Towards the end of November, H was approaching 10 months old and getting more active by the day. It was becoming apparent we’d need to do ‘something’ to prevent her from getting her sticky mitts on our audio-visual equipment…and keep her safe from harm etc etc! We sat looking at our nice spacious lounge (we’d just recovered about a square metre by retiring the bouncer!) and pictured it with bars across the TV stand; Bars across the fire place; Bars in front of the book cases. “Hmmm…” we both thought in unison, “…that’s going to look ugly and be really annoying to live with.”. So we got a play pen.
The reaction of others
Since getting it, the initial reaction we get from people who visit is “Oooh, a baby cage.”*. Sometimes it’s in jest, sometimes it’s said in a light-hearted way but with a serious undertone. It irritates me a little bit because calling it a cage implies that she is locked away all the time; This is far from the case and for that reason we call it the ‘den’. For a large proportion of the day, H roams free around the lounge and dining room (the kitchen is a no go, although she likes to test that rule). When she’s roaming around, she is never far from our sight. Of course she tries to grab things we don’t want her to, but even at the age she is we are trying to teach her boundaries.
The benefits of a play pen
The den is there for when we need to stray further from her than just round the corner (pop to the loo, run upstairs, answer the door, deal with a hazard); We categorically know that when she is in there she can’t get hold of anything dangerous. She has toys and games. She can shuffle round and play with the hanging accessories. Sure she sometimes doesn’t want to go in and those occassions she makes her discontent well known. But she always knows it’s her private space and after crawling, rolling and toddling around the lounge for a long period of time she often enjoys a 15 minute time out in there, exploring her books and more sensory toys. It is also where she goes for all snacks if she’s not in her highchair (keeping mess contained!).
There are also some added benefits H has identified in having the den:
- It was ideal support for cruising whilst learning to walk from quite early on and she still enjoys walking up to it and exploring the outside now she can almost walk completely unaided;
- It has a gate! She loves gates and opens and closes the thing countless times a day.
- It can be used as a big box. H love to put things in boxes so what could be better than putting things inside the den between opening and closing the gate?
- And in contrast, it’s also fun to sit inside and throw toys out the bars then watch Mummy or Daddy collect them up!
- Then most recently it has finally encouraged her to pull herself to standing which she has only previously been doing at nursery where she uses a combination of their chairs and tables.
What did we buy?
We went for Baby Dan’s ‘The Original’ Park-A-Kid Play Den. It’s not exactly a beautiful piece of furniture but it’s also reasonably inoffensive and can be repurposed as a room divider if you buy the additional wall fittings. It also had a reasonable amount of space inside too which we felt was important. As I’ve implied, we did not get the play pen to act as a prison so when she’s in there we wanted her to have enough space to walk or roll about a bit. It has worked wonderfully. We’ve grown used to it being in the lounge and it’s almost like H’s own little playroom. Otherwise we have the rest of the space for getting out the big toys and running around. So for all the sceptics who think it looks like a cage, consider these benefits. I can’t see how it’s worse than putting bars, gates and cupboard locks throughout the house!
What did you do to keep your little one(s) safe and to protect your possessions?
*I point out when that comment is made that a cot is also made up of bars and babies spend half their day in a cot!
October 2016 update
It’s 6 months since I published this post and approaching a year since we got ‘The Den’. It’s still there in our lounge and we still use it. On nursery days, H continues to go in for a quick play whilst her Dad does his teeth and ensures the house is ready to be left for the day. The rest of the time? Well we don’t have to leave her in there much anymore. When I’m cooking I can leave her to play normally and just listen out for any incidents. But the den is still her space. She keeps all her cuddlies in there and likes to use it as a little house. The opening and closing the gate still hasn’t got boring either apparently! I’m still really pleased with out decision and many friends have since commented that they wish they had something similar at home. We have no immediate plans to remove it although I suspect it won’t be needed at all in another 9 months time. But we’ll see!