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So, playpen, childproof room, fully free range, or something else? Are playpens cages of disregard or safe, useful accoutrements? How much time is too much time? Will a playpen keep my daughter out of the Ivy League? When I asked Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at University of California-Berkeley and author of the just-released book The Philosophical Baby, about any work on the negative consequences of playpens, her answer was instructive: “I don’t know of any systematic research on this,” she noted, adding, “Ironically these small kinds of parenting differences, which are just the things parents care about most, are just the areas where scientists wouldn’t expect to see many differences.”
You need to get dinner on the table, but your baby's in her playpen, wailing like a banshee. All her favorite toys are inside the walls of the jungle-themed hexagon you bought at Babies 'R Us, but those toys are dead to her. She wants out, and she wants out now. You're probably wondering, why does my baby hate their playpen? As noted in Slate, the playpen debate is endless, but this is a no-judgment zone. Dinner's got to get done somehow.
Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Playard - This is the benchmark for comparison. When I had my first child, he was only in our house so this served as his napper and playard in the family room when we didn't want to trek to the bedroom. My first loved it. Napped easily in the bassinet, changed his diapers in the bassinet, easy to clean, set up, take apart, and the mobile was awesome - ran on batteries and had good songs. This was THE ultimate playard. In fact, we brought this back out ... full review
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 liked this style of playpen as it gave a lot of room and didnt have thin, easily broken fence pieces. Its thick, has suction cups along the bottom to stay in place on hardwood/tile and had a play wall. While a bit expensive the thickness of the plastic holds up well to abuse, household pets, and teething kiddos. Not having the mesh style panels also made it a bit harder to climb out of. But when my son finally got to the point of not wanting to be trapped in it anymore and able to figure how to pull himself over the top, we took it apart and used it as a baby gate to prevent him from being able to get around the media cabinets/shelves where it keeps him from pulling all our blurays and such off the shelves and from turning off and on the cable box and game consoles.
Portability: Are you going to be taking your playpen to other houses? Perhaps you might want to spend a day at the park, where a playpen would be a handy way to keep your baby safe and let them play alone while you read a book? If you think you might be taking your playpen outside of the home, be sure to choose one that can fold up for easy transport.
If you are looking for something that is lightweight and can be set up easily in your living room or on the go the Lotus Travel crib from Guava is just the thing. The Lotus play yard has a fully zippered side panel allowing parents to lie down with their children and help them go to sleep or encourage tummy time and beyond. The mattress is thicker than other travel pack 'n play competitors, ensuring your little one gets a comfortable nights' sleep. It also has a wide opening at the top which makes it great for playing on the go since your little one won't feel smushed in.
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.