Best Baby Play Yard and Playpens Activity & Entertainment 2021
Formerly known as “playpens,” playards provide a safe space for your baby or toddler to play when you need kid-free time to cook dinner, get ready for work or take a bathroom break. Generally rectangular and made from mesh, they sit directly on or slightly elevated off the floor and are typically designed for easy transport.
Playmats and bouncers are undeniably life savers in those first few weeks, but what do you do once your baby starts to roll or wants to explore more? Enter the playard.
Also sometimes called pack ‘n plays or play yards, these mesh, elevated enclosed areas give your baby a safe place to play.
You probably hung out in a playard when you were a babe — though they were known as playpens then. The name may have changed, but playards are still super handy for keeping babies safe as they play in their just-my-size space (while you get a few things done!).
Why you might want a Baby Play Yard
Playards are ideal for containing the baby in one place and keeping her out of trouble (no crawling over to the staircase that you haven’t bought baby gates for yet).
Babies enjoy playards because they can roll, sit up and stand in them (though when they start to try to climb over them or hit 35” tall, it’s time to put the playard away).
Some pack ‘n plays do double or triple duty as a bassinet, portable crib for travel, or as a changing station. They’re also perfect for taking over to the grandparents’ house or other spots that may not have been as thoroughly baby-proofed as you would like.
Using a Baby Play Yard safely
Keep these guidelines in mind when choosing a playard:
Buy a new(er) players. If you’re looking for a used model, think carefully about play safety. Older players (like those sold during or before the early 1990s) had non-locking rails that could collapse at the hinges, forming a deep V-shaped space that put babies at risk of entrapment and strangulation. So make Playard safety a priority, and skip that garage-sale bargain.
Keep safety guidelines in mind. Baby Play Yard
Make sure any Playard you buy (or borrow) meets the latest safety guidelines (which state that all non-full-sized cribs must have secure locking or latching devices for drop sides, folding sides, or end panels). Also important: The mesh holes must be no larger than 1/4 inch in order to meet the safety standards of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
Set it up in a safe place.
Once you get your Playard home, set it up out of reach of electrical, phone, and window-blind cords, and never tie toys or anything else to the top or sides.
Snooze rules for sleeping.
Never let your child sleep in a Playard that’s full of toys. If you’re using it as a portable crib, leave the toys outside. Make sure the mattress is no more than 1 inch thick and fits snugly to prevent your baby from slipping into the space that can form between the edge of the pad and the side of the Playard (a suffocation hazard). For the same reason, never add a second mattress, or be tempted to pad yours with pillows or blankets. And don’t pile bedding on top of your baby either. If you’re worried about warmth, dress your baby in a footed sleeper and he’ll stay nice and toasty.
Choosing the best playard
Other factors to consider when selecting a playard:
- If your Playard will function mostly as a space for playtime, then a basic model might be just fine. But if you expect to use it as a portable crib and changing area, consider add-ons like a changing table.
- If you think you’ll be toting your Playard over to Grandma’s (or with you on vacation) definitely opt for a model that’s lightweight, folds compactly, and is easily mobile (wheels help!).
- If your Playard will be set up outside, consider a canopy, which will help protect your baby from the sun’s rays. You may also want to pick up a sheer mesh cover for the top to keep bugs at bay when you’re in the great outdoors.
Here, the best playards and pack ‘n plays that your little one will love.
BEST PACK ‘N PLAYS Baby Play Yard
- Best Convertible Playard: Graco Pack ‘n Play Simple Solutions Playard
- Top Best Playard for Travel: BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light
- Best Playard for Outdoors: Summer Infant Pop N’ Play Ultimate Portable Playard
- Best Budget-Friendly Playard: Delta Children Safari Fun Playard
- Most Stylish Playard: 4Moms Breeze Plus Playard
- Best Luxury Playard: Nuna Sena
Graco Pack ‘n Play Simple Solutions Playard
Available at Amazon starting at $90See NowAdd To Amazon RegistryAlso available at:
$114.49Why We Love It
2020 What to Expect Award winner, Graco Pack ‘n Plays are practically synonymous with Playards; the company offers a full range of players from bare-bones to souped-up models. This full-service Playard is top-rated for its clever design that grows with your babe — not to mention its great price.
What we love: For starters, it comes with a portable changing pad that can be used either right on the top of the playard or removed and placed on the floor (or anywhere else you need to do a quick diaper change). There’s also built-in storage for diapers, wipes, and creams. Worried about accidents? Don’t be: Made of wipe-clean fabric, the changing pad is easy to clean.
The mattress, which is about 40 inches long and 28 inches wide, has two heights: A higher bassinet setting for infants (to help save your back), and a lower level for when baby gets older and you need a travel crib. With fold-down top bars on the side, it can be tricky to figure out how to put this playard up at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a cinch. You should stop using the Pack ‘n Play when your child is 35 inches tall, weighs 30 pounds or can climb out on her own.
Height/weight limit: Up to 15 pounds (bassinet); up to 35 inches, or sooner if the child is able to climb out independently (playard)
Weight: 22.9 pounds
Dimensions: 39.5 x 28.5 x 29 inchesCommunity Reviews
“Hands down the go-to. Affordable, compact, easy to use. We used it besides for the first year and now we take it on any trip near and far.” “Best purchase ever! Naps made easy, great for travel, and the change table attachment is perfect for changes during the day”
“These playards come with so many different options that are highly convenient. We ended up with one that has a bouncer seat and changing insert and both have been clutch with our first baby, and I’m looking forward to using for our second baby. We’ve traveled with the playard and it has held up through many trips. Just an amazing buy — and for a relatively decent price!”
Best Baby Play Yard for Travel
BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light
Available at Amazon starting at $300 See NowAdd To Amazon Registry Why We Love It
Your babe will sleep just as soundly on the road as he does at home in this portable Playard that doubles as a sleek travel crib, also 2019 What to Expect Award winner. The mattress has a built-in base plate to keep it from sagging or hitting the floor. There’s no weight limit, but you should stop using it once your child is able to climb out, which is usually around age 3.
On-the-go parents love that this Playard pops up or down in one swift movement and that there’s no fumbling or struggling to get the bars in place. It’s a light, portable 13 pounds and includes a carrying case, which makes it easy to stash in the trunk of your car or overhead cabin on an airplane. Another plus? The fabric sides and mattress cover to zip off and are machine-washable.
Age range: Newborn to approximately 3 years, or until your child can climb out of the crib
Weight: 13.2 pounds
Best Baby Play Yard for Outdoors
Summer Infant Pop N’ Play Ultimate Portable Playard
Available at Amazon starting at $90 See NowAdd To Amazon Registry Also available at:
$80.99 Why We Love It
This extra-large portable Playard from Summer Infant works just as well outdoors as it does in your house. The Playard comes with a removable canopy that provides UPF 50 protection to keep your little one safe from the sun’s rays. The sides are made of airy mesh, so baby won’t get too hot (and you can easily keep an eye on her).
The floor is a water-resistant canvas, so you can take this playard to the beach, too (of course, always watch baby closely around water). It weighs a mere 12 pounds and includes a carrying case, so it’s convenient to tote around. Even better? It’s a breeze to set up and take down in seconds. It’s recommended for use between 6 and 24 months, or when your child is 35 inches tall.
Age range: 6 to 24 months
Weight: 12 pounds
Best Budget-Friendly Baby Play Yard
Delta Children Safari Fun Playard
Available at Amazon starting at $84 See NowAdd To Amazon Registry Also available at:
$95.49Why We Love It
The cute pattern and cheery animals practically scream, “Let’s play!” — and that’s exactly what your babe will want to do in this playard. At 28 pounds and 3 feet by 3 feet, it gives your cutie a sturdy place to have fun, explore or sleep.
While it does fold down and comes with a mattress and carrying case, it’s heavier than many other playards on this list and is therefore not the best choice if you plan on traveling a lot. On the other hand, it can be used indoors or out, adding to its versatility. It’s recommended for children weighing less than 30 pounds and below 35 inches tall, but regardless, you should stop using it as soon as they can climb out.
Height/weight limit: Recommended for children unable to climb out (up to 30 pounds and 35 inches tall)
Weight: 28.6 pounds
Dimensions: 36 x 36 inches
Most Stylish Playard Baby Play Yard
4Moms Breeze Plus Playard
Available at Buy Buy Baby starting at $200 See Now Why We Love It
This 4Moms Playard is chic and streamlined. It has a one-push open, one-pull close feature that parents say works just as well as advertised. Plus, the minimalist design means you won’t feel like you need to stash it away when friends and family come to visit.
Also good: This playard comes with a mattress and removable bassinet that can be used until your infant weighs 18 pounds. There’s also a travel bag (although it weighs 23 pounds, so isn’t the lightest model on this list).
Height/weight limit: 5 to 30 pounds; up to 35 inches
Weight: 23.2 pounds
Dimensions: 43 x 30 x 31.5 inches
Best Luxury Baby Play Yard
Available at Nordstrom starting at $350 See Now Also available at:
$349.95Why We Love It
If the goal of the Nuna Sena is to make parenting a bit easier, mission accomplished. This luxury Playard is fairly lightweight (about 22 pounds), easy to pop open, and closes quickly for fast storage. Best of all, you can do it all with one hand!
The quilted mattress pad provides a plush space for baby to sleep and play. Even better: The base can be lifted (similar to a crib) for younger babies, so you don’t have to bend down to place your little one close to the floor. The stylish design and neutral color win major style points, too. It’s suitable from birth until your baby weighs 33 pounds or can climb out.
Our Top Picks for the Best Playpens of 2020
- #1: Graco Pack n Play Playard Reversible Seat and Changer LX (Best Value and Best Overall)
- #2: Baby Care Fun Zone Playpen (Best for Large Areas)
- #3: Evenflo Versatile Play Space (Best Expandable)
- #4: GrowthPic Baby Playpen (Best Low Cost)
What age is a playpen for?
A playpen comes into its own when your child is just beginning to crawl at about six months or seven months. However, it’s a good idea to buy a playpen before your baby’s moving around too much, so she can get used to it. .
Is a Baby Play Yard necessary for babies?
Do I need a pack and play for a newborn? If you are going to be home most of the time and traveling very little, you don’t need it. If you frequently go to others’ homes, travel, or like to put your baby to nap no matter where you are, it’s a great buy.
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