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.
She continued: “It’s as if you asked a climate-change scientist whether the fact that you bought a Prius would make a hurricane less likely in New Orleans this summer. Carbon makes a big difference and so does care-giving, but not at that scale. Of course if you kept a baby confined in a playpen and never took him out that would probably make a difference, but nobody actually would do that.” While science does suggest crawling strongly influences the way babies think and learn, she points out “babies in playpens are crawling and exploring too, of course.” Her last bit of advice? “Parents should try to think not ‘How will this affect my baby in the long run?’—who knows?—but ‘Is this helping my baby and me to thrive right now?’ ” That, she says, depends on what you and your situation are like—and only you know that.
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.
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!
Love this pen, it's the best. Easy to assemble, colorful, has a nice open feel so our baby isn't in prison and cut off from the family activity. BUT BE WARNED this playpen has a design flaw that creates a choking hazzard. The play panel has some busy gears and a button baby can push to squeak. This button can be easily pulled off by baby and will be in two small parts, the button and the plastic squeaker. Both parts are small enough to cause a choking hazzard, our 11mo had the whole button cap in her mouth. So before you think about turning your back on your baby in this pen for a second, I'd recommend removing these parts yourself. Great play pen in every other way.
The Evenflo Versatile is easy to fold and easy to set up as it designed with unique hinge-design. This 28-inch tall play space offers plenty play area and safe for the baby to play. It is easy to assemble the playpen as you don’t need any tools. Also, it offers 2-piece expansion panel packs that you can get separately so whenever you want to expand the playpen you can use the panels.
While you don’t need a playard - an activity mat can entertain a pre-crawler and a childproof area enclosed by baby gates can rein in a toddler - playards do offer a bevy of benefits. Depending on what model you choose, playards can double as a diaper changing station (especially great if your home has multiple stories!), a bassinet, a portable crib and a worry-free play spot. Of course, bouncers and swings are great worry-free play spots as well, but playards offer a bit more freedom of motion. Playards are definitely great for day trips to grandma’s house, where uncovered electrical outlets and delicate knick knacks could be within your toddler’s reach, and for overnight vacations, since your little one can use it as both a playspace and a portable crib.
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.
Select the play yard yourself. Play yards are popular shower gifts; if you're planning to include one on your registry list, consider the features you'll need and select the model yourself. If you'll be using the play yard as a changing station, for example, go with a model with a changing table and multiple storage compartments. Make sure any storage fastens to the outside and is positioned out of your baby's reach. When it comes to changing table attachments, we prefer changing stations that don't flip to the outside, as we believe that those that simply but securely attach to the top rails are safer. If you choose a model with a bassinet, make sure it fastens securely and covers most of the top.
Most of Graco’s models are major multi-taskers whose functions grow with your child. This style comes with a napper (a cozy bassinet elevated above the playpen structure) that when flipped over becomes a wipe-clean changing station. You can then transition your little one to the full-size bassinet (a cushy mat near the top of the playard) complete with a toy bar and plushies overhead. Once your baby starts to move around, remove the mattress and, voila, you have a playard that can be used as a safe play spot and for naps through toddlerhood. And all for a great price.