How old should your baby be to start using a playpen? 6 months? 9 months? A year? Never?
Did you know that playpens can be introduced in baby’s first month of life? Babywise says, “Parents can begin using the playpen as a portable bed soon after their baby is born…” p. 172, 5th edition.
While some moms use them exclusively when traveling and others might think that playpens come in handy only after a baby becomes mobile, we used ours from the get-go with our 3 kids. Here are some reasons why:
- we wanted the playpen to be a familiar space so that they wouldn’t object to it when older
- our families lived out-of-state so we needed a portable crib that they were already comfortable sleeping in
- we understood the importance of playpen time as part of baby’s routine
- we wanted a safe environment to place our baby/toddler in while we carried groceries in from the car, attended to the laundry, or had another reason to leave the room for a few minutes.
Babywise II explains in the Topic Pool chapter that playpens offer a structured learning environment. For babies that can sit up, a playpen:
- offers a distraction-free zone that nurtures creativity
- promotes focused and concentrated play
- fosters the joy of discovery
- increases attention span
- encourages the ability to entertain self
- teaches orderliness as a pre-toddler learns to “help” clean-up at the end of playpen time
Our boys loved playpen time (for the most part!) and starting early helped them feel comfortable in it. We had morning and afternoon play times, usually when I was preparing a meal or cleaning up. We used the playpen when the boys were fresh, usually shortly after feeding. The time increments started small, maybe 5 or 10 minutes, but as they grew older, we used it for up to 30 minutes at a time. The playpen sat where I could peep around a corner or counter to keep my eye on them, but they couldn’t see me. I varied the location of the playpen depending on my needs on a particular day. Portable timers (the old-fashioned ticking versions) let them know when playpen time ended.
Playpen time sets the foundation for room time as our kids become older. Knowing that each boy had independent play time in their rooms gave me the respite I needed too. So start now, you’ll be glad you did!