They've Been Around for a Long Time
Years ago the most commonly used item among young parents was the baby's playpen. It was where mother placed baby in order to be free enough to get some cooking, baking, cleaning, or the washing done without worrying about the baby getting into anything harmful. The wooden playpens of yesteryear are, for the most part, passé, having been replaced with play yards and playpens that are beautifully designed and built to last. Such well known names as Graco Playpens and L'il Playzone Playpen/PlayCenter provide some of the trendiest and state-of-the-art units for kids. Certainly, you can still find cheap playpens, but they have the potential to be a danger to young children.
The Playpen Controversy
Actually, the baby playpen has been at the center of some controversy for quite some time. There are parents who swear by them and others who swear at them. Some parents feel it is fine to put a baby in a playpen, while others believe that a playpen should never be a part of a child's upbringing. However, for a mother with more than one child, a playpen can be a safe place to put a child for a short period of time. It is important to remember that, just as babies outgrow infant toys, they also outgrow their play pens. Consequently, there are a few safety issues to bear in mind when putting children into playpens that will help to make the use of them optimal.
Safety Tips for Playpen Users
As we said earlier, babies can outgrow their space. Babies grow quickly and get stronger just as quickly. As a result, the playpen will probably take a beating, being shaken and bounced on by a baby who has figured out that if he holds the sides he can get more height to his jump. Or, he may just figure that sticking his little toes into the mesh will give him a boost up, with the thought of a quick escape. In light of these exploits, you need to regularly check the mesh (if you're using a mesh playpen) for tears, the bottom of the playpen for cracks and make sure the frame is still sturdy and not bent out of shape from being shaken and bounced on. If you are using a wooden playpen, check the joints and screws to make sure everything is holding together in a sturdy fashion.
Some Important Reminders
Remember that a playpen is not a babysitter. Infants and toddlers should never be left in a playpen for long periods of time. It's one thing to run to the bathroom, answer the door, or switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer - it's quite another to leave the baby unattended while mom goes off somewhere else entirely. Another thing to remember is that toys in the playpen should be age appropriate and, if you baby is old enough to climb up on things, then anything that can be used as a stool or ladder needs to be removed from the playpen. Otherwise, a flip over the top may yield a trip for stitches or worse. One last thing - playpens are not beds and putting bedding into a playpen may be a recipe for disaster. An infant can smother easily in bedding that is not designed for the playpen's base.
Children's Play Yards, Portable Fencing for Safety
For older children, playpens give way to play yards made with expandable panels that enlarge the play area, allowing for more space on the floor. The play yard can be set up indoors or outdoors and provides a lot of protected play area for little ones up to 2-years-old. They start at 18 square feet and can be expanded to almost double the size with the use of additional panels. These play yards do not have flooring or a base on them, so they are effectively, like a corral. They can be taken anywhere and used to ensure children aren't running loose on their own.