Pros: Bassinet included, Locks securely in place, Wipes up easily, Folds compactly
Cons: Folding and unfolding takes practice, Heavy
My husband likes to say that traveling with a baby is like moving an army. And believe me, we've done our share of traveling in our son's first year of life. With the closest family members on my side being two hours away, we have had many opportunities to laugh to ourselves as my husband and I cram our belongings into one suitcase while the baby gets one all to himself. Space is at a premium in the car as we try to squeeze everything from a stroller to a few favorite toys in the trunk. One item that has actually made life a little simpler is the Century Fold 'n Go.
Fold 'n What?
First things first. What exactly is this thing? Well, when my husband and I first learned that we were expecting, we needed an answer to that very question. Walking up and down the aisles of our local Babies R Us was more than a little confusing. As first-time parents, we were completely overwhelmed and were having a tough time deciding what items we were going to need for our new arrival. One thing I knew I wanted was a playpen.
As we took a stroll down the "playpen aisle," the first thing I noticed was how much they had changed. Most of today's models are not the squarish designs with the wide mesh perfect for sticking little hands through that I remembered from my childhood. Instead, I saw a row of rectangular playpens reminiscent of actual cribs. Then, as we looked closer, I realized that this is a purposeful change. Playpens are now being marketed as both a playard and portable crib in one.
Fold 'n Go is simply a brand name for Century's version of a playpen. Another popular name in playpens is Graco's Pack 'n Play, which was actually the name with which I was most familiar. Which should we get, I wondered as I walked up and down, comparing these seemingly very similar products. Then I took a look at the instruction manual and saw that Graco and Century are actually...one and the same! Problem solved. We decided that since the products were identical and both cost $70, we were going to base our decision on finding the model that we found most attractive. Home we went, then, with the Logan Plaid version of Century's Fold 'n Go. Though it is manufactured in several designs and patterns, we liked the neutral greens and tans found on this particular model.
First Use: Baby Bassinet
As I mentioned above, I was surprised at how much playpens had changed over the years. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that some models even came with accessories like bassinets and changing tables! We opted for a model that came with a bassinet, thinking that it would make a secure little environment for a newborn. Now, don't think pretty, white, frilly bassinet. The bassinet will match the playpen you've chosen and is made of the same canvas material.
Setting up the bassinet was tricky the first time we tried it. It started out easy enough: just pull out on the four hooks until they lock. The trouble started when we had to insert the floorboard. You see, the floorboard of the playard is cleverly made to also fit inside the bassinet. The instructions say that you just need to fold the floorboard into the shape of a W, insert it in the pockets, and press down to flatten. Hmmm...that is true, but it is certainly a tight fit. My husband and I struggled, rubbing our fingers raw before we successfully inserted that floorboard. Taking it out wasn't much easier, since it was basically the same steps in reverse order. We found that over time, however, the fabric did loosen somewhat, making it easier to get the bassinet ready for our little one.
The bassinet can be used either by fastening it to the playpen by way of the four hooks or by just setting it on the floor. We have always used the first method and have found it to fit snugly and securely in place on the rails of the playpen.
Unfortunately, our days of using the bassinet were short: only four months. Century recommends use of the bassinet for babies under 18 pounds and 25 inches, and our little one reached the length limit long before he reached the weight limit. It is important to note that use of the bassinet should also be discontinued if baby is able to push up on hands and knees or sit unassisted.
On to the Sleeping Crib
Our next stop on our Fold 'n Go journey was the crib stage. We found ourselves traveling to a few hotels, and we had seen a scary report about the hit-and-miss nature of the portable cribs found in hotels. Not wanting to chance our baby's safety, we decided that we would bring our own crib.
Set-up is fairly easy. Just lock all four of the rails in place, then push all the way down on the "lump" in the center of the floor. The floorboard attaches to the underside of the crib with strong velcro straps. From the beginning, I could easily unpack the Fold 'n Go and have it ready in minutes. Collapsing it was another matter!
If this product is going to work for you, you're probably going to need to do some practicing with folding it. The easiest part of the whole thing is taking out the floorboard. Then comes the tricky part: push down on the center, turn the handle counterclockwise, and pull up on the handle. (Think "child safety lids" found on medicine bottles.) Then press the release button on the bottom of each of the top rails and unlock all four. Finally, pull it up into one nice compact rectangle. Sounds nice, huh? Well, it's actually pretty temperamental. Sometimes you just have to push the center back down and start over again for one reason or another...maybe the center wasn't high enough to begin with or you just couldn't get one of the rails to unlock. Early on, we were even "stuck" at a Labor Day picnic because we just couldn't get it to budge. Even now, after a year of use, we still get frustrated now and then. The good news is, I once thought I would never be able to fold it if my husband wasn't home. Now I do it all the time.
When used as a crib, the Fold 'n Go is recommended for use up to 30 pounds and 35 inches. If the child has learned to climb out of the crib, you should immediately discontinue use.
Oh, Yeah! It's a Playpen Too!
With all this talk about sleeping, you may have forgotten that this product is a playpen. In fact, that's what we use if for most these days. Since my son sleeps in his crib unless we're traveling, the Fold 'n Go is the place where you'll find him if I am doing something (like cooking!) and I don't want him to get into any trouble. Since he has learned to pull up and stand, he enjoys standing there observing me, and when he gets tired he sits down and plays with a toy or two.
Unfortunately, the Fold 'n Go is too wide to move from room to room without folding it up. In spite of this, it has found its way into just about every room of my house, and I feel safe knowing that my baby is safe and sound. Folding it up and then unfolding it in its new destination is well-worth the few minutes it takes.
The only downside to using this product as a playpen is that my baby now sees this as his "playing place," not his "sleeping place." When we were visiting a friend the other afternoon, we took the Fold 'n Go along in preparation for nap time. It took my little guy several minutes to figure out that I wanted him to sleep in there, not play.
A Few Nuts and Bolts
If you plan to use your Fold 'n Go as a crib, Century manufactures crib sheets which you can use to cover the floorboard of the playpen. Matching patterns are available.
Clean up is a breeze! My baby was formerly known as the spit-up king, yet my Fold 'n Go doesn't show signs of it. The canvas and vinyl material wipes clean with water and a mild detergent of your choosing.
For those who will be traveling, this product folds up nicely into a compact little package. The floorboard wraps around the playard, and Century provides a travel bag which fits over those two items. The bassinet fits into a zippered pocket on the side, and a handle makes carrying manageable.
On the underside of the floorboard, Century provides a pocket with velcro closure for you to store your instruction manual. I strongly suggest that you do put it there. Remember our Labor Day picnic? The manual was at home! I'll tell you, that never happened again.
Aside from the difficult unfolding procedure, my only other complaint is the weight of this product. When I get stuck carrying it, I call it The Incredible Hulk! When we were traveling, my husband liked to carry the Fold 'n Go with one arm and our baby in his infant carrier in the other. He said it balanced him out!
There's a Baby Sleeping in it Right Now!
This product is versatile, sturdy, and durable. Whether you travel or not, I consider it to be a must-have item. You just can't beat the convenience of having a safe place for baby that you can move from room to room. In fact, I babysit a friend's 10-month-old once a week, and he's sleeping in it right now!
Need More Details?
Graco Children's Products Inc.
A Division of Newell Rubbermaid
Macedonia, OH 44056-2096