Playpens and play yards are great tools for keeping babies safe and comfortable.
They also provide parents with peace of mind knowing their children are protected from harm. But should you get one?
Playpens and play yards come in various sizes and shapes, ranging from simple plastic boxes to elaborate wooden structures.
Some even include built-in toys and other features.
While these devices are designed to keep babies safe, some experts say they might not be the best choice for every parent.
In fact, some studies suggest that playpens and play yards could actually hinder your baby’s development.
Here’s what you need to know about playpens and play yards before you buy one.
What Is A Playpen?
A playpen is basically a box with walls that can be opened up so babies can see out. It usually has a door on top or in one of the walls that allows parents to peek inside.
As children can also sleep in playpens, they act almost as portable cribs, though sizes tend to be larger.
Play yards tend to have a solid base and four sides, and the fourth can usually be adjusted to be opened and closed as desired, meaning that when the side is shut, it keeps children safe by preventing them from wandering or exploring and getting into danger.
The idea behind this design is that babies will feel more secure and it puts parents at ease knowing that their child is safe while they haven’t got a hand free.
Some playpens also feature wheels that allow parents to move the device around easily. Others are stationary and cannot be transported so easily.
What Are The Benefits Of Playpens?
Playpens offer a number of benefits to both babies and parents, and these include:
- Safety – When used properly, playpens help protect infants from falls and injury. Many models today are equipped with safety locks and features like anti-tip bars.
- Convenience – Parents often find it easier to watch over their child while using a playpen than doing so in another location. For example, they can sit down at the kitchen table or watch TV while their child plays safely in his or her own space.
- Comfort – Because playpens are enclosed spaces, they can make babies feel safer and less anxious. And because they’re small enough to fit under a bed, you can even store away playpens very easily in smaller spaces.
How Do I Choose One?
There are many factors to consider when choosing a playpen. Here are three things to think about:
- Size – How big is your baby? If he or she is still an infant, you probably want something smaller than a full-size crib. As your baby gets older, you might want to look at larger options.
- Material – Wood is a popular material for playpens. However, you can choose from different types of materials, including metal, vinyl, and plastic. This depends on the design of the playpen.
- Features – Some playpens are equipped with special features. You might want to consider getting one that includes a toy bar, a mobile, or a swing.
Is It Safe?
When shopping for a playpen, you should always check the manufacturer’s instructions first.
Make sure you understand how to assemble it correctly and follow the directions carefully.
Also, read reviews online to learn whether others agree with the product’s quality.
If you decide to purchase a playpen, make sure it meets current safety standards. Ask yourself questions such as:
- Is it easy to set up?
- Does it come with a locking mechanism?
- Are its sides sturdy?
- Do you need to worry about electrical hazards?
- Can it stand up to frequent cleaning?
- Is it easy to store?
What Are The Issues With Playpens?
While playpens provide a lot of benefits, they aren’t perfect. In fact, some experts say they could pose health risks for children.
There have been a number of studies on this topic, and some experts are totally against the use of any kind of playpen or play yard, as they argue that they may be harmful to young kids.
The main issue with playpens is that they limit movement. Some babies who are confined to a small area tend to become bored and restless.
They also tend to develop bad habits, such as thumb sucking or nail-biting. This can lead to teeth problems and other health issues.
Still, there are plenty of advantages to having a playpen in your home. A playpen provides a safe environment for your little one to explore, play, and relax.
It also helps keep him or her entertained during times when you as a parent do not have a hand free to play with your little one.
However, if you’re considering buying a playpen, you need to weigh up all of these pros and cons before making your final decision.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Playpens?
As with anything, there are pros and cons to be considered when purchasing a playpen, and some of the most common arguments include:
- Safety – Many experts recommend playpens because they help protect infants from crawling around spaces where they could fall and injure themselves. They also offer added security for babies who are sleeping.
- Space – When used properly, a playpen allows you to give your child more space than a crib would. It also gives you more freedom to move around without worrying about your baby.
- Toys – Most playpens include toys that encourage exploration and development. These toys can help your child learn basic skills like sitting, crawling, and standing.
- Entertainment – Having a playpen means you can entertain your baby while you work or take care of chores. .
- Privacy – A playpen can help you maintain some of baby’s privacy. Your baby will have her/his own space to play in and be creative.
- Convenience – A playpen lets you enjoy time alone with your baby without having to constantly watch over him or her.
- Cost – While playpens are relatively inexpensive, they aren’t cheap. Depending on the model, you might spend anywhere between $100 and $200.
- Restricting Movement – Some parents believe that playpens restrict movement too much. They claim that babies shouldn’t be restricted at all, since they should be allowed to walk and crawl freely.
Others think playpens are necessary because they prevent babies from hurting themselves by accidentally falling downstairs or getting into dangerous situations.
Still, others feel that playpens are useful because they allow them to interact with siblings.
However, many experts disagree with this last point. According to them, playpens can make babies feel isolated from their family.
- Boredom – As mentioned earlier, babies who are kept inside a playpen will often become bored and restless. This can cause them to develop bad habits like thumb sucking or nail-biting, which can lead to tooth decay and other health problems.
Since most playpens are designed for the sole purpose to keep babies in one place, they sometimes lack entertainment options for the child.
For example, some models comes with additional features such as mobiles or additional toys that can encourage your child to play.
Other models may not have these features, and they only provide a space for your baby to sit, and you will need to provide the toys and games.
- Messiness – Because playpens usually come with removable parts, they can easily get dirty. This isn’t ideal for those who want to keep their house clean.
- Limited Use – Although playpens are great for babies who need extra protection, they don’t always make sense for older children. For instance, if you have toddlers who love to climb onto things, you might consider buying a play yard instead. This is because play yards provide kids with more room to explore and grow.
What Is A Play Yard?
A play yard is similar to a playpen, except it has larger openings.
The idea behind these spaces is to give children a place where they can safely move around and play.
In addition, they offer a lot of space for children to stretch out and move around.
Types Of Play Yards
There are two types of play yards available today: portable and stationary.
Both options offer different benefits, depending on what type of child you have.
Portable play yards are easier to transport than stationary ones. They also fold up when not in use, making them easy to store.
These models are perfect for families who travel frequently or just want something small enough to fit in their car.
Stationary play yards are designed to stay in one spot. They usually consist of an enclosure made of wood or metal.
Children can play inside the enclosure while adults sit outside and supervise them.
Parents can also leave toys and books inside the enclosure to entertain their children.
Having a play yard means your baby will spend less time confined to a crib or bassinet, while also allowing you to protect your baby from dangers such as falls and burns.
When used correctly, the right play yard will also provide a fun environment for your child to explore, and can offer your child a chance to socialize with other children.
Perhaps most crucially, they also allow you to enjoy spending quality time with your baby without having to worry about him or her being injured.
Benefits Of Play Yards
Some of the main benefits of play yards include:
- Versatile – Most play yards are versatile. They allow parents to choose between using them indoors or outdoors. Some even work well both inside and outside.
- Easy To Clean – Unlike regular playpens, play yards are easy to clean. You simply hose down the floor and wipe off any dirt that gets stuck to the walls.
- Safe – Play yards help prevent accidents by providing a barrier between your baby and dangerous objects.
- Fun – Kids love playing in play yards because they provide a fun environment for them to explore.
- Convenient – Because play yards are so versatile, they are often used in multiple locations throughout the house. For example, you can use them in the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
- Affordable – Play yards aren’t expensive. Many companies sell them at prices ranging from $50 to over $100.
- Ease Of Storage – Play yards come in many sizes. This means they don’t require a lot of storage space. As long as you keep them upright, they won’t take up too much space.
Play Yards Or Playpens?
There is an ongoing debate over which is better: play yards, or playpens, and it is true that both have their pros and cons.
The biggest advantage of using a play yard is that it offers a larger area for your child to play.
It also makes it much safer for your child to be exposed to the outdoors and keeps your child safe and secure while playing.
For some parents, however, the psychological concerns over playpens – namely, boredom, a lack of stimulation, and lack of ability to move freely, also apply to play yards, though it is worth noting that the latter tend to be much larger.
Final Thoughts: Finding Balance
Ultimately, there is a need for balance, as with all things in parenting.
Both playpens and play yards have their pros and cons, and ultimately, it is up to each individual parent to choose the best option for their child.
When used in moderation, these can be great tools that offer both parents and children a greater level of freedom to explore and play, and, when used in combination with plenty of stimulation and chances to explore, are often a lifesaver for many busy, stressed parents in need of a two-minute break.
Carly Link, a 33-year old mother of two toddlers. She is a parent and goes through a lot of the usual parenting difficulties herself. Carly shares all her experiences and knowledge about the best baby products through this blog.