Don't buy used. For safety's sake, don't use a hand-me-down or garage-sale play yard. Older models may have a top-rail hinge that can collapse, forming a steep, V-shaped angle that puts children at risk of being trapped or strangled. They may also have changing-table restraint straps that can form a loop beneath the changing table, posing a strangulation hazard to a child in the play yard. For example, in 2007 the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of 425,000 Kolcraft play yards for that reason. And in January 2009, the CPSC announced a recall of 200,000 Fisher-Price Rainforest Portable Play Yards manufactured by Simplicity Inc. and SFCA Inc. after 1,350 reports of side-rail collapse; injuries included cuts, bruises, and broken bones. In the past, incidents of side-rail collapse have resulted in more serious injuries and some deaths. Even if you plan to buy new, protect yourself by signing up for e-mail recall notices at www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx. And send in the registration card to the manufacturer to ensure that you'll be informed of any recalls. Play yards are one of the 18 types of juvenile products that must, by law, include pre-addressed, postage-paid product registration cards and an easy way to register your product online. Manufacturers are forbidden from using or sharing the information you put on those cards for marketing purposes.
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.
As Ann Hulbert documents in Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children, this sort of confused and conflicted debate has long been a touchstone of the parental advice genre. In Anxious Parents, Peter Stearns notes that where parents once put children in playpens to safeguard them from dangerous household equipment, as that household equipment was made more accident-proof, the playpen itself soon began to be seen as the source of danger—both literally, as in a series of high-profile recalls of poorly designed playpens and playards, and figuratively, as a symbol of damaging neglect.
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This play area is great! It gives me some peace of mind when I can't be near my 9 month old son all the time, while doing house work. He loves it! I put a little couch in there and his toys. I even put a nice toddler mirror on the inside with gorilla tape and it's awesome! He is always laughing at himself. He can't pull it off. He's tried! Wonderful purchase! Good sturdy playpen!