Best Play Yard (Overall) 2018
Last Updated: The Best Baby Play Yard 2018. After researching and reviewing dozens of different play yards by over 10 different manufacturers, our pick for best play yard 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? $53 to $85.
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.
The Best Play Yard (overall)
Graco Pack n Play On the Go
The Graco Pack n Play On the Go is a stripped down version of Graco’s ubiquitous Pack n Play line: just a bassinet, toy bar and wheels. All the features you need at merely $65.
Best Play Yard for Outdoors
Planning a beach outing? Soccer game? Summer Infant Pop N’ Play Portable Play Yard ($48) is the best solution when you need a play yard for outdoors that sets up in seconds. Weighing just 12 lb., the Pop N’ Play has a water-resistant floor to keep kiddos dry in wet grass. Readers love the easy set up and overall design—it is about four feet wide and stands 26” tall. A separate $30 canopy that covers the entire play yard is handy at the beach or lake if you are in full sun.
Best Play Yard for Multiples
Joovy’s Room2 Portable Play Yard ($120 to $150) has ten square feet of area—twice the size of most standard playpens, giving multiples or toddlers more room to play. No, it doesn’t include many other features you see in other playpens (no bassinet, diaper changing area, etc). However, it does what it does well—provide a large, safe area for babies to play. Readers love the easy set-up and heavy weight canvas fabric. New in 2018, Joovy now makes waterproof sheets for the Room2; they sell for $22 for two.
Best Travel Play Yard
Best Travel/Portable Baby Crib. After evaluating and testing 17 portable baby cribs, we pick the BabyBjorn’s Travel Crib Light ($200) for Best Travel/Portable Baby Crib. While not the cheapest option out there, we judged this ultra-light play yard (which folds up like an umbrella and fits in a small carry case) to be worth the investment.
Parent feedback has been universally positive. At 11 pounds, it is half the weight of a standard Graco Pack N Play.
The Travel Crib Light ($267; 13 lbs.) has breathable mesh sides with exterior metal poles and comes with an organic fitted sheet and mattress. The top edge includes a padded cover and it folds into a 19” x 23.5” x 5.5” bag. You’ll note that the shape is rather different from a traditional play yard and it uses poles like you’d see on a camping tent. Here are some photos of the folding system used by the Travel Crib Light:
Overall, readers like the Travel Crib Light. Fans love the easy set up and break down, and note that the fabric is nicer than other similar travel cribs. The mattress is pretty thick for a travel crib and the light weight makes it easy to lug around.
The only complaints: short parents may have a tougher time lowering baby into the crib and the exterior poles jut out at an angle, creating a tripping hazard. Yes, it is pricey, but if you plan to travel frequently with your baby it may be worth the expense.
Also Great: Guava Family Lotus Everywhere Travel Crib
If you are an occasional traveler, the Lotus Everywhere Travel Crib is a lightweight travel solution with a twist.
The Lotus has a similar designed to the Bjorn Travel Crib Light, but the frame poles are thicker and one of the mesh sides has a zipper (with a locking zipper so toddlers can’t escape. A toddler replies: how much do you want to bet?).
At 13 lbs., this is definitely a lighter option for travel than a Pack N Play and it comes in a backpack bag for easy carrying. Lotus has priced its travel play yard at $200, about 15% less expensive than the Bjorn.
But what really makes the Lotus different from the Bjorn and other travel play yards are the accessories. Need a bassinet? You can purchase a Bassinet Conversion Kit ($110). FYI: Lotus sells a Bassinet Kit + Crib Bundle in one package for $300. Guava also makes three types of sheets for the travel crib, a Fun Shade for sunny days, and a mosquito net.
So what’s the real difference between the Bjorn and the Lotus? The mattress in the Bjorn is thicker and the fabric is better quality, in our opinion. The footprint of the Lotus is slightly larger than the Bjorn but both have leg poles that stick out and could be a trip hazard.
Some parents complained that the Lotus’ Velcro straps used to secure the mattress and sheet are difficult to thread, since you have to do it by touch. Bjorn calls out it’s attachments more clearly. Finally, we wondered if the zippered side mesh was a really useful feature. We like that you could open the side and make the Lotus into a fort or hideaway for older toddlers with a blanket or even the sunshade over the top—but that’s not a necessity, just a nice side benefit.
Yes, the Bjorn outpaces the Lotus on fabric quality and ease of set-up/take down, but the Lotus does have more accessories.
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 the play yards “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 (with- out the bassinet). Graco and most other play yard 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 play yard 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 ($118) offers excellent storage compared to bare bones models.
6. Features that aren’t worth it: gizmos and toys.
Play yard makers like to load up their products with gadgets, lullabies, toys, flashing lights and other bling. You don’t need it.
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 play pen will stay put. A better bet for portability: go for play yards that are specifically designed for travel. See our Best Travel Play Yard above.
Reviews of play yard brands
Our Top Pick
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