Inside: Are you trying to minimize your baby gear? Here are some ways you can use your playpen (pack and play) that may surprise you.
I am a minimalist mom when it comes to baby gear.
I was moving when I had my first so any shower gifts were money. This was great in a few ways. One that I could buy what I needed when I needed it. And two, that I wasn’t given tons of stuff I thought I “should” use.
However, one item that I bought early on and have used time and time and time again (on three continents) is a play yard. Or a pack ‘n play. Or playpen. Or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days.
The one shown in the above photo is awesome because….it can go through doorways without having to be broken down.
Note: It must be said, however, that you should never put your baby in the play yard, stroller, high chair, or infant seat all the time to the detriment of their development. Using this type of gear can be both helpful and convenient, but should not be used as babysitters.
Here are 8 different ways you can use your pack and play
If your baby or toddler shares a room with another sibling, but you don’t want to room share at nap time (and here’s a big fat reason why I don’t) use the playpen to take naps in other rooms of the house.
An added benefit to this is that you can get your child used to napping in a new location. By putting your baby to nap occasionally in another room or area, they’ll be more likely to nap well at family’s homes, a sitter’s house, or in a hotel away from home.
2. Independent play time.
We’re big fans of independent play time, and one way I’ve used these are to give them a few toys and let them play there “alone.”
Obviously, they are supervised, but it’s a good way for babies and early toddlers to safely – without falling and hitting head on tile – to move around, bounce, and play with some of their blocks, etc.
Also, because there are mesh sides you can see in at all times which is important for independent play with little ones.
Sometimes someone comes to the door, you get a phone call, or need to cook dinner, and if you have a toddler who is a climber, using a play yard will come in handy.
4. Beach trips.
Now, if you’re going down to the beach for an hour or two bringing a playpen along isn’t worth the hassle, in my opinion. But if you are camping out for the whole day, and have a nice shelter or umbrella, bringing a playpen is a lifesaver.
Others may disagree, but it’s the exact opposite of relaxing for me to be at the beach for 8 hours and either myself or my husband have to hold the baby the entire time. This is probably only really helpful if the baby is not walking yet.
5. Family’s homes.
My mom likes to keep a playpen at her house so that my youngest two can nap or sleep there if they stay over. She has a spare room, but the bed is large and tall and the littler ones can’t be counted on not to roll off.
Safety first, of course. (What you must do if you let a toddler share a room with a baby)
If we have impromptu visits and the baby gets tired, there’s a place to sleep. This is more versatile than a crib which is not easily broken down or put up.
6. Places with big drop-offs.
Again, if you are going to be somewhere for an hour or so then there’s no need for this. But for places like high decks with steep stairs or a backyard with a steep drop off, these are great to have around.
I suppose this is the same as wearing your baby or keeping them in the stroller, but this frees your hands and gives the baby more space to move around and play.
7. When you need “a minute.”
Sometimes a mama just needs a minute. A minute to calm down. A minute to relax. A minute to stop being angry. A minute to pee. A minute to call a friend. A minute to call your mother. Whatever. Sometimes you need to make sure everyone is safe and busy so you can be alone.
If you have a little crawler or pre-toddler, using the playpen is a great way to get a few minutes peace. As long as you aren’t doing this for long stretches to Netflix binge, it’s not something to feel guilty about.
8. Newborn sleeping in your room.
We always put our babies in our room for their first few months of life. I’m nursing and do not sleep well if I have to walk to their room and feed them sitting up.
By the time I get back to my room I am wide awake.
By keeping a playpen in our room (or a full crib or bed side sleeper) I can feed the baby, even without totally waking up fully, and plus he is there so I can check on him. Here are thoughts on letting the baby sleep in your room. When they are sleeping through the night with no feeds, then they go to their more permanent sleep situation.
9. Hotels and VRBOs
Often hotels and VRBOs have cribs available. I’ve had success using cribs in both places, but I’ve also had situations where there were none.
If you are driving somewhere, it’s good to put a pack and play in the car if you’re able.
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