The Graco Pack ‘n Play with Reversible Napper and Changer Playard is an upgraded version of the basic Pack ‘n Play; it comes with a cozy newborn napping station that flips around, becoming a changing station that easily wipes clean after use to save your back during diaper changes. It is perfect for tight spaces because you’re combining at least two products in one. However, some users have reported that it is somewhat difficult to flip the napper/changer back and forth. This Pack ‘n Play also comes with a storage pocket to stash your extra diapers and wipes, and it has beautiful colors and a stylish design. At $88.90, this product is a good value for all the features it comes with, but it is more expensive than your basic Pack ‘n Play model. This product is not eligible for Prime shipping, and it typically takes one to two months to ship. It’s on the heavy side at 28.3 pounds, so it may not work as great as other playpens for travel. Luckily, this product grows with your baby, becoming a full-fledged playpen when your baby grows out of the napper.

I can’t honestly say I remember physically being in a playpen as a child—though I was—but I remember them as a fact of 1970s child life, a rubber-and-mesh piece of living room furniture as ubiquitous as mahogany-cabinet-enclosed Magnavox televisions (with family photos crowded out by a giant Betamax on top). But as the clock ticked toward my recent entry into fatherhood and I trawled various hip and modern baby-product sites, mentally equipping our nursery-to-be, I noticed that among all the titanium-framed Norwegian strollers and German educational toys (or was it vice-versa?), I didn’t seem to see any playpens —whether rendered in sustainably sourced wenge wood or not. The word didn’t really seem to surface very much among all the proper parenting discourse on the chat sites either. Which left me wondering: Do parents still use playpens? Or are they some relic of me-decade indulgence forsaken in an era of more enlightened child-rearing?
Whatever its name, the concept of the playpen reveals yet another fault line in the politics of anxious parenting, as I found via a simple inquiry—whether the playpen was in or out of vogue—at Urbanbaby.com, a site that combines the neurotic firepower of Woody Allen’s 1970s oeuvre with the conviviality-tinged-with-hostility of the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars. Reading through the various replies (including a few from parents-to-be who shared my curiosity), the opinions seemed to fall roughly into two camps: Against were those who said playpens are overly confining, that it is better to child-proof one’s home instead, that playpens are “the first compromise to good parenting” (inevitably followed by television, etc.); on the other side were those who averred that playpens are safe and necessary spaces to park toddlers while getting things done, that it is folly to suggest that one’s parental eyes can always be trained on the child, that far from restricting creativity playpens enhance a sense of independence, etc.

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.
Even those who embraced the playpen, however, did so somewhat reluctantly (“a necessary evil,” ran one headline), and when I reached for the parenting bookshelf, it seemed the anti-playpen voices began to dominate. In Your Baby and Child by Penelope Leach, I was told that “babies who spend hours confined in cribs or playpens, with few toys and minimal adult attention, are very slow in learning to reach out and get hold of things and that means they are also slow in discovering what can be done with things.” In a book called Smart-Wiring Your Baby’s Brain, we are advised to “minimize the time she is confined to a crib or a playpen during waking hours.” Mavis Klein, in The Psychodynamic Counseling Primer, writes that “it has actually been shown that children of about seven or eight years of age who were, as infants, regularly confined in playpens, are less competent at reading and writing than those who were not so imprisoned”; while John Rosemond’s New Parent Power! warns that “there is evidence suggesting that children who spend lots of time confined in cribs or playpens suffered delayed speed and are less coordinated.”
Portability: Are you going to be taking your playpen to other houses? Perhaps you might want to spend a day at the park, where a playpen would be a handy way to keep your baby safe and let them play alone while you read a book? If you think you might be taking your playpen outside of the home, be sure to choose one that can fold up for easy transport.
Nice to keep baby out of trouble at home. Once he became mobile we had to do an "upgrade" as we noticed he was starting to hit his head on the X shaped metal bars. We tried some alternatives but the best so far was wrapping the metal bars with pool noodles (see picture). You'll need 8 pool noodles and some cuts (buy some extra in case you mess up). Use 2/3 of a pool noodle to wrap the internal bars and the remaining 1/3 to wrap half of the external bar. The pieces will also need a longitudinal cut along the length to fit the bar in. You'll also need some small cuts in the middle of the longer piece to fit the center rivet, where the mesh is attached to the bars. We got the pool noodles at the dollar store nearby for less than $10 and since ... full review
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