Is a Playpen Necessary (Pros, Cons, And What You Really Need To Know)

Are you wondering where to put your active, mobile baby safely, so you can get some work or chores done in the house?

Then you might have thought of getting a playpen.

But then again, is a playpen necessary? What are its pros and cons? Is there any other alternative you can use? 

This article will answer that and more. But first…

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What is a Playpen?

A playpen is a small fenced area designed for babies to play safely.

They are usually very easy to assemble and disassemble, very convenient to store, and often offer various additional functions. For instance, some playpens double as portable cribs, which can serve as a sleeping and playing space for the kid that’s easy to pack for visits to friends or for vacations.

Moreover, certain playpens can also serve as stair barriers or fire guards.

Another variety of a playpen is one that’s solely used for playing, that comes with a fence or barricade and which can be setup quickly in an ample space.

That’s the one we’ll discuss more in this article – if you really need that kind of a playpen.

So Is a Playpen Necessary?

Yes and No.

Yes, a playpen is necessary to provide a safe space for your baby to stay in while you rest or do some tasks where you can’t always carry your baby.

BUT if you have limited space, then no, a playpen is not necessary to have.

They are not a newborn essential so if you find yourself lacking space for a playpen, then there’s no need to buy one.

Playpen Pros and Cons

Benefits of playpens:

  • Provides a safe space

This is the primary reason why most parents would opt for a playpen.

Aside from their crib, a playpen acts as a safe space for your baby, keeping them entertained and out of harm’s way while you get focused and busy on a task.

So you don’t need to worry about your kid crawling and touching dirty stuff on the floor, or playing with wires, coins, and other safety/choking hazards.

Just make sure to leave safe, age-appropriate baby toys in the playpen!

  • Gives you some hands-free time

How to get things done with a clingy baby is a common question among rattled, exhausted parents.

You can’t always hold them while prepping dinner, doing chores, working, answering the door, exercising, bathroom breaks, etc. 

So playpens are quite convenient to have to quickly plop your baby in while you, for eg., check the door and carry in some delivered groceries, and such.

It can also give you a breather from holding and entertaining your baby!

  • Can be used for various activities

Babies need a safe space to move around and do tummy time and other age-appropriate baby activities.

So other than their crib, a playpen can be useful for your baby to learn how to crawl, sit up, stand, cruise, and such.

  • Can be used for traveling

Pack ‘n plays are also called playpens and they can be brought on trips, vacations, and even weekend visits to in-laws.

  • Can be used outdoors

Certain outdoor playpens are durable and won’t easily tip over and collapse.

You can use such for outdoor gatherings with friends and loved ones. 

You can put your baby in it with all her baby toys while you socialize with other adults!

  • For early wake-times

Some parents shared being sleep-deprived because their babies keep waking up at 4:30 in the morning!

So some find having a large playpen that can fit a baby and an adult comfortably inside is a genius idea, so they can let their babies play while they doze off inside the playpen!

  • Separates them from pets

Playpens are a great idea to separate your furry ones from the fruit of your loins, who might be terrorizing the former! 

It can also get worrisome to have huge pets play with your fragile, little one, so it’s better to separate them by using a playpen.

  • Gives your older kids a break

Your other older kids might not appreciate having the baby crawling and being all over them and their toys.

So the best way to separate your little one from the not-so-littles is by having a playpen.

Cons of Having a Playpen

  • Limits space

It can be hard to justify having a playpen if you’re already lacking in space.

Practical-wise, it’s not recommended and you might just be better off baby-proofing a room or an area in the house and/or using a baby gate.

  • Cleaning

Playpens are another thing to clean and maintain, especially if your baby spits, vomits, or does a diaper blowout on it!

  • Baby might climb over it

For pack n plays or a regular playpen, there’s always the possibility of your little one climbing over it.

  • Baby might hate it

Some babies might just loathe being in one.

They might not be comfortable, it feels like it’s a “baby jail”, and they can’t roam around – whatever the reason might be, some babies will just hate being in a playpen

Which can mean a total waste of money!

Best Playpens

Check out the most popular playpens that are highly mentioned and recommended by a lot of parents and even baby experts online:

You can check out further details on these best playpens by clicking here.

Are Playpens Bad for Development?

Playpens are not bad for development. Some people just worry that playpens might limit a child’s natural curiosity and hold back their growth by confining them to a small area.

But of course, if you leave your kid all alone in the playpen for hours that would be bad for their development! Anyway some believe that giving kids freedom to roam around in a childproofed environment encourages independence.

On the flip side, playpen fans argue that they offer a safe zone where kids can play under watchful eyes, especially when parents need to multitask.

Playpens can create a secure space, protecting kids from potential dangers and giving parents a chance to get things done with a calm mind.

Ultimately, the impact of playpens on development depends on factors like age, individual needs, and how much time is spent inside. Finding the right balance between playpen time and free exploration is key to supporting a child’s overall development.

What Age Can A Baby Go In A Playpen?

There is no specific age set for a baby that can go in a playpen. You can put a newborn in a playpen, a 6 monts old or older, but remember, every baby is different.

Older babies would have gained enough control over their bodies to sit up on their own, roll over, and maybe even crawl a little. It’s important to keep an eye on them, especially if they’re aspiring escape artists.

For younger babies, playpens will become a fantastic space for them to play, explore, and practice their moves in a safe environment. Just remember to supervise them closely and make sure the playpen is baby-proofed to avoid any accidents.

How Big Should a Playpen Be?

That would depend on the available space that you have, your budget and your needs.

Generally though, most playpens are quite suitable for babies, no matter what type they are – be they be the fenced type that’s solely used for playing or they are more like a pack n play that’s easy to take apart and keep.

What matters most is how much space do you have for the playpen – do you have a large area to fit in a large playpen or a smaller playpen that’s more a like a pack n play will suit your more limited space.

Related Article: Best Pack n Plays/ Playards (And Other Alternatives)

Consider also your budget, as some playpens can be expensive but can last longer and can also be used outdoors. Then think about your needs – do you only need a playpen for playing or would it be more practical to get a playpen that can be used for traveling?

How Can You Teach Your Baby to Stay in a Playpen?

You can teach your baby to stay in a playpen by first playing with them inside it.

If the space allows, bring some toys and go inside the playpen with your baby for 10 minutes or so. Then get out of the playpen but continue playing with your little one.

Move away from the playpen every few minutes or so then gradually increase your time away from the playpen. But say within your baby’s sight.

This method will let your baby know that you will always be around if you need them and you won’t be going anywhere. And that’s how you get your little one to play and get used to staying in their playpen.

When Should I Stop Using a Playpen for Baby?

You should stop using a playpen when your child is attempting to climb out of it or has reached the playpen’s maximum height limit (usually at 34 in).

How Long Should a Baby Stay in a Playpen?

There isn’t a specific duration that a baby must spend in a playpen, but it’s advisable to minimize their time within it. Babies should only stay in a playpen for short intervals as required, rather than extended hours.

If the playpen is in the room that you’re working in or doing chores in, then your baby can stay longer in it. But if not, remember to check your little one every 5-10 minutes. It’s important not to leave babies entirely unsupervised while they are in the playpen.

The duration for which your baby remains content in the playpen will also vary based on factors like age, mood, and disposition. Younger babies might seek your attention relatively quickly, while toddlers might engage with their toys happily for a somewhat longer duration.

What Can I Use Instead of a Playpen?

Baby proofing

Some parents have chosen to just baby-proof a room, an area, or even their entire home, rather than get a playpen.

Which can work, especially if you stay in a small apartment and you can easily check in on your baby.

Just be wary of electrical sockets, wires, kettle, or anything poking out or can easily be reached, that can endanger your baby.

Keep everything hidden and away from your little one’s curious gaze and prying hands.

Baby gates

It goes without saying that there’s a lot of baby-proofing that needs to happen if you choose a baby gate rather than a playpen.

But this is a popular option for parents who want to use what limited space they have, to corral their babies and keep them safe.

Some have created a furniture corral in their living room. 

They said it was convenient to have, so they can have coffee in the morning without having to chase their kid all over the house!

Some just gated off a particular room in the house and had it baby-proofed.

Baby highchair

Yes, you can use them temporarily to keep your baby safe while you cook, mop, or even go to the bathroom!

Just make sure to give your baby some safe toys to keep them entertained, long enough to want to stay in the baby highchair.

Related Article: Stokke Tripp Trapp vs Steps vs Clikk [In-Depth Comparison Review]

Baby carriers

Some parents find it more convenient to just bring their babies with them anywhere, to do basically anything!

You can baby wear your baby at the back and cook or clean the toilet, you can baby wear your baby to clean, do work, run errands – basically anything.

So if you’re lacking in space and budget for a playpen, then a baby carrier might be the solution you need.

Travel Cots

They are technically playpens and can also double as sleeping space for your baby!

FAQ on Playpens

Are playpens good for babies?

Yes, playpens are good for babies.
Your little one can stay there safely and can be encouraged to crawl, sit up and even stand and cruise around, especially if it’s a large playpen.

What age is a playpen suitable for?

Pack n plays or regular playpens can already be used for newborns.
Some parents opt to wait until their baby is 4 months old, but you can get more bang for your buck if you use it already for your newborn.

How long can you use a playpen?

You can use a playpen as long as your kid isn’t trying to climb out of it.

Can you leave a baby in a playpen?

Yes, you can leave a baby in a playpen for a short time, under the right circumstances.

If you only need to leave them for a few minutes, if there’s no danger of them climbing out of it, or pets can’t climb in, and if you can check them through a baby monitor, then yes, it’s okay to leave them for a while in the playpen.

Related article: Where To Put The Baby Monitor Safely In The Nursery Room

Can babies and toddlers sleep in a playpen?

Yes, babies and toddlers can sleep in a playpen IF the playpen is big, comfortable, and safe enough to sleep on.
Just take note that it’s safer and more appropriate to use it only for naptime. Not for night-time sleep!

Are playpens safe?

Yes, playpens are safe. 
Especially those that carry safety federal certifications and are proven to be sturdy and durable have no danger of tipping over or collapsing and have no things poking out or that can hurt your baby.

Should i get a playpen for my baby?

You should get a playpen for your baby if you want a safe playing space for her in another room. It’s not an essential baby item though but if you want a spacious area for her to crawl, play and even learn how to stand, get a playpen!

Is a Playpen Necessary: Final Thoughts

Playpens are not a must-have but just like other baby gear out there such as baby swings, rockers, etc., they are useful and convenient to have.

They can benefit your baby developmentally by giving them a safe space to move around and explore. 

And they indirectly benefit you, so you can have some hands-free time!

Just take note to consider first your available space and the layout of your living room, if you’re thinking of getting a playpen.

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