Monday, November 18, 2013

Play In a Small Home: The Playpen

Sometimes in an apartment or small home with multiples, the walls seem to be caving in on you!  I tried to get out at least once a day with my twins.  Even a stroller walk in the neighborhood or a Target run counted.  As they get older, it's also good to get them out often to experience new things, get some exercise and fresh air, and provide a break in the form of a change of scenery for you.  But sometimes you just can't get out, for whatever reason, and/or there are still many more hours of the day to, get creative and use your space to your advantage!  (See my posts on using your windows and patio or balcony (if you have them) as play areas.)

Have you used a playpen to create a new play area?

A pack 'n' play, a box, a tub, a playpen, or a gated area all fit the bill, in my mind.  Keep in mind, these usually only work for babies and very young toddlers.  As your kids grow older they'll either be able to get out anyway, or need to start walking more and exercising those legs, and also exercising their new-found independence.  But, there can be some advantages to using a playpen when they're younger:  
  • It keeps them safe and contained if you need to step out of the room for some reason.
  • Being in a contained area with fewer choices can help them to focus on a toy or activity for longer than if there were more options, hopefully building up their attention spans. 
  • A room can be broken up into different areas with playpens and gates, making it more interesting when going from one area to the next.  
When the boys were still learning to sit up on their own, I propped them up with boppy pillows inside of a pack 'n' play and gave them some books and toys.  

Another idea is to create little ball pits!  Thanks to grandma for the idea! See picture and video below:

J in his bathtub ball pit at grandma and grandpa's house.

While living in a townhouse, I sectioned off part of the downstairs (which was just one room and a small kitchen) with Playzone gates, a great gift from family!  They have adjustable panels, toys and music buttons built into some of the panels, and a swinging gate door that can be latched.  I put in a few pillows, an activity table, and a tub of toys that were regularly rotated.

Gates we used to create a separate play area in our dining/living room.,

We used two sets of Playzone gates to create a space big enough for 5 kids to enjoy!  

If you don't have enough room for our kind of set-up, the adjustable panels make it easy to create any size space you want.  Below is a picture of a smaller area I made as a reading nook.  Sometimes I would lock the gate and only let them in as a "special treat" (to make it more inviting), but when I had it set up with books I always left the gate open so they could go in as much as they wanted.  You might also be able to see how we used Velcro to lash the Playzone to more baby gates that we had set up around the TV.  (A baby-proofing post is in the works!)

Along with creating different play areas in the home, I also try to break up how much time is spent in each area.  Unless the boys are having a great time, my rule of thumb is no longer than an hour in any one area of the house, usually more like half an hour.  An hour of getting ready, drinking milk, and playing in the bedroom in the morning (maybe more "bedroom playtime" later in the day), then breakfast, then half an hour of playing in the living room, then maybe an activity like play-dough on the kitchen floor, then some time outside, then time upstairs, then back downstairs, and so on.  This suits the short attention spans of babies and toddlers.  And I find if we try to stay in one room or area for too long, everyone gets antsy and fussy.  Which means it's on to the next thing!  

For more ideas, here's my Pinterest board "Playpen Time."


  1. I tried to get out at least once a day with my twins. Even a stroller walk in ...

    1. That's great! And fresh air is so good for them and us! But I'm sorry, that link isn't working for me. Thank you for reading and commenting!