When we started getting back into gardening – there was a lull when the kids were really little – we had time to pick out seeds, to weed the garden, to water it and cultivate all the little seedlings. Our children were also a little older and a little more self-sufficient than they had been. They were old enough and mature enough to have their own crop(s) to tend to. This worked out well as gardening time also doubled as family time and no one was left out. Instead of going for a family walk together, we’d all go out in the garden and work together.
Last August, we had two foster children – aged 3 and 1.5 years old – arrive. Part of it was the chaos of a life that suddenly found itself with two more kids and probably some of it was their age, but sadly the garden was allowed to slip. We missed a number of later summer harvest crops; we picked some, but had nearly no time to process and preserve some. The weeds proliferated and some where even allowed to reseed. Our fall/winter garden was put in late and has scarcely produced anything. The three year old foster child can handle sitting in the garden and can play with the older two when she get’s bored, but still requires a fair bit of redirection. All in all, we can handle her behavior fairly easily, unfortunately, the one year old is a little harder to handle in the garden, after all, the only thing a one year old can really do in a garden is destroy! This meant one of us had to babysit the baby while the other tried to multitask in the garden – directing the youngers while still preparing the garden for vegetables.
We have a Baby Ergo from our kids and it works wonders, but it isn’t total freedom. Your range of motion is almost 100%, but you still can’t do everything, and this is all assuming that the child wants to be in the pack, or has fallen asleep. If a child doesn’t want to sit in the Ergo and proceeds to flail around and scream, you can forget about it. We really needed a pack-and-play. I’m not sure if we actually had a pack-and-play when my kids were little. We may have, but if we did, it was seldom used. Thankfully, when the foster kids arrived, we were gifted a nice used one from someone who’s last child had just moved beyond pack-and-play age. It was nice, but as pack-and-plays are, it was heavy and burdensome to move it from anywhere but room-to-room within the house, let alone outside. We needed something that could go outside; a kiddie-corral if you will.
We looked around online at a few different options and finally settled on the Summer Pop ‘n Play Portable Playard. Essentially it’s just a juiced up pack-and-play. (And it was pretty darn cheap all things considered!) There are two main differences, the first is that it is larger, quite a bit larger and is octagonal. The second difference is that it rests directly on the ground. A typical pack-and-play utilizes a platform that sits up some framing, the Pop ‘n Play rests directly on the ground. I’m not entirely sure why it rests directly on the ground, but I have my suspicions: the floor is a flexible fabric and is much lighter than a hard foldable floor that many pack-and-plays utilize, but being flexible, it needs something to keep it sturdy, and that’s the ground. They have also used some lightweight tubular metal to keep this thing extra light and easy to carry around.
In terms of set-up and take-down, this is one of the easiest I’ve ever experienced. (I’ve set up a number of pack-and-plays and they always seem to be a hassle.) The Pop ‘n Play is octagonal and folds almost like an accordion or one of those portable canvas camp chairs. It then goes into a bag that has a shoulder strap that makes it exceptionally easy for carrying.
The first few times we set it up, we did have a little hiccup – we didn’t read the directions. Honestly, it didn’t seem like anything that needed directions to read, but it did and we skipped over them. On the bottom of each point where the Pop ‘n Play touches the ground, there is a strap. We left those alone in the beginning, but what you’re supposed to do is pull the straps over the bottom points into a groove. This tightens the Pop ‘n Play and locks the sides from moving in or out. Not a necessity, but definitely helpful.
Overall, we’re super pleased with this product, we use it in the garden, we use it when we have camp fires, we use it for pic-nics. There are plenty of times we can let the one year old off his leash and he roams about doing as he will, but that requires a parent to escort him, and that isn’t always possible. The Summer Pop ‘n Play has allowed us to do things we couldn’t do before because of a “young child.” In fact, we’ve already been in the garden prepping for spring planting a number of times while the baby naps in the Pop ‘n Play. It has truly been a game changer, and in all honesty, could probably double as a pack-and-play for inside use. Win!
Addendum: I just saw on Amazon that you can also purchase a canopy to keep sun and water off the wild ones inside!