and down the stairs at my parents house at about the same age as Nora is now. He was never one for scooting down stairs on his bottom though, so he just learned to hold on to the railing. It/when we have a second kid, I think we will gate the top of the stairs when they are first mobile and go from there depending on how determined / coordinated they prove to be. Maybe we just lucked out this time around with a particularly obedient child ;) Our son, at 3, has been doing the stairs unsupervised since we moved into the house in October. He has been fine on them - I am the one that has fallen on them, twice! ;)

PhaseThreeOfLife January 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM  

Oooh yeah, that's a tricky one. We don't have any stairs to wrangle with, but we do have a very large arched opening from the living room to dining room. We didn't want to get one of those big long (expensive) gates, but after many hours each weekend, chasing Ryan from the living room to the kitchen and back again,we gave in. It actually doesn't look too bad - you do get used to it pretty quickly. And we got a color that matches our walls so it sort of blends in.

Sorry I'm not a better help on the stairs, but I think if you have to opt for the long gate, it wouldn't be awful. Good luck!

Lucianna January 20, 2012 at 2:03 PM  

Good luck! I have no good advice when it comes to the gate, unfortunately.
We have a 15-month-old boy and he started walking a week or two after turning 1. I think that even before that time we started drilling into him to "turn around" whenever he's up on a surface (couch, bed, etc.) or at the top of the stairs to get down safely. We just kept saying it over and over and over and sometimes moving him to the desired position. It took him a long time to figure out how to crawl down the stairs properly and we just kept practicing it, saying the words and physically putting his knees down or pulling his foot down, etc. He has a good rhythm now when he crawls down, BUT there is no way we would ever let him go by himself. He basically knows that one of us has to be with him at all times when crawling up or down the stairs (probably by the way we freak out if he makes it to the bottom of the stairs without us).
We are lucky because downstairs we have a way to shut off the lower level from the staircase with doors, so we only have one gate at the top of the stairs.

Colleen @ Mommy Panda January 22, 2012 at 12:09 AM  

My house was gated gated gated. I bought my gates second hand from Craigslist or Once Upon a Child in Southtown Plaza. I had a long one for the living room that blocked the front door area, one with a door for the doorway b/w the living room & kitchen and then two more for the stairs - all tension.

My son probably started being able to scootch down the stairs backward when he was 16 or 17 months old. Now, he's an old pro, and the only gate still up is one around the TV.

Elyse January 22, 2012 at 1:57 PM  

I think Nora is a good age to start teaching stair safety. She will get good really quickly with practice. Another option besides the belly slide, is teaching her to go down on her bum. Sit at the top and just scootch your bum to the next stair down. We found that once kids hit a little older, they liked this better so they could carry stuff with them.

Heather January 23, 2012 at 9:16 AM  

Thanks, all. Your comments have been helpful. We're going to try a couple of other gates this week. After discussing at length, we're more comfortable using some sort of gate at this point, as long as we can find something that works. But, I do appreciate the input about your kids who have learned to go down the stairs at a similar age to Nora. We now recognize that we have to start taking the time to let her practice so we can teach her the safe way to climb down them.

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