If you have a toddler who’s just learned to crawl or walk, you understand the dire need for a baby gate. Kids at that age are full of energy and curiosity, and they will attempt to explore their surroundings whether you want them to or not. Baby gates are a necessity unless you feel like running a small marathon every day until your child can be trusted by themselves to not fall down the stairs or put food stains all over your fancy furniture. Read on for some tips on how to find the best baby gate for your individual purposes.

Make Sure It’s Safety Certified

When shopping for a baby gate, be on the lookout for a JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) sticker. The JPMA provides a set of international, voluntary safety standards for manufacturers of equipment like baby gates, and you should absolutely avoid buying a gate without one. Not doing so could result in the purchase of a gate that’s either ineffective or has parts that could hurt your child. But if you have a JPMA sticker, you’re good to go.

Think Before Buying a Tension Gate

You may be tempted to buy a tension gate if you’re not excited about drilling holes in your walls, banisters and door frames. But, tension gets are secured by little more than pressure and are easily disabled with minor amounts of force. A toddler is absolutely capable of knocking it down once they figure out how to do it. So, under no circumstances should a tension gate be used to block stairs or other parts of your home that could be dangerous to a toddler. But they’re all right for when you just want to suggest that your child steers clear of a certain area.

Think About Structure

Not all baby gates are alike, so just picking between tension and mounted and looking for the JPMA sticker will only get you halfway there. If the slats are horizontal, your toddler could easily climb them, and if they’re more than three inches apart from each other, they could present a strangling hazard. Think carefully about what your specific needs are before you buy so you don’t end up with something that won’t do the job.

Talk to Your Friends

Hive minds are great for first-time parents who need advice on literally everything they’re experiencing when it comes to parenthood. If you have friends with recently graduated toddlers, see what strategies or types of gates they used. It may be that they have one that you can use now that they no longer need it (just make sure you measure before taking it off of their hands). They can also be great guides on what brands to favor and what brands to avoid. No doubt sourcing some answers from your family and friends will point you in the right direction when you’re choosing a baby gate.

That said, when you’re looking for the best baby gate for toddlers, the most important thing to remember is that there isn’t just one. Each home and family have different needs, so when you being your search, have a clear idea in mind of what you need and what will work in your home. This will go a long way toward ensuring that you make the best choice.