I'm Pro Play Pen

Monday, January 2, 2012

Here's another parenting topic I never thought could be controversial- PLAY PENS.

Pictures taken by Trista!

I used to have a low view of play pens.  When I was pregnant, a pack n play was most definitely NOT on the registry.  Funny how things change!  In my short experience as a mom, play pens have been a blessing.  Baby has a safe place to play, and I get 20 or 30 minutes of alone time.  When Sisi was about 5 months, I built independent play times into her schedule.  After she wakes up from each nap, I  turn on the lights and put a few toys/books into her crib, then I walk out the door.  She'll play in her crib on her own for about 20-30 minutes until it's time to pack away the toys and get on with the day. She protested this plan at first, wanting me to scoop her up right away.  It took a week or so to change her expectations, but now she expects to play on her own when she wakes up.  I also give her alone time in the pack and play, high chair, or baby bjorn bouncer whenever I just need a little space.

I understand that every baby is different.  Some are more independent than others from birth. In general, I think Siena has a pretty independent personality.  But I also think that giving her safe spots to explore without me, and not rushing in to scoop her up at every whimper or protest has helped to set a certain tone of independence in our household.

Here are some observations:
  • Siena's attention span is significantly longer in the play pen/crib.   In fact, the fewer toys I put in there with her, the longer she stays occupied, finding new ways to explore and manipulate the objects.
  • She might be grumpy about playing on her own for a few minutes, but almost always ends up enjoying herself. I let her cry if she needs to, because it's a way of expressing her frustration and emotions. I used to HATE when my dad would tell me to stop crying.  Anyway, this is a topic for another day.
  • Giving her play breaks in her crib has allowed her to fall asleep very easily on her own in the crib.  She is super comfortable being alone in her room during the day, which translates to bed time as well. 
  • Communicating helps- I tell her it's time to play in her crib while I rest for a few minutes, and that I'll be back to get her soon.  When I don't take the time to explain what's going on, she's more apt to protest.  
  • I don't push it too hard if she's terribly grumpy, overtired, hungry, or teething.  There are some moments when she just needs mama cuddles, and that's ok! 
Ok, so then why on earth is this a controversial topic?  Because play pens are seen as "cages" and they  go against the attachment parenting model of "babywearing".  Dr. Sear's negative view of playpens (he lumps them together with things he doesn't approve of like spanking, scheduling, and bottle feeding on his website) kind of peeves me.  First of all, babies have no idea what a cage is.  That's an adult association that means absolutely nothing to a baby. I believe in babywearing if you want to.  Heck, I have 2 moby wraps, a ring sling, a peanut shell, and an ergo, so I'm obviously not against it, especially for newborns.  BUT, I really do believe a play pen can be just as cozy, happy, and secure a place for baby to stretch and move about a just be, without being entertained or told how to play.

And I can't help but address this- some of Dr. Sear's terminology about the subject actually freaks me out. He talks over and over about babywearing "humanizing" babies.  "Proximity increases interaction, and baby can constantly be learning how to be human. Carried babies are intimately involved in their parents' world because they participate in what mother and father are doing. A baby worn while a parent washes dishes, for example, hears, smells, sees, and experiences in depth the adult world. He is more exposed to and involved in what is going on around him. Baby learns much in the arms of a busy person." 

Umm, Siena is already human thank-you-very-much, and although she LOVES and NEEDS my touch and guidance, she doesn't need it constantly. She learns so much from being left alone to explore her own little corner of the world, and interact with it in her own way.  That's part of being human.  Plus, I really feel like having those moments of separation during the day (and at night when she's sleeping in her crib) rejuvenates ME and gives me energy to give her my full, undivided attention when we are interacting and playing together. Quality togetherness time, not quantity. 

Any thoughts on the topic?  

**For those who aren't sure how to start implementing independent play time, I recommend the book Dream Baby Guide by Sheyne Rowley, and maybe take a look at this article by Janet Lansbury (who is the coolest lady ever.)**


    Sarah January 2, 2012 at 9:04 PM  

    I definitely think it's important to teach children to have their alone time where they entertain themselves in a safe environment. I have a dog gate that keeps Samantha in the kitchen and dinning room. Both which are very much so baby proofed. So while I do dishes and other things in the kitchen she's learned to play with the dog, tupperware, or anything else she can play with. It's a good thing =)

    - Sarah

    christina {simply modern weddings} January 3, 2012 at 6:34 PM  

    i think people are so judgmental on what works and doesn't work for kiddos. what works for one parent, may not work for another. personally i think playpens are a-ok, i do wish they looked a little cooler, a bit more modern and clean. but i'm all for providing a little area for baby to have their own space.

    it was the same when we got roma, so many people are anti-crates for dogs...but it worked for us and roma loved her little space. and i think i have one of the most well trained happy dogs around!

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