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Picking a Play Yard

What used to be dubbed a "playpen" is now called a "play yard," with good reason: You shouldn't isolate your baby in one for too long. But a play yard can be great for keeping her safe for a spell, whether you need to drain pasta or you're at Aunt Ann's not-so-childproof home.

You still need to watch her  -- don't put anything in that could be used as a step (she'll hop out!), cover it, or place it in reach of curtains. Once she can climb out, usually by around a year old, put it away.

Things to keep in mind when picking a play yard:

* Size. Most are recommended for babies from birth to 30 pounds, but check the manufacturer's guidelines.

* Portability. Plan to travel with it? Make sure it's easy to set up, take down, and tote.

* Bells and whistles. Assess which (if any) you really need before paying for them.

* Condition, if you're buying one used. Mesh netting should have a weave less than 1/4 inch wide, and no tears. Slats should be no more than 2 1/8 inches apart, with no protruding hardware. Test the side rails to make sure they're secure. To see if the model you're considering has been recalled, visit cpsc.gov.

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