Playpen = Learning Centre
The use of the playpen in many homes can be a mixture of both love and hate. This may have been attributed to, as I learn, the parent’s own sense of reluctance to view it as an effective training tool to teach self control, concentration and contentment to the child. When used effectively, the playpen also teaches the child the important concept of boundary and accelerate his or her learning potential in a systematic manner.
The playpen is a wonderful place where you can put your child to play in a protected place within a set limit of time. A child that does not need constant stimulation from her mum or dad would make for a much happier household. The Mum is also given the gift of time to attend to rest of the family without having to constantly entertain the baby.
In my experience with my first two, I realise that I had given up way too early when my child first began to show his first sign of resistance. In hindsight I realise that this was because i had a poor understanding of what the playpen was meant to achieve nor did I truly appreciate what my teaching goals were supposed to be.
Being more on the permissive bent, I used to view the restrictions on the playpen’s 4 walls as depriving my child of his curiosity for learning. I secretly wanted to indulge in my child’s “freedom”, so by allowing him to roam rather than stay put, I felt like I was loving him. I now realise that my parenting philosophies were flawed and that the lack of self control training in my child’s early days meant that I had a lot to catch up on and work on when he was older.
I now learn that ultimate freedom is actually only attained when we learn to respect boundaries. God is a God of order and boundaries and a child’s learning is most enhanced when their learning is built “precept upon precept”, one on top of another, rather than randomly and impetuously.
By allowing my babies the freedom to roam around everywhere their little feet bring them to, i was indulging in their momentary quest for curiosity, rather than actively preparing for planned moments of learning.
I have also learned that children thrive best when they are parented as a whole child rather than indulged on their “happiness:”. We have to learn to parent out of principles rather than out of emotions. Children feel most secure when they know that there are rules and boundaries and that parents are in charge of their developing world.
The playpen is then a great training vehicle to teach a child his boundaries through which he learns to stay put which is effectively self control and learning how to concentrate and focus on a few toys at a time. Self control and concentration will go a long way towards making your child academically and morally mature in his later years.
In order to use the playpen effectively, you would ideally want to start with the use of blanket time. Spread a blanket on the carpet/the floor, place a few attractive toys before your mobile baby and teach him to sit there until blanket time is over. Once your child progresses into playpen time, you would want him to go happily and finish off with a big smile when Mum decides that playpen time is over.
To be effective, build playpen time into your daily routine when the child is most rested and happy (for example after breakfast), and do it daily so that he will know that this is part of his daily routine. Start with a small amount of time and build it up in small increments (using a timer is a great way!) and use that time to do what you need to do (take a shower, cook your dinner, shower your older kids, apply your make up, unpack your groceries etc). Place your playpen in a corner where you can see the child without him seeing you and possibly in a place where there is not much traffic.
Another point to remember is to rotate the toy selection in your playpen to keep it fresh and entertaining. You want to remember that a toy will be played best when there is not too much selection of it, so organise your toys so that they are fresh every day.