A stationary activity center keeps your baby relatively safe in one spot while you do other things, such as make dinner—and maybe even eat some of it, too. A stationary activity center can be used as soon as your baby can sit up unassisted (some start at about 4 months and most by 6 months).
Most stationary activity centers adjust to three or more heights. Your baby will outgrow it when he's 30 to 32 inches tall or weighs 25 to 30 pounds; that's the maximum height and weight recommendation for most activity centers. You should stop using the activity center when your child can walk or even stand up by himself. A standing or walking child can tip it over and be injured or trapped.
Stationary activity centers with a solid, flat base or walk-around models with a stable center pivot or table are the most secure. Examine attached toys for size. They shouldn't be able to fit through a toilet-paper tube. Should they happen to break off, they could be a choking hazard.
Although most babies enjoy being in these play spaces, some don't. If you can, have your baby test drive a unit in the store or during play dates at other parents' homes to get a sense of how he fares.
If you decide to buy an activity center, look for one with a thick, solid frame, no accessible sharp edges or sharp hardware underneath or on top, and comfortable, soft fabric edging on the sides and legs of the seat cushions. Also, the flip-down stabilizers, which may be available to prevent the saucer from rocking, should be sturdy. You shouldn't get the feeling that they could release during use.
Some activity centers come with lots of bells and whistles—and lots of parts. (We counted 19 on one brand.) You'll need a screwdriver and a good half an hour to assemble. Read the instructions beforehand and keep them for future reference. Routinely check your baby's activity center for loose screws or toys, worn parts, and torn material or stitching, and replace or repair as needed. You can usually order replacement parts from the manufacturer. Stop using a stationary activity center if it's damaged or broken.
Register the product online or by sending in the product registration card so that you can easily be notified in the event of a recall. Stay alert for recalls by checking www.cpsc.govbefore you shop, or before purchasing a stationary activity center second hand.
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