Buying Guide: Best Play Yard Models and Features
Let’s be frank, we aren’t always going to be able to keep our babies 100% occupied. There are chores to be done, jobs to be worked, and dinner to be cooked, and if they aren’t knocked out cold in a crib, they are going to need some attention. So, what do we do? Play yards, or play pens, are the solution for parents who need a minute to breath. They provide an environment which can provide comfort, entertainment, and safety, without requiring constant monitoring.
Initially, play yards were little more than cages. There are some pretty famous pictures of apartments in New York City which hung baby cages outside. Although crazy to consider today, this actually give toddlers an opportunity to get fresh air. Thankfully, play yards have evolved way past these initial contraptions, and there are a lot of models which include bassinets, and diaper changing stations. You don’t necessarily need all of that, but we can be a bit picky now when looking for the best play yard for our toddlers. Here is my recommend list, followed by some features you should look for if you want to do some of the leg work yourself.
Top 5 Models
Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard with Cuddle Cove Rocking Seat
Baby Diego Cub’Zone Playpen and Activity Center
Graco TotBloc Pack ‘N Play with Carry Bag
Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard
Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Travel Playard
Features to Look For
Safety: First and foremost, you have to trust that your play area is safe. If you’re a parent, you should know some of this basic info, such as looking for choking hazards, but here is some specifics. Avoid leaving anything loose in the pen, including blankets, or small objects. Instead, keep your baby layered in comfortable, warm clothing.
Also make sure that you follow the instruction manual which ships with your play yard. Some products have certain weight limits which you do not want to exceed. Newborns grow quickly, and you will be surprised as just how fast they will outgrow everything you buy. Don’t push your limits. As an extension to this, make sure your play yard is sturdy, and the wheels are not loose. Every portable play yard should have locking mechanisms on the wheels, a baby rocking back and forth can move around, knocking objects over and creating potential hazards.
Comfort: If you want to add a bit of extra comfort to the play area, you can include a mattress. However, these should be no thicker than 1 inch, and serve as a glorified mat. Preferably, these should also be made of Velcro to attach to the floor, you don’t want your toddler lifting up on the mattress, creating a potential choking hazard. Remember, if your baby is not comfortable, they’ll usually let you know.
Portable: Although not a must, if you plan on moving around quite a bit, with frequent visits to grandma’s house or somewhere else, consider how easy it is for you to fold up the play yard. These models should be lightweight, with swiveling, locking wheels.
Entertainment: The main reason you use them, keeping your tike occupied is extremely important. Melody players, spinning objects, and large, child safe play toys can entertain your young one for hours. Most pens do not come with these included, so you can always add your own. However, many do have pouches or other organizing sleeves for storage.
Add-Ons: Finally, the more expensive versions have bassinets and changing stations. At this point, the play yard is no longer a simple area to hold your kid, but a fully loaded “battle station”. It is ultimately up to you if you want to include these, but the other features are a lot more important.