Overall star rating: 4/5
RRP: £139.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Baby playpens certainly divide opinion. Some parents rate them as being a safe place for babies to play for short bursts of time once they are rolling or crawling. Others think they are unnecessary and restrictive.
As Mum to a one-year-old, I wasn’t sure which camp I sat in when I was given the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen to try when my daughter was eight months old.
Not yet fully crawling but getting more mobile by the day, I was keen to see if this playpen would be handy during independent playtime when I needed to get things done around the house or simply go to the loo undisturbed.
Our verdict on the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen
Set up: 4/5
Ease of use: 4/5
Ease of cleaning: 4/5
Value for money: 3.5/5
After six months of using the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen regularly with my now one-year-old, I think it’s a useful bit of kit to have if you need the reassurance that your baby is safe while playing independently. But it isn't an essential purchase, especially if your home and budget are small.
What we like
Lightweight panels with push-fit mechanism
Can be assembled to suit the size of your room
Comes apart easily for storage
Has a fun activity panel for interactive play
Comes with a jigsaw-style play mat
What we don’t like
Large - won’t suit all homes
Suction cups at the base of each panel come unstuck easily on hard floors
How we tested the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen
6 months of use
Tested with a baby
Used at least once a day
Positioned in the corner of my living room, the Venture All Stars Duo has been a prominent, and now permanent, feature of my home for the last few months.
I find it most helpful to put my baby in it first thing in the morning when I’m preparing breakfast or need to clean the house or do some laundry. But she’s only a fan of the playpen for short amounts of time. I don’t like to keep her in it for too long either (I restrict use to half an hour maximum each day), so it’s ended up functioning as a toy storage box as well as an indoor play space.
Nevertheless, it’s been thoroughly put through its paces by an active baby, who is now using it for crawling, pulling up to stand and cruising.
Read next: The best baby bouncers
What is the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen?
The Venture All Stars Duo is a large, plastic playpen that comes in three colours: grey, turquoise and pink. Its panels have levers that slot together, which means that it can be customised to suit your space. Due to the size of my living room, I have used all but two of the included panels to get the perfect fit.
It has a lockable swing door with a latch that can’t be opened by small fingers, and an integrated activity panel with a variety of interactive elements such as a swinging star, ABCD blocks and spinning shaker balls.
One of the most appealing elements of this playpen is that it comes with a foam play mat in the jigsaw style that’s currently very popular with families. The mat can be put together using a choice of two patterns.
Dimensions: 155 x 155 x 65cm | Age: Birth to 24 months | Material: Plastic | Foldable: No (but can be taken apart for storage) | Assembly required: Yes
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What’s in the box?
12 side panels
16 play mat pieces that slot together
How easy is the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen to assemble?
Very easy, especially as it requires no tools whatsoever! It took me less than 30 minutes to put the Venture All Stars Duo playpen together. This involved slotting the panels together, putting the suction cups in place at the base of each panel and assembling the play mat pieces.
While the playpen itself doesn’t fold, you can take the panels apart for storage if you need to. I have done this a couple of times during family events and stored the playpen pieces behind my sofa.
Read next: The best baby toys from newborn to 12 months
How safe and sturdy is the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen?
Safety-wise, the Venture All Stars Duo conforms to British Safety Standard BS EN 1227 EN 71. It’s also made of non-toxic, food-grade HDPE, which is BPA-free.
The panels are thick and sturdy when slotted together, which means that I’m never concerned about my baby’s safety when she’s in her playpen. I should note though that the suction cups don’t fully stick to the vinyl flooring in my living room, which means it’s not as stable as it could be. As I’ve only used the playpen indoors, I can’t comment on whether the suction cups would allow it to be used outdoors too.
I personally haven’t found the suction cups to be an issue, mainly because the rectangular shape of the playpen keeps all the parts firmly in place. The playpen is also positioned in the corner of my living room between the wall and sofa, which keeps it stable.
While the playpen has been designed with holes in the panels, some of which allow the panels to be lifted easily for storage, these are too big for fingers to get caught in but too small for curious babies to escape from. The tops of the panels, which are around 25 inches in height, are rounded for extra safety and the hinges are well protected.
I also like that the door latch is only accessible from the outside, and that the foam play mat is both thick and bouncy.
What’s the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen like to use?
Day-to-day, the Venture All Stars Duo ticks a lot of boxes. It’s lightweight, so can easily be moved around your house if needed, and if you opt for the grey colourway, it won’t be an eyesore if you leave it up permanently.
The activity panel is varied enough to remain interesting even after six months of use and the play mat is comfortable for babies to play on.
While the playpen is roomy enough for my baby to move about in comfortably, I do think it has a relatively short shelf life overall, particularly for larger, more active toddlers.
The latch on the door is simple for adults to operate. But, once unlocked, you need two hands to hold the latch in place while opening the door, which I find tricky when I’m holding my baby in my arms at the same time.
What do babies think of the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen?
For babies, the Venture All Stars Duo is very appealing. My daughter loves the activity panel and can regularly be found spinning the shaker balls while practising standing up.
While she is happy playing in the playpen with her baby toys when needed, she doesn’t like to stay in there for too long. This works well for us as I’m happy for her to explore other areas of our house safely. Playpens may be restrictive for babies if used too much, which is why I limit each session to once a day for 30 minutes maximum.
Is the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen easy to clean and store?
Yes! It’s made of plastic, so the panels are easy to wipe down with a cloth, although I’ve found it hasn’t actually attracted much dirt since first use other than some dust on top of the panels.
The play mat is the most likely element to become dirty, but again this is easy to wipe down with a damp cloth when necessary.
In terms of storage, while the panels are large to stop babies from climbing out of the playpen and therefore bulky when taken apart, they can be stacked against the wall or placed behind the sofa when not in use.
Read next: The best toys for 9-month-olds
Price and competition: is the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen good value for money?
Yes, but that depends entirely on how much you’ll use it. With a price tag of £140 (RRP), you’ll certainly find cheaper playpens on the market, so it’s not an investment you’ll want to make lightly.
I like that it can be taken apart easily for storage. The fact that it comes with an activity panel and play mat only makes the cost more attractive.
Is the Venture All Stars Duo Baby Playpen something that all families need in their lives? No. But it will be a good buy if you know you’ll need somewhere for your baby to play and explore safely, especially when they start crawling and moving around more independently.
About the author
Laura Westerman is an editor, writer and Deputy Head of Editorial Content at Mumsnet. Mum to a one-year-old, she’s always keen to make playtime safe and fun for her daughter, so is fully invested in finding the best and most affordable baby products on the market.
With over seven years' experience as a full-time editor, five of which have been spent writing, commissioning and editing product reviews and round-ups, Laura has a keen eye for what parents love and likes nothing more than putting together honest reviews to make parents' lives that little bit easier.
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