4 Best Baby Playpens

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
June 30, 2019
Toddler wearing head scarf in bed

Newborns and toddlers, as you likely have found out as a parent, have seemingly boundless reserves of energy. Looking after them constantly and keeping them entertained, can be tiring but rewarding. The biggest obstacle is making sure the child is safe.

To do so, you have to have a playpen, also called a play yard, to keep the child secure.

Children are naturally inquisitive, especially when they are in the toddler stage and just learning to use all of their muscles. If they are not kept securely in a baby playpen, they can get into potentially dangerous situations and get hurt. You have to make sure the playpen you get is up to the task of filling your child’s needs. We have a list of seven of the best baby playpens.

Comparison Table

How We Pick Our Models

Choosing a playpen might sound simple enough, but we want to make sure you get the best product for your money. To narrow down our choices, we look at several characteristics.

First, we look at the size of the playpen. The smallest ones, suitable for infants, are around 40 inches by 30 inches, with variable heights. These are often fixed designs and need to be upgraded as your child grows. Other models, rather than being a fixed size, consist of interlocking pieces that you can configure, assemble, and disassemble as necessary.

Then, we look at the ease of use. This factor is vitally important if you tend to move the playpen around to different rooms or during traveling. In some cases, you may have a rigid design that isn’t easy to disassemble, but we look at playpens made of easy-to-use interlocking pieces.

The next factor to consider is visibility. Older playpens have a metal frame with bars that allow you to see into the playpen and for the baby to see out. Even some newer models have see-through plastic components. Not only does the baby need adequate ventilation in the playpen, but it also benefits from being able to see the outside world.

You also need to consider the weight rating. Some portable playpens have a fixed floor section as part of the unit and can only hold a certain amount of weight. Older models that simply affix to a wall, however, do not have weight limits because they use the existing floor.

Finally, you should look at any additional features the playpen has. Some of these special features can include but are not limited to, diaper stations, cleaning supplies, toy racks, attached wheels, or even a rocking attachment to help get the baby to sleep. Some high-tech playpens might even have integrated toys.

These are just a few factors to consider when deciding on your new playpen. We’ve looked over product sheets, read online reviews, and compared several different playpens to compile a list of the seven best baby playpens. Even if your choice differs from one of the models we’ve listed, we hope to give you an insight into how to choose a playpen.

This playpen’s brightly colored segments are sure to be visually stimulating. It consists of 14 separate interlocking pieces that have ample room. The base is rubberized material, and the feet easily stay in contact with the floor, so the playpen doesn’t skid should the baby attempt to escape or push the panels out.

The panels should take no more than ten minutes to assemble, and if you decide you want more room, then you can buy multiple sets and put the bases together. The playpen also includes an interactive wall with various shapes and toys that the baby can play with in the absence of other toys.

There are a few minor issues with this playpen: first, the suction cups that hold the playpen to the floor tend to weaken over time, especially if you’re putting it on a hardwood floor. Another issue listed from reviews is the possible ability of the child to get their hands caught in the playpen, but these were relatively few.

Although it’s easy to put together and serves its purpose, the possibility of a child getting injured drops our rating a little in our eyes. Were this safety issue addressed, it would be an excellent playpen.

The Evenflo Versatile Playspace is at first glance just like the previous model on our list, with one major difference: it is taller. An enterprising baby could theoretically climb a small playpen wall, but this one is 28 inches tall with an 18.5-square foot enclosure. If your child is excitable, this cool grey color scheme could help instill a sense of calm.

One of the other features that we like about this playpen is the reversible legs. They include outdoor stakes in case you decide you want your baby to enjoy some outside air. In order to keep your floors safe for indoor use, the playpen also has anti-scratch floor pads that you can install and remove easily. You can buy multiple sets if you want to increase the available space.

This playpen is a basic model. It doesn’t have other features like a changing station, activity walls, or other amenities. It’s nothing more than an enclosure. If that’s all you need, then this playpen may be enough for you. If you want more features, go for another model.

This is a more elaborate setup than the other models on our list. It includes a tent attachment for your child to make a pretend fort, and the tent attaches to a tunnel, which in turn leads to the ball pit section with an attached basketball hoop. The balls aren’t included, but if you get a pack of them, your child can have hours of fun when friends come over.

The mesh material is easily breathable and see-through, so you don’t have to worry about safety. The mesh is also made of heavy-duty, tear-proof material, specifically 190T polyester.

As far as size, the playpen has a maximum height of 40 inches, while the ball pit area is open-air.

The various components of the Yoobe Play Tent connect with hook-and-look assemblies, which some customers reported tended to come loose. All you have to do is tighten the loops, and you should be fine.

The physical engagement factor is a definite plus, and the tent and tunnel crawl space allows a sense of exploration even though it’s easy for the assembly to come apart, this work in its favor because it’s also easy to store in a zipper bag.

The Pop ‘N Go playpen has a major advantage over other playpens on our list: it has the option for a canopy that you can attach to it. While this may not seem like a significant advantage, it does allow you to set up the playpen outdoors or on the beach. The canopy is designed to protect against harmful UV radiation, which can severely damage babies’ developing skin tissue.

Of course, if you intend to have your child out in the sun for too long, you should apply sunscreen, but a canopy playpen is another excellent safety measure.

You can set up the Pop ‘N Play playpen anywhere as long as it’s a flat, level surface so the legs can easily support the weight of the enclosure without creating uneven stress on the fabric. It’s still a good idea to set down some tarp underneath it if you’re outdoors to protect the bottom layer from dirt or moisture.

The idea is sound, but some customers reported weakness in the materials leading to the playpen not holding up to stress. Whether the playpen was subject to poor care or whether it is a genuine failing of the workmanship is unclear.

Safely Using A Playpen

No device or tool, no matter how advanced, is inherently foolproof. You have to exercise certain safety precautions when setting up and using playpens to get the most out of their function and make sure the child is safe and secure.

First, keep an eye on the child’s ability to walk and climb. It does little good to put the child in a playpen if it can simply climb out with the help of large toys as a footstool. It’s best to remove large toys when you aren’t present to watch because climbing out is a possibility.

Smiling baby biting right index finger

You also should never leave any side of a playpen’s mesh enclosure lowered, even if you’re present. Infants especially can crawl into the mesh and get trapped inside it. Once this happens, it can be difficult to free them, and suffocation is possible. Similarly, make sure that the mesh material has no tears in it. A torn mesh can allow the baby to get fingers caught.

Keep an eye on the state of the railing. Most rails are made of plastic with some filler material in the padding. Torn or ripped rails can lead to the baby attempting to eat some of the padding out of curiosity. Such materials can be toxic.

If you use a playpen that has interlocking pieces, make sure they fit together snugly and cannot be disassembled with the minimal force the baby would be able to exert. The best baby playpens strike a balance between safety and portability.

Try to avoid using folding gates. These gates have hinges that are easy for a baby to get a finger, foot, or hand caught in. A baby’s bones are far more fragile than a child’s or a full-grown adult’s. Even something as trivial as a gate hinge can lead to broken fingers.

Next, watch out for any playpen or crib that has an angled mattress. If you leave a baby unattended in one of these, it’s possible to roll into a corner and not be able to breathe properly.

The final thing to consider for safety is where you’re placing the playpen. It needs to be close to a wall or a corner for extra stability.

Avoid placing it near the following:

  • Stairways
  • Around corners
  • Electrical outlets
  • Doorways

Amount Of Time In A Playpen

You have to strike a proper balance when using a playpen. If you decide to leave a child in the playpen too much, the child’s ability to explore, learn safe boundaries, and the ability to follow directions doesn’t have the chance to develop. However, there is something to be said for discipline, the ability to remain in one place, and the time you spend working on other things.

Baby smiling

When you put your child in the playpen, ensure they know it’s only temporary and that you’ll be available if any problems happen. Putting a child in the pen and simply leaving him to his own devices can be considered negligent, especially if it’s a common tactic to get things done around the house.

Final Thoughts

Setting up and choosing the best baby playpens relies on you knowing what your child needs. Whether there is extra stimulation from built-in toys, whether you’re content with using a basic model, and simply the size of the playpen are all factors that depend on your child and their rate of growth. You should consider models that can be scaled to fit the growth of your child.

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