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.”)
Play-yard frames are typically made of metal tubing. Mesh on three or, better yet, all four sides provides ventilation and allows you to see your baby. Most models have hinges and lock buttons in the center of the top rails. To set up a play yard, you'll need to pull the top rails up so that they're locked, then push the floor down and secure the play yard mattress or pad. To fold this design, you'll need to pull the floor up, and then raise the top rails slightly while pressing the release buttons to unlatch and collapse the top rails. Before assembling or using your play yard, read the owner's manual carefully and keep it handy for future reference.
Some basic models may be easier to cart around because they don't have any extra parts. You can also look for bags that leave the play yard's wheels free, so the whole thing can be rolled once it's packed up. If you plan on taking frequent trips (especially by air), you might want to consider a heavy-duty bag that you can buy separately, such as the Rover Gear Easton Travel Yard Bag (about $34).
Rohit Garoo took writing as a profession right after finishing his MBA in Marketing. Earlier he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Botany & Zoology from the autonomous St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Rohit has also done a Stanford University certification course on breastfeeding. This botanist-zoologist turned writer excels at life sciences, and at MomJunction he writes everything about pediatrics and maternal care. In between writing and being overly curious, he spends time cooking, reading, and playing video games. LinkedIn profile – linkedin.com/in/rohit-garoo-263115aa
“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.
Be sure to check the floor pad. It should also be no more than 1-inch thick, snug-fitting, and firm enough to protect your baby from falling or rolling into the loose mesh pocket that can form between the edge of the floor panel and side of the play yard (a suffocation hazard). We think it's safer when models have slots on the floor that allow the mattress's Velcro strips to be inserted and secured on the outside of the play yard, making it difficult for a baby or toddler to lift the mattress and possibly become trapped under it. Avoid models with a mattress that fastens to the bottom of a play yard only with Velcro pads that a child can access from the inside. Use only the mattress or pad that comes with your play yard.
“My baby slept in this from three to six months of age in our room after he outgrew the bassinet. We’ve also taken it along in our suitcase on two trips and he has no problem falling asleep despite being in a new environment. Now that he’s on the move, I use it to contain him so I can pee without worrying he’s going to assault the cat.” -Starlee R.
The play yard clips to the frame at the bottom, which means there is no risk of the fabric moving from its place even if your baby shifts and moves a lot inside it. This is a lightweight play yard thus making it very easy to carry for your next long trip with your little one. The presence of pockets to store your baby’s diapers and wipes helps save space, and makes space for more important items readily available.
So, like many other people on here, I was very hesitant about spending $150 on a playpen. However, it is more then worth it. I had gone back and fourth, and finally pulled the trigger. My 6month old is crawling everywhere, already trying to pull herself up on things, and getting into everything! This play pen allowed minimal safety proofing for my apt, since she is only out when i can keep my eyes completely on her. The play pen is sturdy when pulling on the panels, doesn’t tip, and takes quick a bit of effort to move the walls out (she hasn’t been able to get them to budge). She is able to pull herself up, teeth on the edges, and it is safe (especially if i need to clean, do chores etc). Also, my husband and I fit in it with her. The activity wall is also an added plus. She enjoys playing with it.
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.
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.