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My son is crawling and I need to install the baby gate that we got from the baby shower. This will be installed onto the wall but before I do that I need to determine what direction I want it to swing. The directions say I need to determine this now before I make holes in the wall.

This will be at the top of the stairs. I can have it swing both directions, or just one. If I do just one direction, should it open "onto the landing" or out over the stairs?

I imagine that forcing it to be only open onto the landing would be a little safer but it might be more convenient to have it swing both directions.

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This is purely anecdotal but true nevertheless. A good friend of mine used to be a brain surgeon at Boston Children's hospital. He got very upset whenever he saw a gate at the top of the stairs. The number one accident causing severe brain injury that he saw were kids climbing over the gate at the top of the stairs. This was much more of a problem than kids simply falling down the stairs. –  Hilmar Sep 30 '13 at 0:03
    
YMMV but we never had gates but just fluffy carpet on the stairs and at the bottom. All of our kids fell down at least once, but they mostly just roll and slide and after one or two incidents they get hang of it. Sliding down the stairs on their butts actually turned out to be a real fun game. –  Hilmar Sep 30 '13 at 0:03

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

We mounted ours to open onto the landing, away from the stairs. We believe this has the following benefits:

  • it's safer when it's not fully closed: if the locking mechanism hasn't really locked, so it is just leaned to, it still won't allow the child to fall down the stairs.
  • it's easier to operate: especially when it's open, you don't have to reach into the air above the stairs to grab the gate.
  • and the hand rail won't be in the way of the gate.

The drawback of course is that the gate swings onto the landing, so the landing must be big enough for the radius of the gate plus you. And when it's open (when no kids are upstairs) it can be in the way. But that's a small price to pay for safety, and in a few years it will be gone for good anyway.

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Adding a bit more to Torben's answer...

Every baby gate instruction manual and resource I've read stresses that they should be installed to open away from the stairs. In doing a bit of looking around, this is most simply put on the Evenflo site:

To avoid baby pushing through a gate and falling down the stairs, a safety gate, at the top of stairs, should be hardware mounted on both ends and limited to swing open in one direction - away from stairs.

For most baby gates, if it opens over the stairs, the only thing holding it closed and stopping it from swinging open is pressure, and a child’s body weight can easily dislodge a pressure mount gate causing both to fall down the stairs.

That being said, most (possibly all?) baby gate products also have the recommendation to "never leave children unsupervised" around the gates - I especially recommend following this, since kids are often quicker to learn than you might think - both of ours tried to climb over gates before they were 2.

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I don't think there is any one correct answer here, it all depends on the design of your particular gate, stairs and landing.

Personally, we don't close the gate when we're downstairs (because if the toddler did make it upstairs without us noticing, we want her to be able to get on to the landing and not be thwarted by a gate!) so the gate is only closed when we're upstairs. Given this and the design of our particular stairs and landing, it only makes sense for the gate to open "outwards" over the stairs.

[I should add that our gate is NOT a pressure-mounted gate, and I would not use a pressure-mounted gate at the top of stairs in general. Ours is bolted into the wall.]

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