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.”)
Many play yards, such as the Graco Silhouette discussed in Types, offer a bassinet that covers the entire length and width of the play yard. That is a good feature because it reduces the likelihood that your baby will fall into the play yard. But a baby could still fall outside of the play yard so stop using any bassinet attachment once your baby can push up on his hands and knees. The Safety 1st Travel Ease Elite Play Yard (about $112) also comes with this type of bassinet, and a changing table and removable toy bar. It measures 30 x 46 1/4 inches and has lockable wheels.
It's easy to put together and take a part. The stickers were hard to place but that's not a big deal to me. My son, now almost 10 months, hates being confined. The play pen was very sturdy but he wouldn't stay in there without crying. I ended up buying another one and using sections of the pen to block off areas of the house. It's not as sturdy when not put together in a closed shape, but it works for us.
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“For anyone out there who has ever put together a pack and play with all their bazillion pieces: Putting together a portable crib should be easy. Nuna is! Push down on the middle to set it up and pull up to put it away. Oh, and the part where you fold it and need to fit it back in the bag? Still easy! It’s not like fitting a square peg in a round hole.” -Jenna O.
Those looking for a pack 'n play that can go from newborn to toddler should shop for an option that comes with features like a changing attachment and a napper for the baby since it is one purchase for three items. This favorite from Graco gives you all of these and it can be customized as time goes on. Use the removable vibrating seat when baby watches you clean the dishes, while the changing pad can act as your everyday diaper station if this pack 'n play is the main fixture in your house. This is not the lightest of option on this list coming in at 32 pounds with all of the attachments, but it can fold up nicely and be moved. So, those looking to take something on an airplane might be better suited with our travel pick.
The quality is certainly there. The mesh seems very strong and its very easy to collapse and put away. The same goes for putting it together. It just folds in or out. The reason for not giving it 4 stars is the padding on the floor. We had to put additional patting as its too hard. So keep that in mind when buying this play pen. I would recommend for its portability and the zipper at front.