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Don't Fence Me In

When I mentioned all the babyproofing we did throughout the house a few
months ago (see this
 and this
), I forgot to talk about one room – our family room. We’ve
got one space that is multi-purpose in the extreme: it’s Brian’s 9-5
office, my desk area, our “guest room”, the wrapping paper/craft area,
and the party room replete with disco ball, twinkle lights, a
Playstation 2 and multiple remote controls. I took one look at its
plethora of extension cords, surge protectors, and exposed bulbs and
knew babyproofing the area would be hopeless.

I wanted to be able
to bring her in there, though, since I use the computer regularly and
need to be able to be hands-free in that room. So I came up with the
only solution I could think of – corral the kiddo. 

We found this playzone 
at One
Step Ahead
 that seemed to be not too reminiscent of a jail cell.
Paired with some of our beloved alphabet
puzzle blocks
 to soften the hard concrete floor, I figured we’d
have a mini fun room all for baby girl. Her Texas grandparents got her
the playzone for Christmas and as she became mobile we set the area up
in Maddie’s special section of the room.

The verdict? A
qualified success. The playzone is spacious, lightweight, and incredibly
easy to set up. It’s flexible but sturdy plastic and you can buy
additional pieces relatively cheaply to make the thing as big as you
want. There’s a childproof gate to get in and out of the thing, though I
just step over it, and an “activity wall” with buttons to push for music
(her favorite part), a telephone, and plenty of gizmos to spin and
whirl. The walls have vertical bars so she can’t climb out, and so far
she hasn’t been able to push or move it at all.

When we
first put her in it, Madeleine didn’t seem to understand the fun zone
she had entered and spent her time staring longingly at Mommy an
insurmountable three feet away. There’s not much worse than a baby
standing forlornly at the “fence”, eyes barely peeping sadly over the
top of it as if to say, “I understand if you don’t want to be with me
right now. I guess I’m not that important.”

But as
she began to explore she came to really love the fact that she could
cruise endlessly around the inside of the zone, walking the square over
and over. And she really enjoys the activity wall now; she’ll put music
on and dance madly to it, then dial the telephone, then spin the balls.
She’ll sit and tell herself stories in the mirror, babbling happily to
the cute girl across from her. We’ve thrown a few extra small toys in
there so she never runs out of fun things to do. She’s been occupied by
the space for up to 20 minutes at a time, which in baby time is 6 hours
adult time.

I call it a qualified success because while Madeleine
may enjoy the space itself, she’s not always happy being anywhere that
restricts her from the adults. She often hits the mood of wanting to
simply be where I am; if I climb in the zone to play with her a bit
she’s all smiles and after a few brief games with me is off to play in
her own world. The minute she realizes I’ve stepped over the zone wall,
though, and walked those few feet away, she dissolves in tears and begs
to be picked up and taken out. But you really can’t blame that on the
playzone; it’s just a baby thing.

So I’d highly recommend
it if you’re looking for a “zoning” tool. It’s indoor/outdoor use and
seems as un-prisonlike as I could find. It’s pricey, but breaks down and
travels and stores easily. It keeps Madeleine safe and with us at the
same time, and Madeleine really enjoys it.

But she’ll never admit
it if you ask her.


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