Truth is, the parenting culture has had mixed feelings about the playpen seemingly since it was invented. An ad in a 1925 newspaper, for example, for a device called the “Kiddie Koop” (reputedly designed by Buckminster Fuller), encapsulated the tension: “There is no thrill like that of holding and caring for a baby in your arms,” it began. “Yet the modern mother with her manifold duties must—simply MUST—forego such maternal joys at times, or the ‘regulation of household affairs’ will suffer.” Playpens would continue to be debated, not in the pages of scientific journals but in the mothering advice columns of newspapers. In a 1943 edition of the Spokane Daily Herald, Myrtle Meyer Eldred touted the benefits of playpens: “Not only is the child free of possible physical injury but his behavior is not subjected to constant punishment, since what he does in his guarded play-place does not annoy the parent.” In a 1957 article in the Chicago Tribune, the writer, after first asking the reader to remember “the great hue and cry raised against the play pen a few years back,” then goes on to cite a report by Dr. E. Robbins Kimball noting various advantages of the playpen (including the fact that it “gives nervous mothers relief.”) In 1966, a columnist was asked in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette if mothers used playpens “as a lazy excuse to keep their babies out of the way”; while in an article in that same paper a decade later, a reader of the “Parents Ask” column wondered about “some psychologists who are against playpens.” The column’s author, Louis B. Ames, noted the reader was probably referring to Burton White’s The First Three Years of Life (“there is no way of keeping most children from being bored in a playpen for longer than a very brief period of time”), and then went on to advise that “the ordinarily lively and intelligent baby does not have be entertained by others during all his waking hours.”
Whatever its name, the concept of the playpen reveals yet another fault line in the politics of anxious parenting, as I found via a simple inquiry—whether the playpen was in or out of vogue—at Urbanbaby.com, a site that combines the neurotic firepower of Woody Allen’s 1970s oeuvre with the conviviality-tinged-with-hostility of the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars. Reading through the various replies (including a few from parents-to-be who shared my curiosity), the opinions seemed to fall roughly into two camps: Against were those who said playpens are overly confining, that it is better to child-proof one’s home instead, that playpens are “the first compromise to good parenting” (inevitably followed by television, etc.); on the other side were those who averred that playpens are safe and necessary spaces to park toddlers while getting things done, that it is folly to suggest that one’s parental eyes can always be trained on the child, that far from restricting creativity playpens enhance a sense of independence, etc.
I can’t honestly say I remember physically being in a playpen as a child—though I was—but I remember them as a fact of 1970s child life, a rubber-and-mesh piece of living room furniture as ubiquitous as mahogany-cabinet-enclosed Magnavox televisions (with family photos crowded out by a giant Betamax on top). But as the clock ticked toward my recent entry into fatherhood and I trawled various hip and modern baby-product sites, mentally equipping our nursery-to-be, I noticed that among all the titanium-framed Norwegian strollers and German educational toys (or was it vice-versa?), I didn’t seem to see any playpens —whether rendered in sustainably sourced wenge wood or not. The word didn’t really seem to surface very much among all the proper parenting discourse on the chat sites either. Which left me wondering: Do parents still use playpens? Or are they some relic of me-decade indulgence forsaken in an era of more enlightened child-rearing?
So, like many other people on here, I was very hesitant about spending $150 on a playpen. However, it is more then worth it. I had gone back and fourth, and finally pulled the trigger. My 6month old is crawling everywhere, already trying to pull herself up on things, and getting into everything! This play pen allowed minimal safety proofing for my apt, since she is only out when i can keep my eyes completely on her. The play pen is sturdy when pulling on the panels, doesn’t tip, and takes quick a bit of effort to move the walls out (she hasn’t been able to get them to budge). She is able to pull herself up, teeth on the edges, and it is safe (especially if i need to clean, do chores etc). Also, my husband and I fit in it with her. The activity wall is also an added plus. She enjoys playing with it.
Many play yards, such as the Graco Silhouette discussed in Types, offer a bassinet that covers the entire length and width of the play yard. That is a good feature because it reduces the likelihood that your baby will fall into the play yard. But a baby could still fall outside of the play yard so stop using any bassinet attachment once your baby can push up on his hands and knees. The Safety 1st Travel Ease Elite Play Yard (about $112) also comes with this type of bassinet, and a changing table and removable toy bar. It measures 30 x 46 1/4 inches and has lockable wheels.
If you’re in need of a larger playpen, the Delta Children 36″ x 36″ Playard may be a great option for you. At three foot square, this playpen gives baby lots of room to play and explore. It also has fun animal designs that children love. This playpen comes with a mattress and carrying bag, and it folds compactly for storage and travel. This playpen is on the heavier side at 28 pounds, and some consumers report that setup and breakdown is more difficult than with other models. (Check out the video below to see how to break it down for storage.) This playpen is not recommended to use for sleeping as it does not come with a bassinet feature. Some consumers have reported issues with the bottom pad not lying flat.
Nice to keep baby out of trouble at home. Once he became mobile we had to do an "upgrade" as we noticed he was starting to hit his head on the X shaped metal bars. We tried some alternatives but the best so far was wrapping the metal bars with pool noodles (see picture). You'll need 8 pool noodles and some cuts (buy some extra in case you mess up). Use 2/3 of a pool noodle to wrap the internal bars and the remaining 1/3 to wrap half of the external bar. The pieces will also need a longitudinal cut along the length to fit the bar in. You'll also need some small cuts in the middle of the longer piece to fit the center rivet, where the mesh is attached to the bars. We got the pool noodles at the dollar store nearby for less than $10 and since ... full review