Guide: The Best Playpen/Playard & Reviews

Sometimes, as parents, there are occasions when we just can’t keep an eye on our baby. Sometimes we need to have a shower, make dinner, or do other chores around the house. A playpen or playard is a great solution: your baby can safely play on his or her own without there being any worry of injuring themselves. This guide will let you know everything you need to know about playpens and playards and hopefully help you make a decision.

Playpens & Playards: What Are They?

best playpenA playpen or playard is an enclosed play area that keeps your baby safe and inside of it, giving them a place to safely play without need for constant supervision. While you should never leave your baby unattended for an extended period of time, a playpen will allow you to have a short break or get chores done around the house. Baby playards are usually self-contained units, made from either wood, plastic or metal frames, usually with their own center floor and mesh sides. Most playards and playpens will fold up, allowing for easy transport to the babysitter’s or grandparent’s house.

There are a huge number of playpens and playards available for purchase, each with their own options and features. However, choosing a playpen doesn’t have to be difficult! As long as you know what you’re looking for, it’s very simple. The following is a list of features found in playpens and playards that you will want to think about when searching for one.

Playpens vs. Playards: Which is Ideal For My Situation?

There are some differences between the typical playpen and playard. Playards are generally thought of as being an updated version of the playpen, but the fact is that both are still sold separately today. The main difference is that playards are usually more fully-featured; they might have things like bassinets for sleeping, changing tables, shelves, organizers, etc. A playard with a bassinet can easily double as a portable nursery, which is great if you travel a lot — just make sure to choose one that is portable!

Conversely, playpens are generally more basic when compared to playards and don’t have quite as many features. They function better as a portable play area to keep your baby safe, and are generally more lightweight as well as less expensive. They usually don’t have any extra features found in some playards, such as bassinets or changing tables.

What to Look For in a Playpen or Playard

When looking around either online or in stores for a playpen or playard, here are some features you might want to keep an eye out for:

Safety

I cannot stress this enough with regards to any type of baby equipment. The number one priority is that it should be safe! Be sure to read reviews from parents and experts and keep an eye on product recalls. I would strongly recommend never buying a used playpen or playard; baby items are recalled all the time, and you’re much better off getting a new model that is proven to be safe.

How Will You be Using the Playpen/Playard?

You should think about how you’re going to be using the playpen or playard. Here are some features you might want to look out for depending on your needs.

  • Portability — Are you going to be taking your playpen to other houses? Perhaps you might want to spend a day at the park, where a playpen would be a handy way to keep your baby safe and let them play alone while you read a book? If you think you might be taking your playpen outside of the home, be sure to choose one that can fold up for easy transport.
  • Bassinet — Most playards include a bassinet, which is a convenient option if you’re going to have your baby sleep in it while using it as a travelling nursery. The bassinets in playards differ; some are full-sized and run down the length of the playard, some have options like a canopy which is great if you’re going to be using it outdoors, and some have a rocking motion.
  • Wheels/casters — A playard with wheels or casters makes it much easier to move around the house, either to clean the room or to simply move the playard to another area of the house. Just make sure that the wheels lock into place for safety reasons.
  • Toys/music/lights — Some models come with included toys or music that is great for entertaining your child while they are inside. Just beware that these features sometimes require separate batteries.
  • Storage — Some models come with built-in storage for things like diapers, toys, clothing, etc. This can be great if you plan on using the playard as a portable nursery, or just want some extra storage for those baby items.
  • Canopy — If you plan on using your playard outside, be sure to choose a model that has an included canopy. The sun can be very damaging to a baby’s delicate skin.

Don’t Buy a Used Playpen/Playard

While it might seem like a nice gesture to hand down a playpen that’s been in the family for years, I would strongly recommend not using an older or used model. The idea of picking up a lower-priced playpen from a garage sale or Craigslist might seem appealing at first, but this is never a good idea. Baby equipment, including playpens and playards, are recalled all the time, and older models might have safety hazards.

There are several popular playpens that have been recalled over the years, so your best bet is to always buy a new model. It’s well worth having the peace of mind in knowing that your playpen/playard is completely safe for your baby to use.

MomTricks Picks: Playpens & Playards

Here are our playpen and playard recommendations:

Overall: Graco TotBloc Pack ‘N Play Playard with Carry Bag

Playpen ChoicesThe Graco TotBloc Pack ‘N Play is by far the most popular playard available, and for good reason.

It’s a fairly large playard: it measures 38″ x 38″ square, rather than rectangle like many other playards on the market. This gives your baby a lot of room to move around play in, and also makes the playard very sturdy. It has an 8-footed metal frame, meaning it has eight contact points on the ground. The sides are mesh and there are no sharp edges, giving it added safety. You’ll appreciate the larger size when compared to smaller, rectangular playards; usually children will quickly outgrow them, but this larger version means your child will get extended use out of it.

The TotBloc Pack ‘N Play is great for those that travel, too; its main selling point is the fact that it folds up into a small, 38″ x 10″ square and fits snugly into the included travel bag. It’s very easy to assemble alone, too; it should take you only a few minutes. It’s just as easy to disassemble, too.

It’s nice and colorful, too. As you can see, it has interactive bug toys on the walls, plus a cute colorful pattern on the floor. Most other playards are a bit drab, but this one looks cute and colorful. The fabric is easy to clean, too, in the case of spills or accidents.

The Graco TotBloc Pack ‘N Play Playard with Carry Bag is by far the best playard on the market for general purposes. If you need more options and features you might need to look elsewhere, but for a great, solid and safe playard, you simply can’t go wrong.

Price Alert: As of Sunday, Aug 24, 2014, Amazon has the Graco TotBloc Pack 'N Play with free shipping and free returns. Click here to see it!

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