Last Updated on October 6, 2020
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As your little one starts to gain mobility, you’ll need to keep them away from many dangers around the house.
Whether it’s stairs, rooms that are not baby-proofed, or the kitchen while you cook – baby gates are the best way to keep them safe. Retractable baby gates provide an easy and flexible way to keep babies confined while keeping an eye on them.
So, which gate is right for your home?
There are hundreds of baby gates out there. To help you find the best one, we’ve researched many of the highest-rated retractable baby gates and narrowed it down to the top 5.
Too busy loving your little one? Here’s our top pick.
Our pick for the best retractable baby gate is the Retract-A-Gate, which is currently installed in three locations in our home. The Retract-A-Gate provides the smoothest one-handed operation we could find, holds up great to frequent use, and has a wider option that can block a 72-inch space.
This baby safety gate is also keeping the kids safe at their grandparent’s and aunt/uncle’s houses as well. This is a family favorite!
Best Retractable Baby Gates
- Babepai Retractable Baby Gate
- Babyseater Baby Gate
- BabyDan Guard Me
- Perma Indoor/Outdoor Retractable Baby Gate
When You Should Get A Baby Gate
The moment the baby starts trying to do any of the following is when you should have stairs or other unsafe areas of the home blocked off:
- Rolling over from their back-to-belly or vice versa.
- Army crawling or scooting on their bottom across the floor.
- Getting up on their hands and knees to start crawling.
Essentially, when the baby is no longer 100% stationary is when you need to have gates installed. This will likely happen anywhere from 3 to 6 months depending on how fast your baby develops these mobility skills.
What Makes A Retractable Gate Better Than Walk Through
Both types of safety gates are:
- Effective at keeping your infant safe and contained with a locking latch system.
- Easy to install by attaching directly to the wall or using pressure mounted gates.
- Only to be used until the age of two.
- Should be certified as meeting safety standards by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.
- Price is generally within the same range.
However, what makes retractable gates a better choice is they:
- Provide flexibility to put the gate virtually anywhere you can install the mounts. You can even install it on an angle.
- Do not have a trip hazard along the bottom like the walk thru or swinging gates. This makes them safe for the top of the stairs.
- More difficult for the baby or toddler to boost themselves up and over without hard plastic to grip onto.
- Roll or fold up when closed to provide incredibly compact storage.
- Looks better than the vertical bars that make it seem like your infant is in a baby prison.
How to Choose the Best Type of Retractable Baby Gate
There are essentially two types of retractable gates. Both require you to mount brackets or anchors to either side of the stairs, door, or hall you are are trying to block.
Mesh Retractable Gates
These are the most popular expandable baby safety gates. They are made of a soft mesh that is wrapped around a post on one side, like a scroll, for easy storage. This mesh is then unwound to hook onto the opposite wall or railing.
Wood or Plastic Gates
The wood or plastic gates can operate in two ways. Either they expand and contract like an accordion or essentially fold up when you close the gate. The accordion-style gate has been around for ages, but has become less popular over time.
Why Choose Mesh Gates for Babies
- Eliminates pinched fingers! Some wood and plastic safety gates have been pinching baby and parent fingers for decades. Some improvements have been made, but it’s still a possibility.
- Highly durable material. The mesh is designed to flex when the baby leans against it. This reduces the chance of a plastic or wood piece breaking under pressure.
- Flexible installation options. Most models allow you the ability to pivot the gate if you have multiple paths you need to switch between.
- Automatic opening. Most retractable baby gates are able to roll up automatically using springs. This makes them super easy to open when you only have one-hand carrying a baby or groceries in the other.
- Compact storage. The gate rolls up neatly out of the way when not in use. We’ve kept gates up even if we haven’t used them in many months – you forget it’s there!
Where to Install Retractable Baby Gates
There are countless locations inside and outside your home where a retractable baby gate can be used. They can be used anywhere you have two walls, railings, or door frames that are about 50 to 70 inches apart.
Here’s a quick video that provides a couple of example locations and demonstrates how easy retractable safety gates can be installed.
The following are the best places to install a baby gate to keep your little one safe.
Top and Bottom of Stairs
Retractable baby gates are the best baby gates for the top and bottom of stairs since they easily mount to stair banisters, walls, and railings. Often with stairs, there are few options for firmly securing the gate. The flexibility of mesh gates works well in these situations.
At the top of the stairs, a safety gate prevents your baby from taking a tumble or accidentally rolling their favorite toy down the steps.
Placing a gate at the bottom of the stairs works well to deter them from attempting the dangerous climb upwards. Even if they only make it to the first step, there is still the chance they can bump their mouth or face on the sharp edge of a step.
You can either drill holes to mount the gate between the door frames or to the walls on either side of the door. By mounting the gate on the outside, you are able to close the door without taking down the entire baby gate.
This is more straightforward since you’ll be mounting the gate to either side of the hall to block the path. You should be able to use a stud finder to locate wooden studs in the walls opposite each other for mounting.
Between Rooms and Open Spaces
One of the biggest challenges with trendy open floor layouts is the long distance between walls. This poses an issue when it comes to installing baby gates. However, some mesh gates are extra wide and some of the widest gates expand up to 72 inches to reach across large room openings.
Porch, Patio, and Decks
If you have a mostly enclosed space outside, a baby gate can close off a walkway or steps. This can provide some peace of mind while enjoying the nice weather outside.
What age should I take down baby safety gates?
You should stop using baby gates when your toddler turns two or start attempting to open or climb the gate. It’s difficult to give an exact age, but it’s generally around this age when your baby will start to get curious and may attempt to climb over.
Child safety is front of mind for any parent, but these safety gates will no longer serve their purpose once your baby reaches a certain age.
Also, if they can flip over their crib railings, they can certainly make their way over the gate. This is another sign it’s probably time to put the gate away and find another way to keep them safe.
Child Safety & Gate Precautions
- Check if the gate is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. They are the authority on setting standards and evaluating baby and toddler products against the highest safety requirements. Our top gate for babies has this safety certification.
- Depending on how and where the gate is being used, you’ll need to determine if you want hardware or pressure-mounted safety gates. By far, a hardware-mounted gate is much safer since they are installed directly to a stud in the wall or the railing.
- All gates for stairs are not all made equal. Cheaper mesh fabric tends to give more when the baby pushes on it. You’ll want to find a gate that uses high quality, thick mesh.
- Also, we’d recommend not using a mesh gate for stairs when the opening is over 30 inches. Wider openings will create a gap at the bottom that your baby could force their way through.
- Along with that, please follow the mounting instructions that come with any gates for baby. You don’t want an accident because the gate wasn’t mounted safely.
- After installing any gate, please double-check it’s secured properly by carefully putting some weight on it to see if it moves at all. This is especially critical when installing at the top of stairs or when using a pressure-mounted gate which is more likely to slip out of position.
- Finally, a baby gate is not a babysitter or an excuse for not keeping an eye on your child. Our little ones are curious and there are plenty of ways for them to get into trouble.
Best Retractable Baby Gate Reviews
1. Best Retractable Gate: Retract-A-Gate
The Retract-A-Gate is without question our favorite baby gate. It has an easy open and close hand operation that comes in two sizes depending on the space you’re trying to block.
The 52″ version is ideal for the top of the stairs or doorways while the 72″ wide retractable gate is great for bigger areas. The Recat-A-Gate has a locking mechanism that is smooth and can easily be used with one hand.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Very quiet when opening and closing the gate which won’t wake the baby
- Easiest one-hand operation for locking and opening gate
- Longest retractable gate at an extra-wide 72-inches and can be joined to additional gates
- Retractable mesh material is thicker to make it scratch-resistant
- Clear and durable wall mounts made of very strong plastic
- Offers a protective banister kit for mounting at the bottom or top of stairs (sold separately)
- Certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association and International Association for Child Safety
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
- Basic color options with black, white, or tan
- Brackets may require spacers depending on the width of your baseboards
Gate Dimensions: 34-inches tall by 52-inches wide or 34-inches tall by 72-inches wide
2. Runner Up: Babepai Retractable Baby Gate
While the gate operation isn’t quite as smooth as the Retract-A-Gate, the Babepai retractable baby gate design looks appealing and still provides safety at a low price.
This child safety gate features all the hardware you’ll need to quickly mount and has an easy-to-use locking system. With the lower price tag and thick mesh, the Babepai can also double as a retractable pet gate as well.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Locking mechanism makes it difficult for toddlers to open
- Soft feeling mesh is strong and flexible to withstand pressure
- Thicker mesh material is more durable and can also be used as a pet gate
- Self-closing smart retract system makes opening simple
- Great value for the price of the gate
- Nice looking gate, however, it only comes in black
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
- Mounting brackets and hooks not as strong and sturdy as Retract-A-Gate
- Requires spacers (not included) to mount if you have wide baseboards
- Do not offer protective banister kit for mounting on stairs
Gate Dimensions: 33-inches tall by 54-inches wide
The Babyseater baby gate comes with an aluminum body to make it lightweight and stronger. The big latches make it easy and convenient to hook the gate to the other side.
While the one-handed operation isn’t the smoothest, the mesh is made of strong and high-quality nylon. This durable material helps it withstand occasional wear from your child or pet.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Double locking mechanism on hooks for extra security
- Aluminum body makes the gate lightweight
- Big latches and handle for opening and closing the gate
- Ideal for light uses both indoors and outdoors
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
- Can only be mounted in one direction
- Difficult to operate with one hand
- Gate locking mechanism isn’t as smooth as other gates
- Hardware is made of lighter weight plastic which is more prone to break
- Installation instructions not the easiest to follow
Gate Dimensions: 33-inches tall by 48-inches wide
The BabyDan Guard Me is probably the most unique gate we’ve seen out of those we researched. Instead of a mesh fabric that rolls up, it contracts and folds up like an accordion.
This is a great baby gate since it is made of plastic that you can easily wipe clean and opens silently with just one hand. The only downside is that the gate takes up a little more room in the doorway since it folds rather than rolls up.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Simple one-handed operation
- Gate uses folding panels that collapse for easy storage
- Stronger gate material able to handle more pressure and weight
- Great for small spaces and between a door frame
- Scratch-resistant gate material for use with pets
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
- Material is not see-through which makes it difficult to see the baby
- Covers the smallest area at 35-inches wide
- May require an additional extension kit (not included) to reach up to 44 inches
- Locking mechanism not as smooth as other gates
- Not as discrete and compact as gates that roll up
Gate Dimensions: 28-inches tall by 35-inches wide
The Perma baby safety gate is one of the lowest cost options we’ve found that extends just over 70 inches wide. This wide gate gives you the flexibility to put this gate virtually anywhere around the house.
However, we would not recommend using this gate across wide openings near a staircase. The longer you extend this (or any) retractable baby gate, the more it will flex and could allow your child to crawl underneath.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Covers extra-wide openings with a span of 71-inches
- Comes in grey, white, and black
- Has a taller option at 41-inches for greater protection
- Easy to grip handle for opening and closing
- Comes with wall spacers to get around baseboards
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
- More difficult one-handed operation and often requires two hands
- Mounting brackets, hooks, and provided screws not as durable as other gates
- Latches/hooks not as deep making it easier for the gate to slide off
- Mesh may occasionally get caught up/stopped when rolling up
- Installation instructions not easy to follow and foolproof
Gate Dimensions: 33-inches tall by 71-inches wide or 41-inches tall by 71-inches wide
When it comes to the best retractable baby gate you can find, the Retract-A-Gate is hands down the top choice.
What sets these retractable baby gates apart is the high quality in the mesh fabric, mounting brackets/hooks, and overall simplicity in use. It’s the only gate we reviewed that was quiet, certified by multiple organizations for safety, and could be used easily with one hand.
Our family loved the Retract-A-Gate so much that we purchased 3 safety gates for our home.
Two of the 54-inch wide gates have been installed to block our stairs and a room that has lots of fragile objects. The larger 72-inch baby gate blocks our kitchen and keeps children confined to the living room.
The Retract-A-Gate may cost more than other options, but you get what you pay for in quality and durability. Our research and personal experience lead us to recommend it as the best retractable mesh gates out there.