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For Dr. Marcie, you can't start practicing too early. While your baby's in the womb, you can begin building habits that will work not only when things are fine and lovely, but also when you're facing an epic potty-training crisis. Building a solid foundation for interacting with your kids can make life a lot more fun, because you know what to expect — and so do they.
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.”

While it might seem like a nice gesture to hand down a playpen that’s been in the family for years, I would strongly recommend not using an older or used model. The idea of picking up a lower-priced playpen from a garage sale or Craigslist might seem appealing at first, but this is never a good idea. Baby equipment, including playpens and playards, are recalled all the time, and older models might have safety hazards.
When you’re building your baby registry, you may not yet be thinking about a playpen. I know my motto was “worry about what I need right now—products will still be there later if I decide I need them.” But did you know that playpens aren’t just for squirmy toddlers? In fact, many playpens are versatile enough to take you from the early baby days through the wiggly toddler stage. For example, some playpens come equipped with removable bassinets and even changing tables! How convenient (not to mention money-saving) to have all of those features baked into one product. We made use of a basic version of the Graco Pack N’ Play for our firstborn to sleep in during his newborn days. The bassinet feature made it easy to pick him up for late-night nursing sessions. Then, as he got older and we started traveling, the playpen came in handy as a place for him to sleep on overnight trips. I can’t overstate how invaluable this product was during the first year of our son’s life, and on into the second.
I have had this playpen set up for couple weeks. And my 7-months old baby girl loves having her alone time in it away from our two crazy puppies. Even my 8-year old daughter and 9-year old son love to spend some special time with their baby sister in there. And the most fun part was on the day when we set the playpen up, my 8-year old daughter gathered all the baby toys she saw all around the house, and arranged them nicely in the playpen, and she even took a nap(or pretended she did) with the baby in it. Lol.... Must be the girl thing;)
While you don’t need a playard - an activity mat can entertain a pre-crawler and a childproof area enclosed by baby gates can rein in a toddler - playards do offer a bevy of benefits. Depending on what model you choose, playards can double as a diaper changing station (especially great if your home has multiple stories!), a bassinet, a portable crib and a worry-free play spot. Of course, bouncers and swings are great worry-free play spots as well, but playards offer a bit more freedom of motion. Playards are definitely great for day trips to grandma’s house, where uncovered electrical outlets and delicate knick knacks could be within your toddler’s reach, and for overnight vacations, since your little one can use it as both a playspace and a portable crib.
I have hard wood floors and needed a playpen for my 8 month old daughter who likes to climb everything. I am so happy with the item I purchased and wish I had purchased in sooner. The ease of mind of being able to leave the room with my baby peacefully playing in her pen is amazing. It's large enough that it takes up the good majority of my living room, but not too large. However, it would be easy to remove panels to adjust the size. We never use the gate as it is low enough to step over, but tall enough where she cannot climb over the railing. The gate does move around and can be adjusted to fit whatever shape you need. I have not fussed with the suction cups to get them all to stick down, however, it is sturdy enough without doing so.
Love this pen, it's the best. Easy to assemble, colorful, has a nice open feel so our baby isn't in prison and cut off from the family activity. BUT BE WARNED this playpen has a design flaw that creates a choking hazzard. The play panel has some busy gears and a button baby can push to squeak. This button can be easily pulled off by baby and will be in two small parts, the button and the plastic squeaker. Both parts are small enough to cause a choking hazzard, our 11mo had the whole button cap in her mouth. So before you think about turning your back on your baby in this pen for a second, I'd recommend removing these parts yourself. Great play pen in every other way.
The play yard clips to the frame at the bottom, which means there is no risk of the fabric moving from its place even if your baby shifts and moves a lot inside it. This is a lightweight play yard thus making it very easy to carry for your next long trip with your little one. The presence of pockets to store your baby’s diapers and wipes helps save space, and makes space for more important items readily available.
Bassinet inserts can provide a nice place for newborns to nap. Look for a bassinet that securely fastens to the play yard in a way that prevents older children from dislodging or tamper with it, especially if you have other kids in the home or plan to use the bassinet for your next baby. Some of the models we tested in the past had bassinets that attached to the play yard with easily disengaged bars or exposed plastic clips. Older children could easily undo those fasteners, and that could cause the bassinet to fall to the play-yard floor. But one play yard we tested had bassinet clips that are covered by fabric flaps that are locked into place with a button, hiding the clips from view and protecting them from curious fingers. That's a safety plus.
Some basic models may be easier to cart around because they don't have any extra parts. You can also look for bags that leave the play yard's wheels free, so the whole thing can be rolled once it's packed up. If you plan on taking frequent trips (especially by air), you might want to consider a heavy-duty bag that you can buy separately, such as the Rover Gear Easton Travel Yard Bag (about $34).
Having a young child around the house means having a host of new expenses to take care of. With that in mind, you want to ensure that whatever you buy for your child is going to last as long as possible. Luckily, all of the playpens, mats, yards and bouncers come from trusted brands, so you can breathe easy knowing that you're getting a good value. Choose from great manufacturers like Graco, Summer Infant and Prince Lionheart to find the perfect option for your son or daughter!
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