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.
The word, on the face of it, is rather contradictory, combining play—a word with inherent jouissance—with a suffix that suggests confinement. Given that even pens for livestock have fallen under scrutiny—battery cages for chickens, for example, are critiqued because in them, hens “endure high levels of stress and frustration”—it’s not surprising to find parental discomfort with a product that seems so, well, penitential. Of course, the word yard itself has prison overtones, and when examining a product like the “North States Superyard XT Gate Play Yard” it’s not hard to get some serious Gitmo vibes. (Such misgivings about the playpen are exemplified in sculptor Robert Gober’s X Playpen, a bifurcated enclosure that, as one critic put it, “emphasizes this domestic space’s claustrotraumatic quality.”)
Stop using the bassinet when your baby reaches the manufacturer's recommended weight limit (typically 15 pounds) or can sit up, pull up, or roll over. "For the first month or two they are not going to go anywhere," Gary Smith, M.D., Dr. P.H., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance, said of infants. "But when they start to develop, they do it really quickly, and all of the sudden they are rolling over and sitting up." If you don't take precautions, Smith said, "Parents who don't take precautions may end up taking their child to the emergency department from a fall."
My son and I found this playpen to be very enjoyable. The set up was very easy and was done in several minutes. The sides slid into one another. My almost 2 year old son was not able to get the sides apart and break out. The plastic sides were good quality. They were thick enough plastic without being overly heavy. There is a door with a lock. My son was unable to get out of the door when he tried. When I opened the door to let him out, he wanted to get his sister or me and bring us into the play pen. There is a basketball hoop in the playpen that you screw on by a twist of a cap. It is on pretty sturdy although the hoop itself is bendable. This was a very enjoyable activity for my son. The sides do not have to be installed at a right angle. They hold in place a couple of different angle in between. There are suction cups on the bottom of the fencing to stick to laminate or hardwood floors. I had it on carpet, so I am unsure if that works. Overall this is a good product. When it got put away in order to vacuum the floor, my son cried.
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.”
It's helped us out tremendously. It provides a way for us to cordon off a safe space for our son while allowing him an area to freely move. The fact that it breaks apart and can be arranged in various patterns allowed us to expand that space with some creative use of furniture. Sadly though like all young raptors, he's testing the gates, looking for weaknesses that he'll eventually use to escape and terrorize the local populace of cats.