The playpen is made from a lightweight metal base with a durable fabric wrapped all around it. The hexagonal shape makes it a great place for your baby to play. The best part is that there is no assembly required and all you have to do is open the collapsible metal frame to have the playpen ready. The frame neatly folds and fits into a shoulder bag for easy movability.
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.
The super-light playard folds up into a backpack case so your arms are still free to hold your little one and a diaper bag. Unlike the other playards in our top picks, this one features a zippered side door so you can lay down with your baby to nurse or cuddle him to sleep and then draw away once he’s in dreamland. The open side door also lets babies and toddlers go in and out of their special place, when you want them to, which makes the playard more like a play fort. Once you get the hang of it, the Lotus Everywhere Crib sets up in 15 seconds and the extra-long mattress lays flat on the floor.
Now, a simple visit to a site like Babies ‘R’ Us will confirm that, yes, playpens do still exist. But they seem to have been rebranded, for these devices are no longer called playpens. Instead, searching for the term on Babies ‘R’ Us will yield a range of “Pack n’ Plays” (a trademark of the kid-product manufacturer Graco, and which purists insist is less a playpen in the traditional sense than a traveling crib), and various takes on the “playard” (a word that seems vaguely French but is actually a contraction of “Play Yard”). Rather tellingly, a Google search for playpen seems to yield as many entries for contraptions to corral pets as children.