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.”
• You don't need a sheet. Most play yard mattresses, which are thin, can be cleaned, and the bassinet is safer without this extra piece of material, in which a baby could become entrapped. But if you do use one, make sure it is tight-fitting and specifically made for the mattress or bassinet insert on your model. Never use a sheet made for a crib mattress or twin or other size bed.
There’s no right or wrong pick for a playard here. If you only need a portable play space for when your baby or toddler is on the move, choose a basic model. If you’d rather have one that can sub in as a diaper changing station or bassinet, select a playard with more bells and whistles. If you do decide a playard will make your life as a parent easier, be sure to add one to your registry today!
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.”)
The Babybjorn Travel Crib Light is another great playpen for travel, weighing in at just 13 pounds! It comes with a soft and comfortable mattress and has breathable mesh sides, making it safe for baby to play and sleep. The crib material is removable and washable, which is a nice feature to have. This playpen is simple to set up and fold. It is one of the more expensive playpens on this list, but its super modern style and small footprint might just make it worth it for you. Some parents think the playpen is a bit too tall, making it difficult to get a sleeping child onto the mattress. The play area itself is not as roomy as some other options. Finally, the Babybjorn fitted sheets that are recommended for use with the mattress are on the expensive side as well.
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.
Some play yards feature a mobile with suspended toys or a detachable baby gym that can also be used with the bassinet mattress on the floor as a separate play mat for tummy time. These are a bonus, as are entertainment centers with music, soothing sounds, and lights. But all will contribute to the price and weight of the yard, and will make it more difficult to pack up the play yard for storage or travel. They usually require C or AA batteries (not included). Toys may not be necessary if you intend to use your play yard as just a portable nursery. But if you use a play yard as a mobile activity center, toys and sound effects can be helpful.
Most play yards are designed for portability—to fit through a door, be moved from one room to another, or folded up to fit in the trunk of your car. Many are rectangular, usually 28 by 40 inches. A basic model such as the Cosco Funsport Travel Play Yard (about $55) has mesh on all sides and comes with a travel bag. Another lightweight model, Graco's Pack ‘n Play Playard/Circle Time (about $57), weighs about 20 pounds.
LOVE this as much as I thought I would!!! I use them to close my baby in or give her freedom while blocking her from other rooms. Have even just used 2 to block her from getting out of a room while I’m doing stuff. For me it’s common sense but as for the suction cups at the bottom, they work best when you clean them and the surface you’re going to stick it to. I haven’t even needed to use all of the panels all together yet but I know I will eventually.
The Summer Infant Pop n’ Play Portable Playard is a playpen designed for indoor/outdoor use. It weighs in at just 12.2 pounds, so this ultra-light playpen can be folded up and moved around with ease. There’s an optional full-coverage canopy that you can purchase for an additional $37—it works great for blocking sunlight so baby can enjoy the outdoors safely and comfortably. The floor is made from weather-resistant canvas, making it a no-brainer for outdoor use. However, some parents don’t like that the bottom of the playpen is so flimsy. It is definitely not intended for napping. This playpen folds up compactly and has a travel bag with a strap for ease of transport. Some consumers do not like the metal bars of the playpen; they make it easier for baby to pull up and climb out, and they can also cause babies to knock their heads. Overall, the general consensus seems to be that this playpen is not super durable, so it is not recommended for extended use. But for the price, this is a great option for parents who like to spend a lot of time outdoors with their kiddos.
•MANUFACTURED 3/5/2018 Complete bedside care center features reversible bassinet and changer all-in-one • Extended use changer allows for more diaper changes, up to 30 lb • With two speeds of vibration to choose from, you can find just the right setting to soothe baby • With four locking wheels the bassinet can be effortlessly maneuvered throughout the home allowing baby to be wherever you are • The canopy offers shade from light while the two soft toys give baby a focal point for playtime