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I just cancelled my order for a playpen. The playpen that I ordered is 1.2 m x 2 m (we live in a city apartment). I read online that putting your baby in a playpen is akin to neglect. Babies placed in a playpen could grow up to be less intelligent than their peers because they are not free to explore their surroundings. Their curiosity and creativity will be dampened apparently. They could experience developmental delay because they can't access furniture to assist them to stand or walk. In addition, I read that it may cause depression because of the isolation. They could even experience language delay because of being left alone. What do you think?

Another thing I was thinking was, what if I sit in the playpen and play with her? Because one of the annoying things is having to contain her to stop her from hurting herself (we have tile floors so she gets hurt when she falls down). I was thinking I'd put a soft playmat inside the playpen.

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    Can you include a link to the site(s) where you read this? Was it a blog, a forum, a research paper or medical website?
    – Acire
    Mar 29, 2016 at 14:45
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    Would this be more on topic at Skeptics.SE?
    – AAM111
    Mar 31, 2016 at 2:10
  • @OldBunny2800 Not without a notable claim (e.g. links to the site where the claims are made); it's also not off-topic here, so is not a candidate for migration.
    – Acire
    Mar 31, 2016 at 11:21
  • I would also be interested to see some source for this claim. My daughter spent plenty of time in a playpen and I have not seen any negative impact in her development at all.
    – RookieMom2
    May 6, 2019 at 16:30
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    My friends had a different way of using playpen(s) with their twins: The kids were usually outside, stuff they should not reach (TV, bookshelf,...) was surrounded with the playpen. The kids could then safely explore... to some extend. When necessary they were placed inside a pen with toys, a soft mat and a few pillows for a short amount of time (mum needs the toilet sometimes).
    – skymningen
    May 9, 2019 at 10:51

5 Answers 5

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First off, relax. You sound like you're doing the New Parent Thing and assuming that every potential mistake is a potential disaster! If you're sensible and careful, things will be fine.

Putting a child in a playpen doesn't mean that you're neglecting them. It doesn't mean that they're isolated. It doesn't mean that they don't have access to toys. Whilst in the playpen, they won't have furniture to help them stand and walk but they -will- have the playpen itself.

A playpen is a way to limiting your child's ability to travel. That's -all- that it is.

If they're in a playpen that's large enough, safely constructed, with enough things to keep them entertained and where you can keep an eye on them (and let them be with you) then there's no harm.

Use your common sense. Keep providing love, protection and care and everything will be okay.

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    Spot on. About the only way I could think of a playpen being detrimental to a child is if it changes from being a way to contain a child occasionally to becoming a substitute full time babysitter.
    – Becuzz
    Mar 29, 2016 at 15:11
  • @Becuzz That is gold right there. The same statement applies to so many other things that parents provide for their kids!
    – user45266
    May 7, 2019 at 0:10
  • "Use your common sense" could easily replace a lot of books on education...
    – Laurent S.
    May 7, 2019 at 9:41
  • +1 But really this answer in in the wrong order, it should start with the last sentence. Then the next-to-last paragraph, then the one before, the the one before.
    – Ivana
    Sep 14, 2023 at 11:56
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If all you ever did was leave the child in a playpen you might have a point. But when used as a place to keep the child safe when you can't give it your full attention, they are invaluable.

Youngster is taking a nap and by golly you need one too? Put em in and lay yourself down. If it wakes before you - it's in a safe place.

Need to answer the door / fold laundry / start dinner / shower / use the bathroom? In it goes for a few minutes.

Equating constant use of it with occasional use is silly. If, however, a parent ise using it as an excuse not to childproof their place and is looking to limit the child to the pen for most of the time, then I think the neglect is indeed happening, but the problem isn't the playpen. At that point the playpen is just a tool to enable neglect.

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You might be thinking of something like the old experiments showing the self-destructive behavior of animals restrained to fairly small areas with no mental stimulation.

Here's a relevant TED talk. See especially the section around 3:25:

You get a rat and you put it in a cage, and you give it two water bottles: One is just water, and the other is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drug water and almost always kill itself quite quickly. So there you go, right? That's how we think it works. In the '70s, Professor Alexander comes along and he looks at this experiment and he noticed something. He said ah, we're putting the rat in an empty cage. It's got nothing to do except use these drugs. Let's try something different. So Professor Alexander built a cage that he called "Rat Park," which is basically heaven for rats. They've got loads of cheese, they've got loads of colored balls, they've got loads of tunnels. Crucially, they've got loads of friends. They can have loads of sex. And they've got both the water bottles, the normal water and the drugged water. But here's the fascinating thing: In Rat Park, they don't like the drug water. They almost never use it. None of them ever use it compulsively. None of them ever overdose. You go from almost 100 percent overdose when they're isolated to zero percent overdose when they have happy and connected lives.

So don't worry about the playpen. It can be a good way to keep the child within safe bounds and explore and try new things without getting hurt, which teaches the kid to not fear trying things that might not work out. If there are stimulating toys and important social connections, that's the important part.

Another thing I was thinking was, what if I sit in the playpen and play with her?

Yes, do this. The main concerns that seem to underly your question are those things that can result from leaving the kid alone for long periods without much stimulation or opportunity to learn, even if the kid is not in a playpen.

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  • Most human children do not behave exactly the same as rats. Also, rats do not really like cheese.
    – user42564
    Sep 19, 2023 at 11:44
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I appreciate your concern for your baby's development and well-being. It's natural for parents to want the best for their children and to consider the impact of various parenting choices.

Regarding the concerns you mentioned about playpens, it's important to note that there are differing opinions and research findings on this topic. While some experts raise concerns about prolonged confinement in playpens, it's also true that playpens can serve as safe spaces for short periods when you need to attend to chores or ensure your child's safety.

If you're worried about the potential negative effects, one approach could be to use the playpen in moderation. As you suggested, sitting with your baby in the playpen and engaging in interactive play can provide a positive experience and address some of the concerns about isolation. Adding a soft playmat is a great idea to make the space comfortable and safe.

Additionally, it's crucial to provide ample opportunities for your baby to explore and learn in different environments. Regular supervised playtime outside the playpen, where she can interact with various toys, crawl, and explore her surroundings, can help promote her development.

Ultimately, parenting decisions often depend on individual circumstances, living spaces, and the needs of your child. What works best for one family may not be the same for another. If you have concerns about your baby's development, it's always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician or child development specialist for personalized advice.

If you do decide to reconsider a playpen, you might want to explore options for larger playpens that provide more space for your baby to move and play comfortably, especially since you live in a city apartment. You can find more information about large playpens , which may help you make an informed choice that suits your family's needs.

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As pointed in some of the answers, playpen might be extremely useful for security reasons, e.g., when you are cooking and need to keep the child out of danger without being fully focused on them.

However, the playpen might simply not work - the child may cry incessantly until you let them out or they may try to escape from the pen - which they learn rather quickly, once they start moving. Personally, I have never seen a child in my family that could be kept in a playpen, although I do know that other parents practice it successfully. In my opinion, it has to do with the character of the child - the supposed delays in development might be enforced by using playpen (especially if used excessively), but are probably not caused by it.

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