After posting about my baby getting 'into everything' the other day and babyproofing my home, I realized that some safe places like play pens, often have some criticism involved. Criticism such as, "I would never put my baby in a jail like that!" Well, there are 2 sides to every play pen.
Play Pens provide a safe place for your baby. And safe is the goal of raising a baby and toddler, right? Keeping them safe in their cribs, safe while sleeping on their backs, safe while feeding them so they don't choke, safe in their car seats...etc, you get the idea. Safety is one of our top goals as parents of little ones.
So, even when you have child proofed your home as well as you can, there are still areas they could get into that are unsafe. For instance, yesterday our baby could not reach our computer wires under the sofa, but she must have grown an extra inch last night because now she can reach them! Or, your baby used to stand up slightly so she could not quite reach the objects on top of your coffee table. But this morning, she has full reach and is grasping your cell phones and tv remotes like nothing else.
Sound familiar? One day you think your child can't get into something, the next, she is all over it. So, just to play it safe, if you have to do something around the corner in your kitchen that needs your 5 minutes of full attention, this is where is play pen comes to the rescue (or exersaucer). If you need to run to the bathroom, it is much safer to place her in a play pen than to bring her into the bathroom with you where she could fall on the hard tiled floor, or start climbing the cabinets!
Our doctor gave us the green light to put her in a play pen without us even asking at our 6 month appointment! She said to start at age 6-9 months so she would get used to it and not view it as some sort of punishment. That way, when you really need to put her in there for her safety, she will gladly go with all smiles! (well, ideally that is)Our daughter LOVES sitting her her play pen in front of our sliding glass door so she can look outside and see all the action! And no, it is not right on the glass, so she is still safe and not in danger of being too close to glass :)
So what is all the fuss with play pens?
Well, the main goal when using one is for a quick safe place to put your baby. Ideally you should not leave your baby in there longer than 20 minutes a day. Most babies want out sooner than that anyway!
The cons? Leaving a baby for too long in the play pen will restrict their range of activity and could delay their development. They don't have a lot of room to move around and explore when they are in a cramped space like a play pen or exersaucer.
Babies need several hours a day to have the freedom to move around and explore the world around them. Babies learn about themselves by discovering that some spaces are too small to fit through, or some furniture is too low to get under and will learn to move backwards or wiggle themselves out of a sticky situation. They learn cause and effect and that "if I get stuck under that table, then I better squiggle my way out of there next time!"
A baby can learn so much by crawling around and exploring without being in a 5 X 7 box. They learn how to reach objects, how near or far something is from them and they learn different textures as they crawl on hardwoods, tile or carpet. They also learn how to pull up and that some objects are soft or hard, and that some things will fall on top of them if pulled too hard!
It can be frustrating to watch your little one continue to make mistakes that can get them into trouble such as pulling out the TV wires, or pulling on the curtains or b-lining towards the dog food bowl! But it takes them several tries before they learn what they should or should not do. In the meantime, keep steering them away and telling them, "I know you want to go play with the dog food, but that is not for playing with, here, you can play with your Tupperware!"
It may take coming up with alternative placements for no-no items for the time being or a trip down the baby proofing aisle at Babies R Us. But sooner or later they will learn, or they will just get bored and move on :) In the meantime, use the play pens to keep her out of harms way!