The Best Play Yard 2021
Best Play Yard (Overall) 2021
Last Updated: The Best Baby Play Yard 2021. After researching and reviewing dozens of different play yards by over 10 different manufacturers, our pick for best overall is the .Graco Pack N Play On the Go.
Scroll down for our picks for Best Play Yard for Outdoors,Best Play Yard for Multiples, and Best Travel Play Yard.
New to play yard shopping? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying a Play Yard for advice and tips.
It’s simple—bassinet, toy bar and wheels—but gets the job done. And the price?
Graco is the market leader in this category—and given the value and features they offer, that’s no surprise. The company offers a dozen models of playpens and each is well designed. Of course, if you want all the toys and gizmos, Graco has models with those features too—but you’ll pay $100 to $200 for those versions. One caveat: skip the Graco models with “newborn nappers.” As we explain in our 7 Things below, we don’t recommend these for safety reasons.
Why Trust Us
We evaluated play yards with hands on inspections: unfolding, settingup, breaking down. We also gather significant reader feedback, tracking play yards on quality and durability. Besides interviewing parents, we also talk with industry experts and safety advocates.
We’ve been rating and reviewing play yards since 1994. During that time, we have also visited manufacturer facilities. We compare our reader feedback with safety recalls from the CPSC and information from Consumer Reports.
How we picked a winner
We evaluate play yards with in-depth inspections, checking models for overall quality and ease of use—for example, checking for ease in set-up and take-down We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking play yards on quality and durability.
Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with baby gear retailers to see which play yard brands are most trustworthy and other key quality metrics. The reliability of play yard companies is another key factor—we meet with key company executives at least once a year to discuss what’s new and ask questions about any quality issues. Since we’ve been doing this since 1994, we have developed detailed profiles of major play yard brands that help guide our recommendations. See below for links.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying A Play Yard!
1. Don’t buy a second-hand play yard or use a hand-me-down.
Many models have been the subject of recalls in recent years. Why? Those same features that make them convenient (the collapsibility to make them “portable”) worked too well in the past—some play yards collapsed with babies inside.
Others had protruding rivets that caught some babies who wore pacifiers on a string (a BIG no-no, never have your baby wear a pacifier on a string). A slew of injuries and deaths have prompted the recall of ten million playpens over the years. Yes, you can search government recall lists (cpsc.gov) to see if that hand-me-down is recalled, but we’d skip the hassle and just buy new.
2. Go for the bassinet feature.
Some play yards feature bassinet inserts, which can be used for babies under three months of age (always check the weight guidelines). This is a handy feature that we recommend.
3. Skip the “newborn napper.”
Graco has added a newborn napper feature to some of its playpens. This is a separate sleep area designed to “cuddle your baby.” You are supposed to use this napper before you use the bassinet feature. Our concern: the napper includes plush fabrics and a head pillow—we consider this an unsafe sleep environment.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the America Academy of Pediatrics guidelines tout that your baby should always be put down to sleep on his back on a flat surface with no soft bedding—the newborn napper is an inclined surface with the aforementioned pillow and plush fabrics on the side. Graco also makes a model (the Chadwick) that has non-removeable bumpers (see picture) on the bassinet. We do not recommend this model play yard for the same reason we don’t recommend you use bumpers in a crib.
4. Check the weight limits.
Play yards have two weight limits: one for the bassinet and one for the entire play yard (without the bassinet). Graco and most other versions have an overall weight limit of 30 lbs. and height limit of 35″.
The exception is the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper which tops out at 50 lbs. However, there is more variation in the weight limits for the bassinet attachments. Here are the weight limits for the bassinet attachments on various play yards:
Arms Reach Co-Sleeper 30 lbs.
Graco Pack N Play 15 lbs.
Chicco Lullaby 15 lbs.
Compass Aluminum 18 lbs.
Combi Play Yard 15 lbs.
5. Useful Features: storage and more storage.
You can’t have enough storage as a parent, so play yards with side-rail storage, compartments for diapers and the like are most welcome. We also like wheels for mobility and a canopy (if you plan to take the play yard outside or to the beach). If you want a one with canopy, look for those models that have “aluminized fabric” canopies—they reflect the sun’s heat and UV rays to keep baby cooler. The JOOVY Room Playard and Nursery Center offers excellent storage compared to bare bones models.
6. Features that aren’t worth it: gizmos and toys.
Manufacturers like to load up their products with gadgets, lullabies, toys, flashing lights and other bling. You don’t need them.
7. Even though all play yards pitch themselves as portable most aren’t that easy to travel with.
Yes, most play yards claim they are portable—but given the effort it takes to dissemble all the accessories, it more likely that most standard playpens will stay put. A better bet for portability: go for versions that are specifically designed for travel. See our Best Travel Play Yard above.
Reviews of play yard brands
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