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.
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.
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.
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