How Playpens Slowly Disappeared

Once-'ubiquitous' enclosure got a bad rap; was it deserved?
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Aug 10, 2009 3:48 PM CDT
The playpen debate appears to have been born at the same time as the enclosure, Vanderbilt notes.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Playpens used to be a standard piece of household furniture—but now, one rarely sees them, notes Tom Vanderbilt in Slate. That sparked him to ponder whether, and why, parents had given up on them. A little digging revealed that while they still exist, some believe them to be dangerous to child development, vaguely citing questionable studies. “Which left me wondering: Is the fear of playpens all hype?”

Ultimately, a debate that’s as old as the playpen “seems less about the thing itself than one of the eternal conditions of parental pathos”: that we’d like to give our kids more attention than we can, Vanderbilt notes. Most likely, says a psychologist, it won’t make much difference. “Parents should try to think not 'How will this affect my baby in the long run?'—who knows?—but 'Is this helping my baby and me to thrive right now?'”