These high-sided, enclosed play areas are popular because they allow parents to put their baby down with the knowledge that their little one can't wander off. However, playpens are no substitute for adult supervision — never leave a child unattended in a playpen.
What to look for:
Check the label for "JPMA" (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association), which means the playpen meets the safety standards of the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
The sides should be at least 20 inches (51 centimeters) high, measured from the floor of the playpen.
If the playpen has mesh sides, the holes in the mesh should be no larger than ¼ inch (0.6 centimeter) to keep small fingers and small buttons on clothes from getting caught. The mesh should be securely attached and checked regularly for breaks and tears.
If the playpen is wooden, the slat spaces should be no more than 2-3/8 inches (5.08 centimeters) in width.
Look for padding on the tops of the rails to protect your baby from bumps.
Look for a 1-inch firm mattress or pad at the bottom of the playpen.
The locks that allow you to lower a side should be out of your baby's reach.
Make sure the playpen has well-protected hinges and supports.
Look for a playpen with top rails that automatically lock when lifted into the normal position.
Examine the floor of a used playpen for wear and tear.
Never leave a baby in a mesh playpen with the side lowered. The baby could get trapped between the mesh side and the floorboard. Because of the danger of suffocation, only one floor pad (mattress) should be used.
Don't use soft bedding or pillows in the playpen at any time.
Never replace the mattress/padding in the playpen, as the new mattress may not fit the playpen well.
Check all padded parts regularly for tears; cover or repair all tears.
Show babysitters and other caregivers how to correctly set up the playpen.
Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back.
The playpen should not be left near windows. Cords on drapes and blinds can strangle the baby.
Do not use a hand-me-down playpen with large diamond-shaped openings, as a baby's head may get trapped in the large holes forming the diamonds.
Never tie or string toys from the sides of the playpen.
Stop using the playpen when your child can easily climb out — when he or she reaches a height of 34 inches (86 centimeters) or weighs 30 pounds (14 kilograms).