When your baby is teeny tiny, keeping them occupied in a swing or a bouncer is about as much as you need. However, once they’re sitting up, rolling over, and (gasp!) crawling, you really need a great play yard — also known as a playpen. These genius items are an easy, safe place for your little on to hang out, relax and play, all while you can see them.
WHAT TO CONSIDER
Playpens are actually fairly simple devices, without a ton of range. They’re definitely not the cheapest investment, but arguably one of the best values. Choosing one can feel overwhelming, but it’s actually pretty simple: The major factors you need to consider are style, use, features, price, and safety. All of the choices on our list meet or exceed CPSC guidelines for best practices regarding play yards.
Some models of playpens, like the Graco and the 4Moms, are all-in-one devices. They have an attached bassinet and changing table, and the relative cushion on the actual play yard itself is a bit more dynamic and springy. Decide if you need a place just for your child to play, or if you would like them to nap in it, too.
Consider indoor-outdoor use with your playpen, as some models aren’t built for harsh weather. Models like the Björn are also incredibly portable and made for travel.
Features like collapsibility, weight, and quality of the mattress are all important factors to consider when looking for a playpen. Memory-foam options, sizing, and sheet compatibility all play a role when you’re considering what will be the most comfortable for your baby, and the most convenient for you. Some playpens even come with zippered ends, making it easy for your baby to get in and out.
A good play yard will generally start at around $100, and go upwards from there — up to about $400. If you’re planning on having more children, a higher-end, more durable option may be worth it to you.
Each play yard on this list has been chosen for its versatility, durability, and performance. See the best ones.
This play pen has been the gold standard for decades. It’s a solid option that comes with a bassinet basket for newborns, a changing pad, and a bassinet insert for infants who aren’t yet able to sit up. It also has a really handy wipe holder on the side. The crib mattress is the standard size and incredibly comfortable.
Having used this play yard through two kids and knowing it lived through two more, I can attest that this is an absolute beast in the durability department. My kids are jumpers, and they did not destroy it. Plus, the fabric comes clean very easily with just a few quick wipes.
However, this play pen is also the heaviest (at nearly 40 pounds) and one of the hardest to collapse.
The fabric of this play yard by Baby Björn is machine-washable in cold water. It’s only 8 pounds, and all the materials that come into contact with your baby are OEKO-TEX Standard.
This playpen comes with the mattress and carrying bag, but unfortunately not the sheets (which are not standard size). It also does not have an option for bassinet height.
It also has a one-handed fold and super-compact bag. If you’re planning on schlepping your playpen to a bunch of different places, this is just the thing for it.
One of the first play yards to fold with one hand, the 4Moms Breeze should definitely be on your radar.
The bassinet and the changer are so easy to take in and take out, and the mattress is soft, breathable, and standard size. The 4Moms Breeze has a wider base than a top, which provides an additional level of stability you’ll appreciate when your little one starts dancing.
The entire frame is covered with a wipe-clean fabric, and the top bars are well-cushioned for baby safety. You can position the mattress/base either in the middle of the playpen or at the bottom, depending on the age and size of your child.
The 4Moms Breeze is extremely high-quality engineering and high-end fabrics and design — without the high-end price tag.
For years, I’d been reluctant to recommend Bugaboo products because I felt that the quality did not match the price. But this year, between the launch of the dynamic Fox stroller and the Stardust play yard, I’ve completely changed my mind.
This playpen is exactly what you need if you are limited on space. It has a smaller footprint than most, but it’s every bit as useful and sturdy as larger playpens. And yes, the bottom can be raised to bassinet height. And here’s the thing: It’s under 15 pounds, and when folded, it’s only 5 inches wide. It’ll fit in practically anywhere.