Both my children have spent more than a few hours in our playpen in the first year of their lives. At the beginning it was just a nice place where they could lie and look at the mobile or play with the baby-gym. When they could sit it was a place where pillows and special toys were kept — a place to put them when I needed both my hands. When they started to crawl it became a safe place where they could also experiment with some new moves. Even when they were older than 12 months I put them in the playpen always surrounded by toys or books.
I had no idea it was such a controversial piece of equipment until I read this article on Slate. Maybe it was because my mother used it with me, or because Esther (who I was basically sharing my life with after we both gave birth in late spring 2005) had a very cool wooden one, or just because I never used it for very long stretches of time. Honestly it never crossed my mind that I might have been slowing down my children’s development.
My approach has always been a very practical one — if it helped me get by with daily life it was a good thing.
I also tried to follow the smart advice from Esther of keeping some nice and beloved toys in the playpen so that being in there meant being able to play with those special toys.
Have you used one? Any tips or recommendations for a smart use?
Playpens are very common here in the Netherlands. Simply every Dutch family (with young children, obviously) has one. The playpens indeed look very nice, made out of wood.
Both my kids were in the playpen, usually in the mornings during breakfast or when cooking dinner, I also used it as a bed when they were really little! The playpen obviously is in a central place in the house, so the little one is in the center of attention.
I don’t think a playpen limits the development of babies if you use it wisely. Babies are not supposed to be in the playpen ALL the time! I found it very helpfull as it is a safe place, they can’t hurt themselves in there and it shelters the newborn from clumsy bigger sisters/brothers.
My older aunts in the Netherlands actually say that a playpen is good for babies as it provides them with a calm, safe place and it teaches them to focuss on a single toy for a longer period of time…
I used a playpen when my son was a baby and he loved it. I don’t think it slowed down his development, on the contrary he was stimulated by a smaller and safer environment not to mention the excersise he got out of it when he was a little older. Getting out and back in was one of his favourite things! I believe moderation is key in everything, unless you leave your child in a playpen for long periods of time without interaction I don’t see the harm in it. Also our playpen wasn’t stuck in a corner somewhere, I fail to see how providing a safe play area could be seen as isolation or limiting in any possible way.
Having a playpen never crossed our mind because we baby proofed everything. Latches on cabinets, drawers, locks on doors, rubber on sharp table corners, and all sorts of other nifty gadgets designs to make a house kid friendly. We actually did leave a few low drawers unlatched for bowls, spoons, and sippy cups so our kids could learn to go get one and ask for something for snack or a drink. They also learned how to safely close drawers without pinching fingers (eventually).
We put a 3 ft fence around our backyard and that is essentially our playpen.
A great alternative to using a playpen when you need two hands and a safe place to put your baby, is a baby carrying device like the Ergo backpack carrier (http://www.ergobabycarrier.com) or one of the very fashionable and easy to use Mei Tai carriers. (http://www.meitaibaby.com) My kids loved riding on my back as I did household chores, cooked dinner, etc. because it kept them close to mom and gave them an lots to watch. I still carry my two year old in my ergo carrier!