A Little Play Yard History
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 1.5 million portable cribs and play yards have been recalled since the late 1990s due to poor design in the top rails. Rails that form the play yards' top bars have not always locked securely into place. If a toddler puts pressure on these top rails with her hands and her head trying to peek over the side or crawl out, the two rails could collapse, suffocating the child. The CPSC reported in 1998 that at least 14 children died and many others were injured because of this flaw.
Another design flaw resulted in a recall of 9.6 million play yards in 1998. These play yards had outside folding mechanisms, called rivets, which posed a significant choking and suffocation hazard. Even though these play yards have been recalled, many are still in use and causing serious injuries. In 2005, the CPSC reported that 1,956 children were treated in emergency rooms for injuries resulting from play yards and portable cribs.
Today the CPSC has strict mandatory standards to give consumers the safest possible play yards. Newer models have locking mechanisms in the rails so that they can't collapse under pressure. The portable cribs are designed so that they can only be put together in a certain way—railings locked into place first, before the flooring is secured, to add safety.
Albeit frightening, these statistics shouldn't deter parents from purchasing play yards. Like any other childhood products, you simply need to be aware of safety hazards. Injuries can be avoided by purchasing newer play yard models and passing up secondhand play yards. Additionally, Diana Doherty Starace, SAFE KIDS representative at the Department of Trauma and Injury Prevention at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, points to a common problem: parents treat portable cribs as replacements for full-size cribs. She advises parents to never leave their children unattended in a portable crib "as there are more opportunities for heads or body parts to get caught in the side rails or mesh, and attempts to climb out may be easier to achieve" than with a standard, full-size crib.