"The PortaPlay wins again with how compactly it can be stored. Instead of a large saucer across the base, it has four adjustable legs that fold flat underneath. All that is left is a lightweight, mostly flat disc. This means loading it in the car for a weekend getaway is totally manageable."
I would wholeheartedly recommend the Oribel PortaPlay Convertible Activity Center to anyone looking for an aesthetically pleasing, developmentally appropriate and reasonably priced activity center for their child.
We began using the PortaPlay just shy of my daughter’s 6-month birthday. The PortaPlay has three height adjustments to accommodate infants in the seat as well as older children using it as a play table. My youngest has always measured in the upper percentiles for height, but she still benefits from a folded blanket beneath her feet for stability. Regardless, she is able to utilize the rotating seat to explore whichever toy she chooses without assistance.
The PortaPlay comes with five removable, washable toys. Rosie can play in a mirror; she can make a squirrel pop up; she can push and spin leaves across a bar. Her current dilemma is that none of the toys reach her teething gums. But the design allows for the easy addition of other car seat toys or teethers, too, so my babe can enjoy the comfy bounce of the seat while still get her teething on comfortably. One of my favorite parts is that none of the toys use batteries! There are clicks and pops and beads rolling around, but no songs and no flashing lights.
Having experienced a wide variety of activity centers or saucers during my years in the child care industry, let me say that clicking together an activity center is rather self-explanatory. But, Oribel took that a step further by having the legs attached and ready to go when the PortaPlay comes out of the box! This is a huge win if you’re a little nervous that your handyman skills may not be up to snuff. Simply unfold the legs from underneath the table until they click.
Now the disassembly of play tables is usually much more frustrating than the simple clicks it takes to put them together. Oribel fixed that, too. The large grips on the toys and covers allow for easy removal sans pinched fingers and grunting. In fact, my 6-year-old was so amped to turn the PortaPlay from infant play space to art table that he removed all the toys by himself—by himself! So whether you’re transitioning from play space to art space or simply cleaning up spitup, the PortaPlay can be disassembled with a gentle squeeze and re-assembled with a simple click. Also worth noting: The PortaPlay doesn’t have millions of ridges and grooves to catch bodily fluids and other grime, which makes cleanup super easy and is a huge plus.
The PortaPlay wins again with how compactly it can be stored. Instead of a large saucer across the base, it has four adjustable legs that fold flat underneath. All that is left is a lightweight, mostly flat disc. This means loading it in the car for a weekend getaway is totally manageable. It also means I can quickly store it in a closet during those times I like to pretend my house isn’t overrun with children (like on book club night or girls night). Additionally, because it has legs rather than a saucer base, it is conveniently shaped for a one-handed maneuver through a doorway with a baby on my hip.
When your infant’s activity center days have passed, the PortaPlay can be used as a toddler table by replacing the seat with the included white wooden circle but leaving some or all of the toys in place. This would allow for a toddler to wander around the table and access the toys as desired. I don’t have any children in this age group currently, so what my preschooler and kindergartener were most excited about was that the PortaPlay “is a Transformer!” (From the mouths of babes, though.)
Simply replace the toys with flat covers, replace the seat with the wooden circle, adjust the table leg height, and you’ve got a table perfectly sized for older children. Oribel has developed a couple accessories to complement the play table and enhance its usefulness. Coordinating stools appropriately sized for toddler sitting keep my boys comfortable while they play. (Worth noting: These stool have been declared by my kindergartener to be the perfect height for seating inside blanket forts). At $40 for a pair, they seem to be a reasonable addition.
The refillable art paper roll dispenser that clicks into the table has proven itself quite lovely as well. Because it becomes part of the table, there is no dropping it off the table, pushing it into someone else’s space, flipping it over and (heaven forbid!) wrinkling the paper, etc. The thoughtful design has allowed my boys to embrace some independence and keep their creativity flowing without my assistance. I think it is certainly worth the $30 to stretch the use of the PortaPlay even further.
To buy: amazon.com