The Answers to Parents

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The Answers to Parents Most Common Questions


Is it OK for my child to spend time in a playpen?

In theory, a playpen thatís used according to safety recommendations is a help to parents and provides a secure place for a baby to play. The problem is that most babies spend less time in playpens than their parents would like, or wonít stay in a playpen at all.

Most children arenít content for long in a confined area. They want to explore their surroundings and move around, and they want to be with their parents. Although babiesí temperaments and activity levels vary, all young children have strong needs that arenít met in a playpen. Some babies may play quietly there for twenty minutes, others for only a few minutes. Then they want to get out and explore or be held. One mother of a nine-month-old was determined to have her child spend a certain amount of time in the playpen each day, but he was unhappy there and became fussy and irritable. After several weeks, the mother stopped using the playpen and found that he was happier and more pleasant. So often childrenís needs donít match parentsí needs.

When parents buy a playpen, they usually think their child will play contentedly in it for long periods. They look forward to putting the playpen outside on nice days and taking it to the beach where theyíll shade their child with an umbrella and let her play. When they discover she doesnít want to spend time in the playpen, they often feel frustrated and angry, wondering why she isnít happy to stay there with all her toys.

If you want to encourage your child to spend some time in her playpen, try placing it near you so she can watch you and you can talk or play peek-a-boo with her. Give her a play object such as a toy telephone, pot, or bowl thatís similar to an object youíre using. Then she can occupy herself imitating you. You also can try changing the toys in the playpen frequently so she will have something different to play with. But be careful not to clutter the playpen with too many toys.

If you see that your child is becoming frustrated, pick her up and let her explore. A playpen should not be the main place where sheís allowed to play. She should have a safe, childproofed space where she can move around freely Take some of the toys and put them in the room where you are so she can play near you. And if she wants to be held, try using a baby carrier so you can keep her close and still accomplish something for yourself.

The playpen has its use as a safe place to put your child for short periods, but she will never want to spend as much time there as youíd like. As long as your expectations are realistic, you probably wonít feel too frustrated when she lets you know she wants to get out.






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