By Margaret Rafferty & Kim Gilmour, CHOICE

The humble playpen can provide parents with some much-needed peace of mind.

Need somewhere to leave your newly mobile crawler or toddler while you do something that requires both hands? Pop them in the playpen with a toy or two and you’ll be able to supervise them while you carry on with other tasks, knowing they’ll be safe.

Unfortunately, the latest playpen reviews from CHOICE reveal that far from being a secure spot for your little ones, many of the products in this category pose significant risks.

“Several playpens we bought online got zero for performance simply because they had so many fails,” says Kim Gilmour, CHOICE’s team leader for household products.

In fact, 13 of the 26 models CHOICE tested that are currently available failed to pass key safety requirements.

Products that failed did so for a number of reasons, ranging from major head entrapment risks to less serious hazards, such as sharp edges and protrusions that little ones could bump themselves on.

Common failures include head and/or limb entrapment in gaps and openings, strangulation risks if clothing is caught at various gaps or posts, footholds which could cause a child to escape, and inadequate structural integrity.

Margaret Rafferty from CHOICE breaks down playpen safety.

The playpens that didn’t make the grade

Baby Care Baby Play Pen BP-001: Serious failures include limb entrapment, strangulation risk, inadequate structural integrity, gate is too easy to open, potential footholds.

Cuddly Baby Plastic Baby Playpen BP-C-19P: Serious failures include head and limb entrapment, strangulation risk, potential footholds, gate is too easy to open.

Gupamiga Safety Playpen 14 Panels Multiple Classic PLP-14WL004-15: Serious failures include head and limb entrapment, strangulation risk, inadequate structural integrity, gate is too easy to open, pottential footholds.

Komodo Indoor Outdoor Kids Playpen Instant Set Up KDKIDPLPENA: Serious failures include head entrapment hazard, inadequate structural integrity, can tip over, potential footholds

Tobbi Playpen with 8 panels and gate TH17W0352: Serious failures include: Strangulation risk, potential footholds, limb entrapment.

In previous years, the following playpens – which are still on sale – also failed to pass key safety requirements:

  • ABST Bubble Playpen 18+2 ABST-BL20 (tested 2019)
  • ABST Running Bear 14+2 AOLE-BBX16 (tested 2019)
  • Jolly Kidz Versatile Playpen HPP005/155027 (tested 2019)
  • Nanny Annie Happy Panel Plastic Playpen (tested 2019)
  • TikkTokk Little Boss Playpen Hex LBPP11w (tested 2019)
  • TikkTokk Little Boss Playpen Square LBPP01w (tested 2019)
  • TikkTokk Pokano Fabric Hex POK11c (tested 2016)

There’s no Australian standard for playpens, so CHOICE testing is based on standards for other relevant products as well as international standards.

Playpens should be safe in the first place. And that’s why CHOICE test them – to find out whether or not these products can be used safely by Australian families.

Manufacturers and retailers respond

In CHOICE’s most recent test, conducted in November 2020, several playpens got a performance score of 20 percent or under simply because they had so many fails.

Gupamiga/Amazon Australia

The Gupamiga Safety Playpen 14 Panels Multiple Classic (20 percent for performance) was purchased via the Amazon Australia website in 2020. After CHOICE alerted Amazon to the failures, it removed the listing.

ABST/Ausway Pacific

In CHOICE’s 2019 test, two playpens from the ABST brand made by Ausway Pacific scored poorly, earning less than 20 percent overall. CHOICE alerted the manufacturer to the failures after conducting the 2019 test but never received a response.

Catch

More encouraging was the response of online retailer, Catch, who were listing some of these products on their marketplace at the time. When CHOICE told them of the safety concerns relating to these models, they took the playpens off their site.

Jolly Kidz/Colorific

Also in 2019, the Jolly Kidz Versatile playpen CHOICE tested failed key safety requirements. Parent brand Colorific said at the time that they take safety extremely seriously. They stated that that their products include warnings that playpens should not be used unattended by adults.

But they also told CHOICE that after reviewing comments, they will engrave the warning onto the Versatile model, as they do for some of their other playpens.

TikkTokk

Manufacturer TikkTokk, which had three playpens that failed key safety requirements, told CHOICE that they don’t test playpens to the European playpen standard because “we do not sell it as a safety device” and instead test their playpens to the European toy standards.

Kiddy Cots

Some manufacturers have improved their playpens in response to CHOICE’s findings, notably Kiddy Cots.

In 2018, its 100/8 Panel Wooden Playpen was found to be structurally inadequate, as the panels can be separated easily. The manufacturer’s current version, which CHOICE retested in late 2020, now has stronger connectors to increase the force needed to separate the panels. CHOICE can confirm its current version passes key safety tests.

Conclusion: simply not good enough

For many products, CHOICE tests show that many simply don’t come up to scratch.

Playpens should be safe in the first place. And that’s why CHOICE test them – to find out whether or not these products can be used safely by Australian families.

Sadly, as the test results show, many can’t.

This article was originally published on CHOICE and has been republished with permission.