Monday, February 23, 2015

Maggie, Destroyer of Baby Gates (a Baby Gate Review)

Maggie breaks baby gates like it's her job.

And since she requires a level of supervision that isn't possible without restricting certain areas in our three story (including the basement) home, they're also a must around here.

Over the last three years I feel like I've become an expert in baby gates.  If there's a baby gate out there, there is an excellent chance that we've bought it and that Maggie has broken it.  From gates that were under $20 to a gate that was just over $100 (that one was a gift), Maggie has broken a wide array of baby gates in the last two years.

For ages I've been meaning to right a review of what we've tried and learned along the way, so that I can share what's worked for us, so far, and what hasn't.

I'll start with one of the basic gates you see pretty often.  These wooden pressure gates can usually be found with the other baby gear in stores that carry a variety of baby supplies.  They aren't a bad gate.

Image from Amazon.
We've gone through around a half dozen of them over the course of roughly two and a half years (and I would not have kept sending Paul out to buy new ones if I hadn't thought that they worked fairly well).  They're convenient because they can adjust to fit a variety of doors and because they don't require any screws for installation.

The draw backs I found were that they did leave little dents on the wood of the door frame (at least they did at the level of pressure necessary to keep Mae from knocking them down easily) and they can be hard to put back up if you don't know which little number setting they were on  when you took the gate down (because the little metal piece that sets the length moves easily when the gate isn't set up).  However that problem is easily solved by making a small mark on the correct number once you've figured out the perfect setting for each door.

Unfortunately, this was the first type of gate Mae mastered breaking.  She realized that if she grabbed the lower corner on either side of the gate and twisted it up diagonally, the wood frame would snap and that would be the end of the gate.

How can someone so little be so good at destroying baby gates?
That is the question that I frequently find myself asking.

And that brings me on to Gate #2 .  

Another photo courtesy of Amazon.  

Again, this gate worked very well... until it didn't anymore.  Although Mae didn't break this gate.  I did.  In order to get this gate tight enough to keep our little ninja from forcing it out of the door frame I had to keep the pressure on the sides very high.  One day when I went to close it, the handle snapped and the entire gate broke.  I would estimate that it lasted for a solid six months.

That's not a bad run for a baby gate in our house.

Moving on...

I love this baby gate.  I was very, very sad the day that Maggie realized that if she used both arms to push the bottom of this gate in, with a great deal of force, very rapidly, the wooden frame on the side would snap into two (or more) pieces and the entire gate would fall apart before our eyes (and then her little brother would swoop in, grab the broken piece of wood and start wielding it as a sword...).

Another photo from Amazon.
These gates are my favorite type of baby gate.  They expand to fit a wide variety of doors.  As far as baby gates go, they're really quite tall.  And they're very sturdy (that is, if you don't live with a person who dedicates themselves to destroying baby gates).  If memory serves we've owned three over the last four years.

This month she broke the last two, within a week of each other and we realized that she'd mastered the trick to breaking this gate and that we needed to move on to something else.  But if I were to recommend a baby gate that's both sturdy and won't break the bank, I think that this would be my favorite.

Then there was this gate.

Photo from Lowes.
I was certain that this one was going to work.  I mean, look at it.  It's metal.  What could possibly go wrong?

If you're answer was, "She'll break the latch off the gate on the first model, and when the store it was purchased from replaces it, because they agreed that a four year old really shouldn't be able to destroy a hundred dollar baby gate in a month, she'll break the second one by ripping the "optional" hardware out of the wall" than you would be correct.

This was the prettiest gate.  It was the easiest to open with one hand.  And it was the easiest for her to break.  Go figure.

I don't actually own this next gate .  But my parent's do.

Photo from Amazon
And remarkably, it's still in one piece.  I know, because I just called my mom to make sure.

Maybe it's because she was being polite, not smashing a gate that wasn't in our own home.  Maybe it's because she didn't have enough time while we've visited Nani and Grumpa's house to do her worst.  Or maybe it's because she could climb the baby gate and get over it, and so she didn't need to break it.  Either way, this is one of the few baby gates that has survived Mae's amazing strength.

The other product that we've found extremely helpful this last year is the door monkey .  Of the three we've owned, she's only managed to wear through one (so that it broke).  The other two are still in working order and they insure that she doesn't leave her room (and our house) at night.

Amazon, again.
When a friend recommended the door monkey I was extremely skeptical.  How could a little piece of plastic keep Maggie in her room at 4 am, when multiple baby gates couldn't do the job?  The door monkey did. I bring them when we travel.  I bought a new one to take with me when we went to my parent's house last summer.  They are amazing.  They, along with a security system that lets me know if the outer doors open and close, keep me sane, by letting me know that she's still safely indoors.

And what baby gates are we using right now? Let me show you:

The bottom half of the gate was made by Grumpa.  If you look at the hinges you can see they've been replaced
because she broke the first ones off.  The upper part of the gate was made by Paul today.

The bottom half is homemade.  The top half we found at a second hand store and somehow it has
survived the wrath of Mae. Maybe because it's only a month old.

We're moving past buying baby gates.  We are now building our own. Maybe it's surprisingly that it's taken this long.  She's become too good at breaking them and buying a baby gate that's only going to work for two days (if that) is silly.  But hopefully my ample baby gate buying experience can help you if you're wondering which baby gates are the toughest when put to the test.

This isn't a sponsored review.  It's just one I thought I should right so that all this baby gate experience doesn't go to waste.  The Amazon links are affiliate links, as any Amazon links on this blog are.  


  1. We have 2 of gate #2 (one pressure mounted, one swing mounted) and one #3. It wasn't until this visual with the exact ones we have that I have been truly 100% in awe of Mae's strength! She looks so unhappy with the gate she can't break. (Hopefully) I'm going to look at those door monkey things. I love peace of mind!

    1. I'm still so shocked that the door monkeys have been able to hold her. And even living with her every day I still find myself surprised by her strength on a regular basis. I just don't know how she can be so little and so strong!

  2. Cam, I know someone who installed locking screen doors with rung bottom pannel for their rambunctious child who teamed up with an Australian Shepard, greyhound and Maine coon cat seemed to have no barriers. I know that her grandfather built them out of 2x3 and some kind of spring-loaded hinge that was super tough. He'd made them in the south as a traditional porch door but it worked really well for this purpose.

    1. I'm really hoping that when we finally have our own non-rental home we'll be able to put in something more sturdy and permanent (and easy to use and pretty). Of course the dream is that we won't need them by that time, whenever it is, but I totally find myself thinking of how we might be able to do that in the future.

  3. My autistic son is twelve now, and we are past those days. We had similar levels of extreme childproofing. It's difficult to understand unless you live it. She will get better! Best wishes.


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