Play Yard Graveyard

By now I’m convinced that when we walk into Target, the employees all take a break and run to the security room to pop some popcorn and watch the antics in aisle O6. I know this because 1–NO ONE ever comes around to offer help to us, and 2–because we are hilarious.

Every parent-to-be feels the same. Excited, anxious, and like they are in need of a new-parent dictionary. If you had asked me a month ago what kind of play yard I was registering for, I would have responded that our yard was plenty big enough for our daughter to play in, and she didn’t need another one. After about 4 weeks of exhaustive research, I can now safely say that I have added and deleted 6 different play yards from our registry.

If you’re like me and many others, you might have heard of a play pen. These days it is called a play yard, or a pack-n-play. There are many other names thrown around but those seem to be the most widely used. There are over 20 different brands and over 15 different styles, some very basic, some that all but feed and burp the baby for you, but in the end they are all basically a framed-out rectangle with mesh sides in which to enclose and entertain a tiny human. There’s so much you can learn about these things online, but I am here to tell you, the most important thing you can do is go see one for yourself in person. BUT– don’t just look at it. Attempt to disassemble and reassemble it. You will learn all you need to know in under 5 minutes.

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I thought I had decided on one—somewhere in between the most simple and the most fancy, and somewhere in the mid-low price range. I made my hubby go with me to target again, but this time with the help of my sister-in-law (a two-time baby veteran) who graciously joined us. We had three goals on this target run: make a final choice on a stroller, a carseat, and a pack-n-play. We did achieve our goals..sort of.

My sister has a Chicco stroller and she told us she never really had issues with it folding and staying in place. She also said she rarely ever just leaves it folded and only folds it to get it in the trunk. We realized that the one with two wheels in front did in fact stay in an upright folded position, and even she could not get the saggy caterpillar one with the single wheel in front to stay up. So in the end we chose the classic 4 wheeler Chicco Bravo Travel System. All three of us were unanimous in this decision, despite my trepidation and need to test drive it 5 more times. In the end though I was committed and in love. Stroller–Done. We brushed our shoulders off and moved onto the carseat aisle.

Panic set in yet again as we stared at an entire line of very bulky contraptions that all promised completely different things and yet the same thing, “the safest rated seat for your child!” Luckily my sister had experience in this department and recommended that in addition to the infant carrier that came with the stroller, we just get the 4ever carseats that can hold a newborn and follow that newborn all the way through adulthood as they claim to hold 125 pounds. From birth through college graduation, Graco has your baby covered! My husband did not see my amusement at the weight claims until I told him that when we met I weighed 135 pounds. I was 25 years old. I guess kids these days are fatter than I thought. After we made our color selections, which change the price of the exact same seat by the way, we moseyed back to O6 because I wanted to look at the pack-n-plays.

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I did actually do some exhaustive research on these before going to the store, so I knew that the $350+ ones were the only ones that were rated “easy” to assemble/collapse, and the $100-150 ones, like the one I picked out, were rated as a little more cumbersome. I also took advice from friends who used them, and others who said their kids hated them, and did not feel I wanted to invest in such an expensive one only to keep it in the closet. Another bit of research I did was to compare the pack-n-play to having a bassinet, and since the bassinet was $199 itself and can ONLY be used as a bassinet I made the decision to forego one and just get a pack-n-play. I am all about practicality and multi-functional things. We can use it as a bassinet in the beginning, and then as a travel crib when she is much older and we have any ounce of energy and get brave enough to actually travel.

The style/function I wanted was actually made by both Chicco and Graco (yet again!) and they only had the Graco one in the store. When we looked at it up on the shelf and it seemed to have everything we needed. I asked hubby to take it down so we could look at the height and test out how hard it was to move the pieces and collapse. This mid-grade one was less flimsy than the cheapest option they had, and the pieces were actually removable and one could be used as standalone bouncer which was an added bonus. Even my sister said this seemed pretty functional and would work for what we wanted.

Now it was time to collapse it. There was one lever in the middle with a red pull tab, easy enough to figure out, and four buttons on each side to collapse the bars. I think it only took 2 tries for the three of us to get the thing into what should look like a collapsed bag chair, but it did require 3 sets of hands and some force. We all agreed that it was not the easiest to collapse, but we would not be doing so very often anyway. I certainly would not try it alone.  So you would think that you could just do the reverse of what you had done to collapse it, and it would pop back into place right? That’s what we thought anyway. We pushed the bottom down until there was a nice flat base and then lifted each side up to click into place. Only they did not click. They continued to fall back down and sag. We searched for directions, but there were none on the display. We asked someone who came into the aisle as my hubby, who is one of the calmest people I know, was violently shaking one of the sides—she did not know either. We struggled with that thing for probably 10 minutes and eventually gave up.

Hubby started lifting it up to put it on the shelf, ready to be rid of “this stupid thing,” and my sister and I frantically threw all the smaller pieces inside before he got it up there, to try and make it look as presentable as possible. There it was, sitting on the shelf looking sad and deflated, and I realized I was looking into a mirror of sorts. I was SOOOO ready to be done with research, you have no idea how deflated I felt, and this meant I had to KEEP looking into these stupid contraptions. My other concern, just because I am who I am, was that we were leaving this thing on the shelf looking like we broke it, but at the same time wondering how long it would take someone to notice since aisle O6 is a ghost town anyway.

It is in my nature to have to figure things out, so later that day my sister and I were sitting on the couch and I googled a video tutorial of how to take apart and assemble the pack-n-play. I knew there was something we did wrong, not that it would change my opinion on the thing, but there had to be an easy fix. Of course there was, as the Graco product engineer who made the video disassembled and then reassembled the thing. Not really the most practical and reassuring video, if the engineer has to be the one to do it. There is an order in which you can push, yank, and pull things. You must begin to push the bottom base down, BUT NOT ALL THE WAY, and then you must start to click the sides into place, and THEN you can continue to push the bottom base down. I can’t believe we did not figure that voodoo out! (cue eye roll)

Two days later, my sister and I made a quick target run to get some formula for her little one, and we happened to pass by aisle O6. We both giggled as we walked past the sagging deflated pack-n-play still sitting there on the shelf, untouched and unloved for the world to see. Probably for the best that others saw it for what it really was anyway! I will say I went back this weekend because I now practically live at Target (to look at curtains and gliders this time) and it WAS finally re-assembled correctly. I wonder if it was an employee or a shopper…my bet is on the shopper!

In case you are wondering about our dilemma, I am inheriting a very gently used 4Moms play yard, which is like the Cadillac of play yards, so I don’t even have to worry about registering for one (bless them)!

Here is a photo of me relaxing in my second home testing out a glider/recliner ON TOP of the display because no one was around to help me get it down. I sat in it for 20 minutes because, well I’m almost 26 weeks pregnant and I was tired from shopping and it was comfy. Of all the embarrassing things I have done in target lately, this felt like a normal shopping trip. I might have even registered for it, had I been able to take it down and actually recline fully in it, but since there was no way I was picking that thing up and no way anyone was coming to offer help, I left.  

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