The word, on the face of it, is rather contradictory, combining play—a word with inherent jouissance—with a suffix that suggests confinement. Given that even pens for livestock have fallen under scrutiny—battery cages for chickens, for example, are critiqued because in them, hens “endure high levels of stress and frustration”—it’s not surprising to find parental discomfort with a product that seems so, well, penitential. Of course, the word yard itself has prison overtones, and when examining a product like the “North States Superyard XT Gate Play Yard” it’s not hard to get some serious Gitmo vibes. (Such misgivings about the playpen are exemplified in sculptor Robert Gober’s X Playpen, a bifurcated enclosure that, as one critic put it, “emphasizes this domestic space’s claustrotraumatic quality.”)

When you’re building your baby registry, you may not yet be thinking about a playpen. I know my motto was “worry about what I need right now—products will still be there later if I decide I need them.” But did you know that playpens aren’t just for squirmy toddlers? In fact, many playpens are versatile enough to take you from the early baby days through the wiggly toddler stage. For example, some playpens come equipped with removable bassinets and even changing tables! How convenient (not to mention money-saving) to have all of those features baked into one product. We made use of a basic version of the Graco Pack N’ Play for our firstborn to sleep in during his newborn days. The bassinet feature made it easy to pick him up for late-night nursing sessions. Then, as he got older and we started traveling, the playpen came in handy as a place for him to sleep on overnight trips. I can’t overstate how invaluable this product was during the first year of our son’s life, and on into the second.
Some models provide storage for toys and other baby items in zippered side pockets, fabric shelves, hook-on fabric storage pouches, and small clip-on parent-organizer bags. Of course those features aren't necessary, but if you want to use them, look for storage that is big enough to actually hold something. Storage compartments should attach, or be built into the outside of the play yard, so they're out of your baby's reach. One deluxe example is the S1 by Safety 1st Satellite Premier Playard - Pegasus (about $128), which comes with attached shelves and a small laundry hamper.
The debate over the playpen, in the end, seems less about the thing itself than one of the eternal conditions of parental pathos: the fact that children demand so much of our attention and that we cannot always give it to the extent we (and they) would wish. As I’ve been writing this I—a modern father with “manifold duties”—have had to occasionally give time to the nearby girl I’ve stashed in the Fisher-Price “Cradle ‘n’ Swing” (some bylaw must require that children’s product names use ’n’ in place of and), which for all I know may simply be the infant forerunner to the playpen. (My friends nervously and jokingly call it the “Neglect-o-Meter.”) Yes, my lack of attention may be stunting her development—shaving a notch off that IQ—but my failure to write portends more sweeping consequences, like the lack of a roof over our heads.
The Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard is a highly portable and lightweight playpen at just 11 pounds. This playpen is so easy to set up—it takes just 15 seconds! Breakdown is somewhat more difficult, but see the video below for instructions. The Lotus folds up into a backpack, which you can transport easily on all your family adventures. The sides of the playpen are made from soft, see-through mesh so you can watch baby play; the side even has a fun door that zips and unzips so baby can crawl in and out while supervised. More than just a playpen, the Lotus comes with a soft mattress, making it a safe and comfy place for baby to nap. Some consumers do not like that the mattress rests directly on the ground. Additionally, you will need to buy the Guava Family quilted sheets, because the mattress is not a standard size. This playpen is more expensive than average, at $198.
Roll with it. Some manufacturers claim that their play yards fold compactly and easily, which is especially important if you'll be traveling with it or assembling and disassembling it often. See for yourself how easy it is by practicing on floor models in the store before you buy. Some parents find that while they can collapse their play yard in a jiffy, fitting the whole thing into its travel bag is almost impossible. If traveling with the play yard is important to you, look at the travel bags when you are shopping.
My 17 month old granddaughter was only in the play area about 5-10 minutes watching sesame street one morning and got her leg stuck in the space between the rails. The Fire Department had to come and cut the post the free her leg out! I wanted to alert the manufacture directly but I was unable to locate a website or Facebook page. The spaces between the rails need to be closer! We loved this play area until we felt a safe zone became an unsafe zone.

This sleek, Dutch-designed playard will fit right into a modern home. It’s one-hand folding system makes for an easy setup, especially since the upper cot folds with the frame. The cushy quilted mattress turns the playard into a bassinet for your baby and then later into a dreamy napping spot for your toddler. And it comes in grown-up colors, too: red, black, gray, navy and khaki.

I have hard wood floors and needed a playpen for my 8 month old daughter who likes to climb everything. I am so happy with the item I purchased and wish I had purchased in sooner. The ease of mind of being able to leave the room with my baby peacefully playing in her pen is amazing. It's large enough that it takes up the good majority of my living room, but not too large. However, it would be easy to remove panels to adjust the size. We never use the gate as it is low enough to step over, but tall enough where she cannot climb over the railing. The gate does move around and can be adjusted to fit whatever shape you need. I have not fussed with the suction cups to get them all to stick down, however, it is sturdy enough without doing so.
I received all 8 panels as promised in the description from this seller (I noticed some people said they didn't). High quality (he doesn't hurt his mouth of this when he tries to chew on it), it's smooth and easy to assemble. Even if he bangs his head against one of the gates, he isn't screaming as if it was wood - we still watch him in this because he's not old enough to not watch him but he easily moves around without problems. Colors are great, gate works really well, and its a perfect size for us - gives our 9 month old Baby enough room to play with different items but is not so huge its cumbersome in our place. Suction cups work well too (we have wood floors) and even with the ABC mat underneath, there are points where we can still suction it to the floor so it continues to not move. Overall, its awesome.
Perfect for a variety of different uses. Having 3 kids under 5, I've used my fair share of baby gates and play yards. The Evenflo play space is very portable, lightweight and easy to fold down and take on the go. You can add and remove sections with a simple push of a button. I'm currently using this gate to block off my fireplace from my one year old who's fascinated with climbing on it. Also, I will be using it during the holidays to wrap around and block my kids from getting into the Christmas tree. I would recommend this gate.
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