Buying Guide for Pack ‘n Plays
Why buy a pack ‘n play?
A pack ‘n play, also known as a playard, is a convenient and nearly necessary item for new parents. It can be used as an impromptu crib in a crib emergency (like a diaper disaster), as a travel crib, or as a bed or play area at a caregiver or grandparent’s house. It also makes a great, safe space to put your baby when you’re busy at home. Pack ‘n plays are portable, lightweight, sturdy, and have many great features that you and your baby will love.
What should you consider in a pack ‘n play?
- Add-Ons: Do you want a basic pack ‘n play or one with a lot of extra attachments? Some have a bassinet feature or a vibrating mattress for naptime as well as playtime. Others come with a removable changing table, which can be a very useful feature for traveling; just make sure you check the weight limit on these, and never put your child in the bottom of the pack ‘n play while the changing table is in place. Some have a canopy to protect your child from harsh light or a cover to ensure they don’t climb out. Others have storage space for toys in the form of a zipper side pocket, fabric shelves, or hook-on or clip-on pouches or bags. These add-ons might make the pack ‘n play more expensive, but you may find the higher price tag a worthwhile trade-off for the convenience they offer.
- Portability: Pack ‘n plays are made to accommodate parents on the go. Most come with a carrying bag with a strap so you can easily move it around. Consider how it folds and how easy or difficult it is to get into your carrying bag, especially if you’re taking it with you often.
- Extra Toys: Plenty of playards have extra toys, music, and lights to make playtime a more enriching and interactive experience for your child. These extra attachments can run the gamut from suspended toys to electric mobiles or even to something like a detachable baby gym. Others offer electronic music centers or input for MP3 players. Nightlights are an option as well. Again, these features will add weight and expense to the playard, so you may prefer extra attachments for a stay-at-home one rather than one for traveling.
What’s the difference between a pack ‘n play and a playpen?
While these are both safe, contained places where your baby can play, a pack ‘n play is made for sleeping, traveling, changing, and several other useful functions that a playpen may not accommodate. Playpens are more like gated areas, generally without a mattress or other sleeping implements available in a pack ‘n play.
|The Best Baby Gear|
|For Travel||Diaper Bags | Parent-Friendly Fanny Packs | Changing Pads | Carriers | Beach Essentials | Pack ‘n Plays | Strollers | Wagon Strollers | Playpens|
|For General Care||Diaper Pails | Changing Tables | Bassinets | Cribs | Bottles | Bottle Warmers | Bottle Nipples | Bottle Brushes | Swings | Monitors | High Chairs|
Our Picks for the Best Pack ‘n Plays
Pros: This adorable pack ‘n play comes in several cute color choices. It has a removable, full-size bassinet that provides the perfect spot for a smaller baby to catch a nap at home and away. And it also makes a handy changing table. The automatic folding feet and wheels allow for a more compact fold, making it easy to store and perfect for travel. The frame is tough and durable, so you’ll know your baby is safe inside. And the easy push-button fold makes closing and packing up quick and hassle-free. Plus, the adorable toy bar features soft toys to amuse your little one, so you can get things done.
Cons: The mattress is a little bit hard and flat, so you may want to replace it if you’re using this for sleeping.
Bottom Line: For a pack ‘n play with a little bit of everything, this one has you covered. It’s from the trusted Graco brand, so you know it’s a high-quality, reliable choice. And it comes with an easy-to-close carrying bag.
Dream On Me Nest Portable Play Yard
This playard is spacious, safe, and full of wonderful features that parents love.
Pros: This breathable mesh pack ‘n play is spacious, and safe, and includes a soft, foldable mattress pad. It’s made of comfortable and safe polyester foam fabric, and its four airy mesh sides allow easy ventilation and allow 360-degree visibility of your child, allowing both of you to keep the other within sight. It’s portable, stylish, stores compactly, and it’s ideal for play. It boasts a modern, clean design and is available in beautiful finishes that complement any room decor. The product dimensions are 40 x 28 x 27.5 inches, and it weighs only 16.85 pounds. To clean this playard, simply wipe it with a damp cloth and allow it to air dry.
Cons: This pack ‘n play is pretty bare bones and does not come with additional features such as a bassinet, mobile, or any toys. Also, the included mattress is very thin.
Bottom Line: This is a nice and spacious playard that’s great for your baby to play in while you do chores. It can also work as a sleeper and it’s easy to assemble on your own, despite its size. Additionally, this was a winner at the 2020 National Parenting Product Awards.
Costzon 4 in 1 Pack and Play
This playard is multifunctional, grows with your baby, and offers fun features.
Pros: For parents who want a little bit of everything with their pack ‘n play, this is a great choice. It not only rolls on safe casters with brakes for safe and easy transport, but it also features an adjustable canopy, a side zipper entrance, a music box, and whirling toys to keep your baby entertained. With all its features, it can serve as an activity center, baby bassinet, water-resistant diaper changing table, and playpen. The adjustable net is perfect for days at the beach or out in the yard to prevent bug bites or stings. Both the diaper table and bassinet can be easily removed. And it can be quickly folded with four simple steps. Additionally, it comes with an easy-to-carry storage bag.
Cons: The included mobile doesn’t do much to stimulate your baby. Also, some people found the initial setup difficult and had to look up easier-to-follow instructions on YouTube.
Bottom Line: This pack ‘n play truly comes with everything you can think of. On top of that, it’s cute and comes in a few different color options. And it’s a much better value than the more expensive brands since it works just as well.
ADOVEL Baby Bassinet Bedside Crib
This pack 'n play marries the functionality of an on-the-go playard and the convenient co-sleeping of a bassinet.
Pros: This pack ‘n play easily converts into an open-sided bassinet for bedside sleeping. While the bottom layer is a safe and breathable playard, the top is a comfortable and safe sleeper for your baby. It also comes with a sturdy changing tabletop for easy changing. And it has many pockets for all your baby’s needs, including diapers, wipes, bottles, and toys. The playard comes with a mobile to entertain your baby while they drift off to sleep. It has two locking casters for easy movement, so you can wheel it from room to room. And when you’re ready to travel, it folds up in minutes and fits nicely into its convenient carrying bag.
Cons: This pack ‘n play is an awkward size, so it’s difficult to find a replacement mattress for the bottom. Also, it’s quite heavy.
Bottom Line: This is a great option if you need a pack ‘n play for both entertainment and as a bedside sleeper. The zipper side comes down, and it has a safety rail that keeps your baby from falling or slipping into the gap. While this playard is a bit hefty and can seem daunting, if you read the manual thoroughly, it will be easy enough to assemble and fold away.
Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib
For jet-setting families, this lightweight travel pack 'n play is carry-on-friendly.
Pros: This may be one of the lightest pack ‘n plays you can find, weighing in at less than 15 pounds. It folds and unfolds in only four steps, and since it’s lightweight, pretty much anyone can do it in just minutes. Many parents find the mattress firm yet comfortable and great for their baby to sleep on. This pack ‘n play is made in a Greenguard Gold certified facility, and it exceeds health and safety standards. That means it’s free from all chemicals, including PVC, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, and heavy metals. And it wears like a backpack making it easier to carry through an airport, in and out of the car, or for camping trips.
Cons: It has a number of Velcro tabs that can be a little tedious. Also, since the sides are lower, this isn’t a great pack ‘n play if you have a kiddo who likes to climb.
Bottom Line: Overall, this is a fantastic little pack ‘n play. While it doesn’t have a dozen bells and whistles, it’s easy to put together, carry, and travel with. And it’s more comfortable than some other brands, even without buying a new mattress.
Pack ‘n plays are essential for many parents, especially if they like to travel or if they occasionally need to leave their baby with a grandparent or other caregiver. They’re convenient for overnights and more comfortable than hotel cots. Plus, they make fantastic baby shower gifts if you have a friend or family member that’s expecting!