One of the most revered items on the baby gear list used to be the playpen. It used to be a staple in every home of a family with a baby. Why has it fallen off of the list of top baby gear items? It maybe because the word “playpen” is too close to the word “pigpen.” Many new parents think the playpen is confining the way a pen is intended to confine animals, such as pigs. Parents often indicate they want the baby to be free to explore, which actually is exactly what the playpen provides.
THE PLAYPEN: SECURITY AND SAFETY
The playpen is an extremely secure and safe place for baby. It is in essence a “room of her own” that is scaled down to her size where she can be free to wander and explore. All dangerous objects should be outside the playpen, giving parents as well as baby a sense of safety. The protected space becomes familiar to baby and soon she can begin to recognize that she is safe in this space. The security comes from the small scale of the “room.” Babies often seek a tiny little alcove for themselves, they love it. Sometimes they crawl behind a large chair, or under the seat of a chair, it “fits” them.
THE PLAYPEN: FREE HANDS FOR MOTHER
Mothers often need a place to put the baby while they cook or attend to a chore around the house. Today, many parents use an exersaucer or jumper for this reason. We do not recommend these two items and have written about them previously. The playpen is the ideal choice for mother to have a place to put baby so her hands are free for awhile to attend to some work. The advantage to using the playpen is that baby can move around or nap while in it. It facilitates motor skill development whereas the jumper and exersaucer do not. In the above video from good0179′s youtube channel, the baby sits, crawls, partially rolls, and eventually comes to stand in her adorable little “room.”
THE PLAYPEN: PORTABILITY
Most models of playpens can be moved from one room to another, allowing parents to move it around the house. When she is in the kitchen working she can move it close to her, when she goes into the home office to do some paperwork she can transfer it to that room. What an excellent feature! It is important to examine the reviews of playpens to learn how easily they can be transferred from one room to another as some are too big to fit through doors easily.
It is time to add the playpen back to the top of the baby gear list, baby registry, and baby shower items. Maybe we should rename it: babyzone, safespace, babycove, infant island, etc. What do you suggest? Leave me a comment with your suggestion!
A BEDTIME STORY
Ease the transition from day to night and from awake to sleep with this book for baby. This classic bedtime rhyme, Goodnight Moon, celebrates over 60 years in print! Written by Margaret Wise Brown in 1947, the story follows a rabbit as he prepares to go to bed. He says goodnight to bears and chairs, clocks and socks, mittens and kittens, a red balloon and the cow that jumped over the moon. In fact, rabbit says goodnight to everything in the room!
This book is an excellent tool for the sleep ritual. Through rhyme and short sentences, baby becomes familiar with saying “goodnight” and going to sleep. If baby does not understand words yet, she will find comfort in the rhyme she hears in your voice as you read to her. We know babies love the rhythm of the songs we sing to them. They also love the rhyme in the books we read to them. Sound, from our earliest days on earth, can bring feelings of comfort and security. The predictability of familiar patterns of sound also helps baby learn sounds and eventually words. “Goodnight room, and goodnight moon.”
Goodnight Moon: by Margaret Wise Brown. (New York: Harper & Row, 1947).
BABY SEES HIGH CONTRAST AND SIMPLE SHAPES
Tana Hoban’s “White on Black” is an excellent first book for baby. Drawing from the knowledge that newborns first see high contrast well, such as black and white, she created an adorable baby book on this principle. By contrasting white shapes familiar to baby against jet black pages, Tana Hoban’s “White on Black” stimulates baby’s eyesight development. One page depicts a large white baby bottle against the pitch black page. The size of the image allows baby the chance to see the outline, the places where the white and black colors meet, quite well.
STIMULATION OF BABY’S SENSES
Stellarcaterpillar.com explores many ways to stimulate baby’s senses at home with the goal of facilitating movement. We have explored how the senses invite the development of movement skills. For example, the baby sees the rattle before reaching and grasping it. Or, he hears a sound on his left and turns his head to look at it which evolves into a roll onto his stomach. A library of carefully chosen baby books can be a valuable tool in this sensory development.
BOOKS FOR BABY SLEEP AND BABY PLAY
Looking at a baby book is also an effective way for baby to develop a routine for naps or sleep. Several wise grandmothers I know often recount the stories of advice they have given new mothers about developing a routine for nap time and baby sleep, and often it involves looking at a book with baby. Baby play time can also include looking at these charming and colorful books. They often engage many senses as the bright colors stimulate vision, the rhyming words please the hearing, and the textures engage touch.
White on Black: by Tana Hoban. (New York: William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1993).
BABY PLAY AND MOVEMENT
One can never learn enough games for babies! Each lesson with baby begins with a game of proprioception. I touch different parts of baby’s body and tell her the name of that body part: “This is your upper leg,” or “This is your lower arm.” I hold the contact with the body part long enough so she can clearly feel it. By increasing baby’s feeling of her body parts she prepares herself for learning movements. It is not unlike your gym workouts in which you learn to feel your quadriceps (front of thigh) muscles before you can effectively exercise them. As she clearly feels the bones of her arms and legs, for example, it becomes easier for her to move them. Soon this results in a motor skill such as rolling. When on her back, her arm and leg may move far enough to one side that it shifts her weight so much that she rolls onto her tummy. With this game of baby play, babies learn to feel their bones. Babies enjoy this game – just watch the above clip of Rochel! She is familiar with the game and enjoys it every time.
VARIATIONS OF TOUCH
The “game” part of this comes in with the varieties of sound and touch. You can pull your hand away quickly or with a sound to make it fun for her. Babies love novelty! You can change the order, sometimes begin by touching her arms and other times by touching her feet. Observe her reactions and play with the sound or variation that she is enjoying. It is very important to notice how she responds and create your “game strategy” accordingly. Sometimes with the younger babies the touch needs to be slow and more quiet. It is new for them so we want to introduce it gradually. Rochel has received lessons since she was three months old. In the video above she is about ten months old so we have to find a way to make the game new each time we play it. In the beginning, repetition is also very important. Touch each major bone about three times for her to feel it clearly. With the younger babies this game also helps to provide a sense of comfort and security. Many mothers find it helpful to play this baby game before going to sleep.
The process of learning to feel and move one’s body can be a wonderful form of baby play!
“When a Cuddly Crib Puts the Baby in Danger,” Wall Street Journal, 4/19/11
New construction standards for cribs begin this June, making it illegal to make, sell, or resell a crib in the U.S. that does not meet federal standards. These new tough standards prohibit drop-down sides, and require stronger slats, mattress supports and hardware. The goal is to reduce the number of accidents associated to these parts of the crib’s construction. However, as this Wall Street Journal article explains, these regulations do not cover what is placed inside the crib that can be perilous as well. The video baby monitors, pile of stuffed animals, puffy bumpers, extra blankets, positioning pillows, and low-hanging mobiles all present danger and should be removed. As we mention often on Stellar Caterpillar blog, baby will move when you least expect it. The incidents of babies getting tangled in the baby monitor power cords, suffocating by rolling onto a stuffed animal which blocks the nose and mouth, and pulling down a mobile that gets wrapped around the neck are all examples of incidents cataloged by emergency rooms annually. Take some time to read the details of the article, and make safety a priority. You will learn, the best crib is a bare one!
The “Wisdom” series presents observations spoken by experienced grandmothers that should be heard by all mothers.
BABIES AND BEDTIMES
While I was visiting a friend in her mid-70′s who raised four children and has nine grandchildren, she recounted an incident from the previous evening. While out at dinner with her husband they were distracted by a family nearby. The crying baby and fussy toddler jostled my friends’ focus away from reading menus. Soon, the family stood up and left the restaurant with their unhappy children. My friend recounted the story in a very matter-of-fact voice, “I saw these fussy children after 8:00 at night, and I turned to [my husband] and said “Those children ought to be home in bed! It is PAST their bedtime!” She proceeded to explain the routine of putting her babies to sleep. She proudly described how careful she was to put them down in a playpen for naps at about the same time every day. “This generation,” she mused while shaking her head “wants to continue doing everything they did before they had a baby.”
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Tagged sleep, wisdom