Playpen safety

When used properly, playpens provide a secure area for babies to play and explore. However, always keep a close eye on your baby. Before using a playpen, make sure it meets safety standards and is in good condition. Specifically, make sure:1

  • All sides of the playpen are properly secured in the upright position. A potentially deadly practice is leaving one side of a playpen lowered. A baby can suffocate if left alone and he or she rolls into the mesh pocket created by the lowered side.
  • Mesh is the proper size and in good repair. Mesh should not have any tears. Spaces in the mesh material should not exceed 0.25 in. (0.6 cm) across. If it is a wood playpen, slats should be less than 2.4 in. (6.1 cm) apart. These standards protect babies from getting their heads caught.
  • Not to use accordion-style gates as a way to create a play area. The spaces in these gates are large enough to trap a child's head, which may cause strangulation.
  • Toys in the playpen do not cause safety hazards. As your child grows and is able to sit, remove any items that he or she can get caught and tangled in, such as play mobiles tied to each end of the playpen. When your child can stand, remove any large items or toys that could be used as a boost to climb out.
  • Rail coverings are in good condition. Your baby may chew on the sides of the rails, especially during teething. Repair rips or tears right away. Small tears can be covered with cloth tape. Replace the rails if rips or holes are large.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2004). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov, RE Hannemann, eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 4th ed., pp. 423–470. New York: Bantam.

Last Updated: February 26, 2009

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