You have been waiting for the moment when your little tot can move around on her own. Finally, they have mastered crawling. How exciting! Well, it’s too early to celebrate yet. Your little explorer doesn’t know how to stay within the boundaries. She goes everywhere she wants. So what are the best retractable baby gates to ensure your little one’s safety?
Baby gates are a must-have for parents who have bigger babies or toddlers. Most parents start installing gates when their baby turns 6-months. Baby gates barricade a section of your house to keep your baby out of harm’s way. Though baby gates come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, retractable ones stood out as a more preferred choice thanks to its convenience and flexibility.
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Best Retractable Baby Gates
These are the top five baby gates that have retractable doors. Let’s find out why.
1. Best Overall Retractable Baby Gates
A highly-rated retractable baby gate that is parent-friendly and durable
Installation – The installation of the Smart Track Safety Gate is relatively easy but still requires hardware and hand tools. It comes with screws and clips to mount. However, you need to get the drywall anchors separately. If you want to install it over baseboards, you also need to purchase spacers separately. This gate can be installed to use at a diagonal opening. There are two width options for the gate: 52 inches and 72 inches.
Mesh Material – The mesh itself is 34 inches high. The mesh fabric comes in three colors: white, black, and brown. All of them are see-through. It is very convenient for caregivers who are working or doing house chores in another room and need to take a sneak peek at their baby. We installed one gate indoors and one on the deck. The color of both gates maintains very well. The one outside didn’t get too dirty or dusty. To clean, we used a damp cloth and soapy water to wipe it down.
Overall the mesh feels tough and durable. The gate can be effective in preventing babies from crawling over. But once your baby reaches 1-year-old, they may hang on the fabric. While we were testing the gate with bigger kids, they quickly found ways to hang on the gate by grabbing the top of the mesh. The mesh is strong enough to hold the weight of two babies who constantly try to pull themselves up. But if you have more babies and they are stronger, it might be a little concerning if the mesh can hold up the force.
Also be aware that, if you have small pets like cats, they may be able to squeeze under the mesh.
Easiness to Use – Opening and closing the gate is quiet. Once you unhook it, the mesh can coil back quickly. You still want to use your hand to guide it back. Closing is a two-step operation. You need to remember to turn the knob to lock the gate. We think that this should be improved. Because practically it is very easy to forget, especially if you constantly need to chase after your little munchkin. We think this is definitely an area for improvement.
Pricing & Certification – Comparing to its counterparts who are mostly around $60 – $80, the Retract-A-Gate is quite expensive. Smart Retract Retract-A-Gate is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). It means that it has been tested by an independent facility and met the JPMA standards.
Overall – All things considered, Smart Retract Retract-A-Gate Safety Gate is our recommended winner. We are impressed with its flexibility and easiness to use. Though we wish that they can have a more robust locking mechanism so that caregivers don’t forget to lock the gate.
2. Best Retractable Baby Gate with Hard Surfaces
A foldable baby gate with innovative design and is ideal for small spaces
Installation – Without expansion boards, the BabyDan Guard Me extends up to 36 inches. In addition, you need to decide if you want to mount it inside or outside the door frame. For inside mounting, it can cover 25.4 inches to 35 inches. This is enough for most doors. For outside mount, the gate can cover 21.7 inches to 31.2 inches. You can buy Extend-A-Guard to accommodate wider openings.
The installation itself is fairly straight-forward. The included instruction manual is not so intuitive. But via a quick google search, we found the official installation video, which is very simple to follow. It took us about 40 minutes to complete the installation.
Accordion Door – Using a retractable accordion for the gate is a smart idea. Yes, mesh fabric is simple and easy, but in the back of your mind, you still worry if it’s strong enough and safe enough. Just for peace of mind, many parents prefer hard surfaces over the fabric.
In terms of the safety of the accordion itself, the accordion doesn’t have any openings or sharp edges. We don’t think it will be a concern that a child’s fingers get stuck in the folds. However, if the accordion is not secured properly and it’s not flush against the wall, there might be a gap. It is possible for a baby to pinch their fingers in the gap.
Easiness to Use – Once installed properly, the gate is pretty quiet to use. To open the gate, you just need to push the lock and the gate automatically retracts. To close, simply pull the gate and push it to the sidebar. Since the gate is not reliant on intense tension, like a mesh fabric gate, there is no separate step to lock it.
Pricing & Certification – We couldn’t find information to confirm that BabyDan Guard Me Auto Retractable Baby Gate is JPMA certified. However, they did state on their website that they are in compliance with EN1930:2011 & ASTM F1004. ASTM F1004 sets the Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Expansion Gates and Expandable Enclosures.
Overall – Despite its limit on the width, the BabyDan Guard Me Auto Retractable Baby Gate is a more worry-free choice for parents with bigger babies. For those who are considering this option, our advice is that you properly measure the width of the opening and pick the mounting style in advance.
3. Best Extra Large Retractable Baby Gate
A sturdy retractable baby gate that has gained many repetitive customers
Installation – A great thing about the BABYSEATER Retractable Baby Gate is that it comes with all needed hardware, including the drywall anchors. We also like the bonus cut-out measuring guide provided by the manufacturer. It makes the installation much easier. For most home installation, measuring and marking the holes is the most time-consuming part. For us, the installation only took 15 minutes.
Mesh Material – Like our winner Smart Retract Retract-A-Gate, the mesh on the BABYSEATER Retractable Baby Gate is pretty tough and feels high-quality. The material is actually quite stretchy. We tried to pull it to see how long it can expand. It still looked fine when stretched to 50 inches. Comparing to an accordion design, the mesh design is easier to maintain.
Easiness to Use – This baby gate is not as quiet as our top two choices. There is a tiny noise every time when it coils back. To close, the mesh needs to be hooked to both the top and the bottom of the hinge. It requires you to bend down. Locking is relatively easy. You just need to turn it to lock.
Pricing & Certification – The BABYSEAT Retractable Baby Gate is only half the price of our winner Retract-A-Gate. If you don’t have a super-wide opening and want to save money, this gate is a nice alternative. We were not able to find any information about its certification.
To Sum It Up – Despite our not able to find the certificate information, BABYSEATER Retractable Baby Gate is still sturdy and durable. We didn’t see much of a difference in its performance during our testing with a bunch of hyper-energetic kiddos.
When to Start and Stop Using Baby Gates ?
The short answer is, from 6 months to 3 years.
Well, everyone’s situation is a little different. You can start installing a gate as early as you want. But the absolute latest is when your baby is mobile. As soon as they start to crawl, or when they skip crawling altogether and go directly to walking, you will need to make sure they can safely stay within their play area. For parents who have multiple kids or pets, you probably have to start installing baby gates even earlier.
When can you safely stop using baby gates? Well, there is no standard answer. It is up to your little tot and her willingness to comply with home safety guidelines. As your kiddo gets stronger and smarter, they figure out ways to get out of the gate. Once they learn to climb out or unlock the gate, you can no longer safely contain them by fencing them up. It is now time to educate your toddler to safely navigate the house.
What Are Some Types of Baby Gates on the Market Today?
There are many different types of baby gates available in the market today. They are designed to accommodate parents’ different requirements. For example, you may look for freestanding baby gates because you plan to move them around to different rooms. Or you may prefer baby gates with an opening for your fur babies.
These are the most popular types of baby gates:
1. Hardware-Mounted Baby Gates.
To install these gates, you need to use a hand tool, such as a power drill, to drill holes on the wall or doorway. The benefit is that they are much more secure than pressure mounted baby gates. But the installation is more cumbersome. You will need proper tools and hardware. The installation can be time-consuming. In addition, they leave permanent marks on the wall.
2. Pressure-Mounted Baby Gates
These baby gates require minimum installation. They are wedged into place by the pressure against the walls. You don’t need to worry about fixing the walls once they are taken down. They are also portable so that you can move them around in the house. But keep in mind, they are less secure than the hardware-mounted ones. So don’t use them for bigger babies or use it for staircases.
3. Freestanding Baby Gates
As the name suggests, these gates are not attached to the wall. Other than putting them together, there is no additional installation required. Therefore, they can be easily moved around. What is the downside? They tend to be more expensive. Watch out though, once your little tot grows stronger and smarter and figures out how to get it out of the way, these gates are not protective anymore.
4. Retractable Baby Gates
Retractable baby gates are usually made with rollable mesh fabric. They are great for narrow openings such as staircases or doorways. To secure them, you need to mount the brackets to the walls, though the installation is fairly straight-forward. They don’t take much space either.
What Are the Benefits of Retractable Baby Gates?
The main benefits of retractable baby gates are:
- Retractable baby gates are made using durable mesh. They can be used both indoors and outdoors. You can use them on the deck or the porch.
- The installation is fairly easy and straight-forward.
- They can be mounted inside and outside the doorway
- Unlike swing gates, opening retractable gate doesn’t take extra space
- They are quiet to use.
- Their design is more discreet. Great for grandparents who only need baby gates for occasional visits
What Are the Limits of Retractable Baby Gates?
The key limitations of retractable baby gates are:
- Recommended to use up to 24 months
- Must punch holds on the wall for the installation
- If you have pets, they may be able to squeeze underneath the gate or tear off the mesh
- They must be locked to ensure enough tension on the mesh
Buying a retractable gate for babies is not an easy task. Besides finding one that matches the style of your home, you also need to consider many factors such as installation, safety, durability, and ease to clean. We hope that this guide is helpful in finding the best retractable baby gate for you.
Cecilia Yeung is a successful entrepreneur and product researcher. She has a background in psychology and children’s education. As a working mother of two, she loves to write about children’s education and development.