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Creating a baby-safe play area can be rewarding for both you and your baby. You’ll be able to engage in play and allow your baby to explore their world while stimulating development. Consider the options below to build a custom safe baby play pen.

What is a baby play pen "Yes zone"?

Baby inside of play pen

A safe baby play pen area begins with creating a “yes zone”. This means making the space for your baby a place where you don't need to constantly say “no”. This is their safe place to explore freely.

Find an area of your home where you can clear space to create your yes zone. Clear anything that your baby should not have access to, like cables and wires, outlets, small items that are a choking hazard, photo frames, and decorations. Plug outlets with covers, protect corners and edges with foam padding and lift items out of reach.

If available, use baby gates or a baby playpen to secure the area and contain your baby’s yes zone while leaving them enough space to explore and move their body. The play area should be within view of adult supervision.

Set the baby play pen scene

Baby play pen foam tiles

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I recommend covering the floor with foam tiles that can be easily wiped down and provided cushioning from hard surfaces. Enclose the area, if possible, for baby’s safety. You don’t need many items for young babies to keep them engaged. 3-5 different toys or play items and a couple of soft books are more than enough to entertain your baby, regardless of age.

If taking a Montessori approach, have 3-5 items that get rotated out weekly or monthly. You can store toys in soft baskets on the floor, so babies can see their choices and “choose” what they would like. This is especially helpful when exploring rolling and crawling to entice them to move towards an object.

Items to consider for your baby plan pen set

You need less than you think! Many items can be found around the house and do not need to be purchased. Consider different colors, shapes, weights, textures, and sounds.


Baby looking for kitchen bowl

Check out your kitchen for plastic cooking utensils, containers, and even empty water bottles that make a really interesting crinkle sound. Even simply adding a few dried beans to a closed container can change the sound, making it a new interest to explore.

One of my all time favorite “toys” is the salad spinner (thanks Mo’Mommies of @UnionSquarePlay for the tip!). Add a few pom poms, beans, or small objects and let your baby watch it whirl, or once older explore pushing the lid to exert effort and make it move on their own. Seriously, this simple kitchen gadget can offer hours of entertainment.

Noise makers

Baby with toy rattle

Toys like rattles, raintubes, squeak toys and other colorful items are great additions to the yes zone. Your baby will begin to develop more visual skills and love the tactile experience of the textures.

Items with handles designed for tiny hands allow them to develop their grip and gross motor skills. Some of these toys have flaps and pockets to “discover” the mysteries tucked away and delight your little one.


Baby playing with mirror

Small mirrors are great as well for babies to engage in developing facial awareness. A mirror is a wonderful tummy time addition for those that aren’t too fond of being on their bellies.

Soft books

Soft baby book

Reading to your little one helps to develop language skills, attention, and social skills. Soft, indestructible books are a great addition to your Yes Zone to allow babies to explore the tactile pleasure of books. Many also make interesting noises or have a texture. Your baby will put everything in their mouth so these allow them to do so safely while keeping the book intact.

A baby plan pen alternative: Baby gym

Mom putting baby under baby gym

An arched baby gym can be a lovely addition to a play space to encourage movement. Babies can watch the dangling objects, and reach or kick at them to explore how their body moves. Some baby gyms have interchangeable objects that you can switch out with age. There are many options with different objects, stages, and price points available.

As your baby grows, becomes more mobile, and develops new skills, their Yes Zone will adapt and shift with them. Creating a safe environment will allow them the freedom to feel confident in exploration.

By: Erin Pasquet
Birth and Postpartum Doula
Childbirth Educator
Certified Lactation Counselor
Pre/Post Natal Yoga Teacher