How we test playpens


Without an Australian standard, how does CHOICE review playpens to make sure they're safe and secure?

baby in playpen

A safe space to play


Once your baby starts exploring, a playpen is one way to let them play independently, while still keeping an eye on them. But without any Australian standard for playpens, how can you be sure they are safe enough to secure your child and prevent injury? CHOICE is here to help.

Our expert testers

With more than 15 years of experience, our expert testers are the bees' knees of children's product testing. They've seen all sorts of playpen configurations on the market, and have put each to the test. Our testers also sit on the Australian Standards committees for children's products.

How we choose what we test

Most of the time, our priority is to test what you'll see in the retailers. Our playpens typically come from brands you'll see in mainstream nursery or department stores, or ones that feature prominently when you search for them online. We also keep discontinued models in our table, as there is a second-hand market for them. 

To come up with our list we survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models and we take member feedback on board. Our buyers then purchase products as you the consumer would, either in-store or online. This is to ensure that the products we received have not been tweaked in any way, or received special treatment during transit.

How we test

Although there's no current Australian standard for playpens, our experts know what to look for when it comes to safety. We've based our test procedures on various existing Australian standards for similar children's products such as cots, folding cots and toys. We also draw upon elements of overseas standards, including the European and American playpen standards. Several manufacturers claim compliance to one or both of these standards, but we test to the CHOICE method.

When testing playpens we look at:

Construction

We see whether the playpen has any objects that could be inhaled or ingested. We look for potential contact with sharp corners, edges and points, and whether the playpen has any projections which could hurt a child if they ran towards them at speed. We look for potential clothing entanglement hazards which could pose a strangulation risk.

We also check for structural integrity and stability.

Effectiveness

Using suitable measuring devices, our experts look for potential footholds which could cause a child to climb the enclosure and escape, or which could pose a fall risk. We also check the security of the gate (if there is one). It needs to be childproof, and automatically latch when it is closed. 

We also check the strength of the bars for head and limb entrapment risks, using both Australian cot standard probes (30mm and 50cmm) and European probes (25mm and 45mm).

Ease of use

We look at the amount of effort required to assemble and install the product. We also look at how easy it is to release and close the latch, as well as how easy it is to open and close the playpen (for an adult).

Test criteria explained

We usually recommend children's products according to whether they pass or fail major tests (70% of the overall score). We also incorporate an ease of use score (30%).

Playpens that we recommend have passed all our major safety tests (scoring 80% or above for performance). Some models that are worth considering (performance results from 60% to 65%) have minor failures such as finger entrapment hazards or sharp edges in hard-to-reach areas. We test for head and limb entrapment using both European and Australian probes; if one set of probes passes this test, then we class it as a minor failure, but if both fail, then it's a major failure.

Models that score under 50% for performance are not recommended because it means the playpen has not passed key safety tests. We list these failures in our bad points in the playpen review table.

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