Beyond the play pen

Posted 2/15/24

If you have kids, do you remember the days of the play pen?

At first, in the case of your kids, the pen had a single mobile that Diana – our first of three children - would stare at for …

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Beyond the play pen


If you have kids, do you remember the days of the play pen?

At first, in the case of your kids, the pen had a single mobile that Diana – our first of three children - would stare at for hours. Then as Diana learned to roll over, crawl and eventually stand, the pen’s collection of toys grew. There were plastic balls with cutouts of circles, squares  and stars all designed to give your child an educational boost while keeping them amused. And there was much more, especially as gifts of stuffed animals found their way into the pen. In fact, the play pen became a catchall for everything from toys to clothes and bottles when friends showed up unexpectedly and we rushed to clear a path into the living room.  That was all of 55 years ago and yet the image of those scattered toys is fresh today.

It’s no wonder, we have another kid in the house. This time it’s a puppy and instead of being limited to a 10 by 10 foot collapsible  pen, the downstairs has been divided into various sized pens. The kitchen is home base with her overnight crate, food and water bowls as well as a comfy bed under the table where she can view all the action.  Add on the dining room and Ferra has space for a romp. Carol has cleverly used the plywood table top from a patio set to create a gate to the living room. Open that and Ferra has access to the full first floor.  Apart from doors to the porch the only remaining access or egress is from the stairs to the second floor. We use an expandable wooden fence that looks like an accordion to close off the stairs. The setup allows Ferra to move from the kitchen into the dining room, across the living room into the entryway with the staircase and back to the kitchen unimpeded.

Had we thought about it, we could have done the same thing for our kids.  It’s become Ferra’s race track that she’ll circle at high speed, occasionally taking a turn too fast and sliding across the wooden floor. It’s a hoot, although at some point something is likely to get smashed.

It’s the toys that usually set off such intensive bursts of energy. She’s got squeaky stuffed animals, sections of knotted rope, bouncy balls and cutoffs from deer antlers that she’ll spend chewing and then throwing in the air to go rattling across the floor.

Farra loves it when you get on her level, which is pretty close to the ground. She’s a mix of corgi and German Shepard and weighs about 25 pounds. Lie next to the race track and she’ll seek to avoid being caught or intentionally plow into you, anxious to have you grab one of her toys and shake it loose from her sharp puppy teeth.

I don’t recall our children being so excited or possessive of their toys. And other dogs we’ve adopted were well above the puppy stage when they joined the family.

While maintaining order in such an environment can be challenging – Ferra wants to see what’s happening with “her” toys – it’s a wonderful throwback to an era of confusion when the kids were exploring their abilities and testing us and their siblings.

Figuratively we still have those pens that challenge us to step beyond, albeit not with the same abandon as Ferra on the race track.


side up, play pen, Ferra


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