Friday, May 8, 2009

Fun Play Space or Baby Jail

Back when I was a baby, it was called the playpen, but today’s play yards are decidedly friendlier. Still, the change in name brings up a pressing question in many of today’s mom’s minds: is a play yard a horrible, cruel contraption, akin to “baby jail,” or is it, as generations of moms past have felt, an incredibly useful contraption that gives you some sanity and keeps your baby safe?

While I wouldn’t advocate keeping your baby in the play yard for hours on end (unless, of course, he’s sleeping there), small doses of play yard time are indeed sanity-savers—especially when your baby gets to the crawling stage and hasn’t yet left the putting-everything-in-his-mouth stage and you, let’s face it, have to figure out something to cook for dinner. Giving your baby time in the play yard with some toys also means he’ll have time to safely -- and independently -- investigate things on his own, without you lurking over his shoulder.

Today’s play yards are generally softer than the jail-like ones you may remember from your childhood, usually with mesh sides that your little one can easily see out of and rest comfortably against. And not only do they keep your baby safe from things he might get into, you keep him safe from the family pet, menacing older siblings, and stairs.

Play yards are also inherently portable, which means that you will lug it around on family vacations or trips to Grandma’s house for the first roughly two years of your child’s life as a place to sleep. Think about ease of use in setting up, how much the play yard weighs, and how compact it is (it’s amazing how quickly the trunk of a car can fill up when you’re traveling with a baby). It’s nice to invest in a few fitted sheets that fit your play yard if you plan on using it for this purpose.

Many models, such as the Graco Pack ‘N Play or Chicco’s Lullaby Play Yard LX also come with bassinets, changing tables and even musical mobiles, which means you can use them even during your baby’s youngest days.

If you’re worried about your baby feeling confined, think about Joovy’s Room2 Playard, which gives baby a full ten square feet of space to play in. The Room2 is also fabulous for travel; it has a deluxe carry bag with a padded shoulder strap as well as wheels—which, just like the wheels on your suitcase, and just like the play yard itself, you wonder how you would ever live without.

Richard Goore
Goore's for Babeis to Teens

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