Friday, December 5th, 2008
Review: PopATot Portable Baby Activity Center
You saw it profiled here first just three months ago, and some of you even took our tip to get a review sample yourself (a testing program quickly filled up; it pays to read Thinga early sometimes).
Here’s my take on the PopATot after my then 6-month, now almost-9-month-old son put it through its paces.
The PopATot by Kiddy Creations is a PVC-free canvas activity center supported by a folding steel tube frame, much like a camp chair. The rated age range is 6 to 18 months.
After pulling it from its carrying case, the whole thing folds open in a second or two and then is cinched tight with two latches. It’s not quite a one-handed operation because of the latches, but it is simple and fast.
Then you plunk your toddler down in the middle, feet through two leg holes, and attach toys to the five loops that surround the front of your babe. There is no height adjustment, so a 6-month-old can tend to look like he’s sunk a little into the middle.
The PopATotâ€™s size is 27″x27″x24″ and collapses into a shoulder bag 5 inches wide and 36 inches long.
You’ll likely choose to tether toys using traditional plastic loops found on infant activity mats (the type you have in abundance by the time your baby stops using a tummy-time mat). There are also two cup holders inset in the front.
For storage, we simply closed the PopATot with the toys still attached.
On whole, the PopATot is not washable, but it is easily wiped clean. The bottom floor panel does remove for laundering.
In short, it’s an Exersaucer, except it doesn’t rotate, you supply your own toys, and it’s portable in a small form factor. It’s all about the portability.
In our earlier profile, a Thinga-reader wondered whether the PopATot is a tipping danger. If placed on level ground, I don’t see it. At no time was I concerned about tipping. That’s probably why there is an 18-month-old limit, because it would take a tall child to get past the cube’s center of gravity.
That’s my almost-9-month-old son in the photo above.
I was initially worried when my son wouldn’t tolerate being in the PopATot. He also occasionally refuses his Exersaucer too, and lasts no more than 5 or 10 minutes. Sorry, no placating him with toys while Mom or Dad takes a shower.
Crucial to our success with the PopATot was finding toys that kept our son’s attention. A solid Exersaucer can have spinning toys, beads on wire frames and other curisoties that are harder to replicate as a loose, tethered PopATot toy.
There’s a lot of trial and error with toys. What has worked for us has been rattle-like noise makers and teething toys. And if there’s something you don’t want the kid mouthing, you just shorten the tether (plastic links, remember?). That’s one thing you can’t stop in an Exersaucer, mouthing of toys.
Our big breakthrough was when we took the PopATot to one of his big sister’s soccer games. Our son is a fan of observing, and he stood happily in the PopATot, alternating between watching people and interacting with his toys. He loved it, and time was no longer a factor.
And he loves being in it in our backyard as his sister plays (rakes leaves) and Mom or Dad gets a little yard work done.
And he loves being it in next to our kitchen while Mom or Dad prepare a meal.
And so it seems for us it’s as good as an Exersaucer, except much easier to carry and transport. I simply wouldn’t take an Exersaucer to a soccer game, and in fact I’d feel silly. But the PopATot resembles a beach quad chair, and there are an awful lot of parents sitting in quad chairs at soccer games (and camp sites and other outdoor places you’re liking to use it).
We’re also looking to use it while visiting not-baby-safe homes of close family when we visit for the holidays.
One of our cats loves sitting in the bottom of the PopATot. Not that anyone wants a cat fort, but there you go. Cat fort.
Officially, I’m a bit cautious about activity centers. Babes are meant to be crawling and walking, not standing immobile for long periods of time. So, I’ll explain that we use the PopATot during times when our son wouldn’t be free to be crawling or walking anyway. And he still gets worn in a wrap a lot, but it is liberating to have a safe, extremely portable place for him when we need it.
No parents of young children have inquired about our curious red and purple baby entertainer during our public excursions, but several grandparents have approached us with the predictable, “I wish I had that when my kids were young,” response.
Personally, I wish we had the PopATot for our first baby. I sold our first child’s Exersaucer because it takes up so much space, and then borrowed one for our second child.
The PopATot stores so compactly, there’s no question I would have kept it between children and saved myself some money. That’s the real test of baby gear. When you have your second kid, the good stuff is the stuff you’ve kept to reuse or buy a second time. PopATot is one I’d keep for the long haul.
PopATot retails for $60, but at the moment is selling for $50 and with free shipping.
And, why yes, that is a 6-year-old you see running our 4-year-old team ragged. Darn birthday cut-off dates!