Our top picks
Best play yard with bassinet: Graco Pack n Play Playard On The Go
"This is the best configuration for new parents to easily reach and care for their newborn."
Best portable playard: Lotus Travel Crib
"Camping with an infant? No problem, this premium portable crib even has its own backpack transporter."
Best budget play yard: Cosco Funsport Play Yard
"No fancy features, this is a great, low-cost way to contain an energetic kid when away from home."
Best modern play yard: Baby Trend Nursery Center Play Yard
"Removable bassinet and canopy, and flip-away changing station."
Best outdoor playpen: ANGELBLISS Extra Large Play Yard
"If you’re relaxing in the backyard or having a picnic in the park, this yard will keep your little one safely contained."
Best play pen for toddlers: Ashtonbee Activity Area Play Yard
"As babies grow, they’ll need a larger and sturdier option for a fun play yard."
In this article:
Important safety notice
The American Association of Pediatrics states that “There is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%”. 1
As examples of “separate sleep surfaces,” they explicitly list crib, portable crib, bassinet, or… play yard. However, no matter where your baby sleeps, there are guidelines you must follow to ensure their safety.
- Be certain to never use multiple play yard mattresses simultaneously. You might want a thick, comfy mattress for your bed, but it’s not baby safe.
- Your infant needs a firm sleeping surface for their safety. US federal guidelines limit the pads in this product to a thickness of one inch.
- You should not use pillows or soft bedding for this same safety consideration. If you think the mattress is getting uncomfortable because of wear, only replace it with an identical mat.
Keeping in mind that a play yard can be a safe sleep space for your baby, why else might you choose to buy one?
A play yard offers a safe play space or nap area that shields your little one from dirt, dust, and bacteria on the floor. Most are designed to travel easily, folding up into a compact, lightweight unit that’s a perfect play area for time away from home — it also helps to provide your baby with a familiar space in these instances, offering comfort and easy rest even in new places.
Sometimes, they also include extra features like a floating portable bassinet or changing table attachment, making them ideal nursery additions for parents of newborns.
After some nerdish levels of research on mother-baby forums, subreddits, customer reviews, and just about every major review site you can think of, we’ve identified the best play yards, ie, the most popular, well-reviewed on the market.
Our picks of the best play yards
These are the best picks if you are looking for a classic play yard.
Best play yard with bassinet
The ideal baby play yard to grow with your child, the Graco Pack n Play (see price on Amazon) packs significant convenience into a relatively small price tag. Not only can the portable unit act as a safe space for baby to nap and play, it can also be used as a bassinet or diaper changing area, making it exceptionally versatile.
Changing configurations is a breeze thanks to a push-button fold up feature that’s easy to operate; this same configuration also makes packing up the play yard for a road trip or vacation a simple process. It can hold children weighing up to 30 lbs. and 35 inches tall, so you’ll get a few years of use out of the handy unit, but do keep in mind that it’s safest for babies who aren’t able to turn over or scoot yet — the bottom fabric panels can pose a breathing hazard if baby accidentally turns themselves over.
What we love
- Holds kids up to 30 lbs. and 35 inches tall
- Features an infant bassinet and diaper changing station
- Folds up easily with the push of a button
- Safest for younger babies who can't scoot or roll over, as bottom fabric panels can pose a breathing hazard
Best portable playard
Air travel with your baby can come with many challenges, but with the Lotus Travel Crib (check price on Amazon), fitting their play yard into your luggage limitations isn’t one of them. The super-compact unit folds into a perfect cube, sliding into a lightweight, zippered travel bag.
It won’t strain your shoulders on the journey, thanks to a total weight of only 13 lbs, and setting up at your final destination is a snap. The handsome crib folds and unfolds quickly, and settling baby in for a cozy nap is made much easier by an access door that uses a quiet zipper to avoid accidental wake-ups.
While the included foam play yard mattress is comfortable, and safe, it doesn’t include a crib sheet, so you’ll need to pack one of your own for on-the-go napping.
What we love
- Designed for easy air travel, fitting into a compact backpack-style carrying case and weighing only 13 lbs
- Takes less than a minute to set up
- Lockable zippered door with quiet zipper makes it easy to put sleeping babies and larger kids in the play space
- There's no sheet provided, so you'll need to bring your own
Best budget play yard
Products that get the job done don’t always have to break the bank — the COSCO Funsport Play Yard (check price on Amazon) is a great example from a trusted brand, a basic model which offers easy setup and portability at a decent price.
A unique aspect of this play yard is the addition of wheels on one side, which can be used to easily move the entire unit from room to room without having to deconstruct it or take out baby’s toys. When they’re all done playing or it’s time to take the show on the road, the handy play pen folds up in less than a minute and slides into a handy carry bag for easy transport.
There’s no bonus features on offer here, but as a budget buy that’s safe and effective, the Funsport can’t be beat.
What we love
- Very budget friendly
- Easy to set up, break down, and move
- A total weight of 13 lbs means the unit is easy to carry, and it comes with a handy carrying bag for travel
- Some users report that the mattress may be larger than the deck below it, which can cause gapping or a poor fit
Best modern play yard
In search of a home pack-and-play that can do it all? The Baby Trend Nursery Center (check price on Amazon) triples as a play yard, a bassinet, and a removable changing table.
It’s a great setup for new parents raising a newborn in a small space, as the compact unit is suitable for diaper changes until baby reaches four months, and flips away when not in use. Likewise, the bassinet can be removed or latched into the pack-and-play safely to safe floor space.
A music center offers extra sensory stimulation and can soothe baby to sleep, and the extra built in storage remains useful well after your little one grows out of the table itself. The only downside of this unit is that it’s somewhat bulky in terms of travel; while convenient wheels allow you to move it from room to room at home, it’s not ideal as a travel crib.
What we love
- Great features including a flip-away diaper changing table and removable bassinet with canopy are included
- Musical features keep little ones calm and offer sensory stimulation
- A one-handed locking mechanism keeps the unit securely in place with no struggle
- Best pack and play for newborns
- It's fairly bulky, so it doesn't travel well -- it's best kept at home
Best outdoor playpen
A play yard that’s safe for outside, easy to clean, and offers more space for multiple kids to play is an easy sell for families, and the ANGELBLISS Playard (check price on Amazon) boasts all this and more. The durable 59″ x 71″ yard can be wiped down easily after play, so keeping things sanitary is easy, even when dirt and grass are involved.
It’s an ideal pick for families that love to spend time outdoors, giving parents the peace of mind to relax and let baby play safely. The large size is ideal for twins, close-in-age young siblings, cousins, play dates, or babies that just love to spread out (you know the ones — toys from one end of the playroom to the other!).
The see-through mesh sides allow air circulation and make keeping an eye on playing tots easy for supervising adults, but parents should note that this play yard isn’t ideal for naps without a sleeping mat, which is sold separately by ANGELBLISS.
What we love
- Durably constructed for indoor or outdoor use, mesh sides make it easy to see baby and allow air flow
- Large dimensions can support multiple babies or toddlers
- Wipes clean easily
- Sleeping mat must be purchased separately from ANGELBLISS
Best play pen for toddlers
Once toddlers get a bit older, they may not need all the features of a traditional play yard. A “fence” like the Ashtonbee Activity Area Play Yard (check price on Amazon) is a happy medium between their play pen and total freedom — they’ll get a chance to explore the grass, dirt, and rocks under their feet, but they’ll still be safely contained while they’re playing.
Peekaboo holes throughout the conjoined fence panels make it easy to spot your tot, and the hard plastic construction of the yard holds up to heavy play and wipes clean in seconds. It’s an ideal setup for containing a few littles while adults tackle outdoor jobs like gardening and grilling, but be sure they’re old enough to understand how to avoid pinching their fingers in the spaces between fence panels.
What we love
- More freedom than a play pen with the same safety and peace of mind for parents
- Hard plastic construction is durable and wipes clean easily
- Room for multiple children to play comfortably
- Fence openings may be the right size for little fingers to get pinched, so teach tots how to avoid it
Our top choice is the Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard On The Go. It has all the features you really need in a portable play yard, but skips expensive extras that won’t get used. It’s lightweight,, so it’s an ideal pick for a travel crib.
The included bassinet is suspended above the play yard, making it easy to reach your baby. As your baby grows, you can easily remove the bed and use it as a regular play yard.
We’re also big fans the Lotus Travel Crib. Whether you’re flying to a vacation spot, camping at the local national park, or visiting for the holidays, this combo crib and play area will not disappoint. It packs up into a convenient carrying case, and with a total weight of 13 lbs., you won’t have a backache the next day.
Our trusted parent experts
Our editorial team is made up of real parents with real kids. We’ve been there and are passionate about sharing honest truths with other parents. This article was edited and approved by our Fellow in the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD.
There are certainly plenty of units to choose from, with an array of styles and price ranges. Let’s break down some basics to help you decide on the best play yard for your family.
What’s the difference between a play yard, a travel crib, and a Pack’n’Play?
Although these terms are often seen used interchangeably, they refer to different pieces of baby gear. They have similar functions, but knowing the differences can help you understand which picks are right for your baby.
- Play yards offer a dedicated space for your young child to take a nap or safely play. They’re available in a number of styles and colors, and feature soft floors with secure sides made out of soft netting which securely contains your child while also allowing airflow. Some units have additional features such as mobiles, which offer visual stimulation, or bassinets and changing tables that can be convenient for parents.
- Pack N Play is a term sometimes mistakenly used to describe play yards as a concept, but actual Pack N Plays are a trademarked product. They’re a trusted pick which comes in several styles, but they’re not the only kind of play yard out there. To speak in syllogisms, every Graco Pack N Play is a play yard, but not all play yards are Graco Pack N Plays.
- Travel cribs have a lot in common with play yards, but they typically have some features designed to prioritize a comfortable sleep experience for your child. Unlike standard yards, they tend to have thicker “mattress” pads to prevent discomfort during slumber. Travel cribs also frequently have zip-down sides, which are great for allowing parents to get down on baby’s level for play and comfort. Furthermore, while most play yards are portable, travel cribs are designed specifically for life on the go, so they tend to have lighter-weight frames and be easy to store when not in use.
How can using a play yard benefit my child and me?
- Use of a play yard provides a hygienic enclosed space for your child to play which can both contain their toys and keep them safe in areas that aren’t baby-proofed or while parents need newly-mobile kids to remain somewhat contained
- Play yards are a great way to keep kiddos close to you without the unintentional mutual frustration of them getting underfoot during cooking, cleaning or other tasks
- They’re an excellent pick for a cozy outdoor spot, giving kids a chance to play and even nap in the fresh air without ever getting dirty (make sure you find a shady spot, though)
When should I introduce my child to their play yard?
When your baby is about 12 weeks old, they will begin hitting certain milestones like rolling over, grasping their toys and lifting their head up. These are indications that they are ready to begin using their play yard safely. Introducing them to the concept by four months is wise, as this allows baby to associate it with comfort and consider it a regular part of their routine.
Is it safe for my child to sleep in their play yard?
The short answer here is, yes, it’s safe for your kiddo to take a nap in their play yard. However, it’s essential that parents always follow the safety instructions that are included with their child’s unit, as there may be specific instructions regarding sleeping.
A few mandatory safety pro-tips include:
- NEVER use detached mattresses which are one of the biggest safety hazards (see below)
- Ditch the blankets, pillows, toys, or mobiles which can be suffocation hazards during naptime – everything must be removed from the play yard before they nap. Safe options for keeping your baby warm are a ‘grow bag’, sometimes known as a ‘sleep sack,’ when it’s cold, or a swaddle when the temperature is mild. (Editor’s note: One of our favorite swaddle makers is The Ollie World, who create beautiful swaddles made from soft and cleverly designed fabrics.)
- Firm mattresses lower their suffocation risk during napping, so if you’re planning on using your play yard for naps, make sure to seek one out
What safety hazards should be avoided when buying and using play yards?
- Detached mattresses or mattresses that were not designed for the play yard your child is using. When mattresses are detached, children can become trapped, injured, or even suffocate.
- The use of mattress pads, quilts, pillows, blankets, stuffed toys or other comfort objects, which can create serious hazards to your child during sleep. Much like their crib, safe sleep happens without obstacles nearby.
- Flimsy rails, units that lack safety locks and those without sturdy corner boxes can’t be counted as safe for kids. Likewise, those made before 2013 don’t meet current safety standards, so consider replacing hand-me-downs older siblings may have enjoyed.
- Use by children who are too young or old; babies under 12 weeks are too young for a play yard to be safe, and all units have maximum weight and height requirements which must be adhered to to assure safety.
Is it ever safe for me to buy a used play yard for my child?
It’s not hard to understand the allure of buying certain baby gear used. After all, if you’d hand it down from one sibling to another, why not save money? In many cases we’d agree, but there’s one exception, and it’s the one we just mentioned. Prior to 2013, the manufacturers of play yards were not required to meet federal safety guidelines.
Now, manufacturing regulations are far more strict and focused on child safety, and height and weight guidelines have been put into place. For this reason, if you’re going to choose a used play yard, it’s essential that you make sure it was manufactured in or after 2013. Do not forget to read the safety instructions included with any product you purchase.
What are some unique ways that play yards can be repurposed?
- Plastic ball pit balls: These safe, round, lightweight plastic orbs aren’t a dime a dozen, but they might as well be. They’re super cheap to buy, and they make amazing filler for a toddler’s play space. It’s best to wait until they’re nearly a year and gaining dexterity before trying out a homemade ball pit, and starting with a few to introduce them to the concept is always a good idea. They can be washed handily in the sink or tub or hosed off outside and left to air dry.
- When your child begins to outgrow their zippable travel crib mattresses or play yard, one fun idea is to keep one side open and cover the top with a fitted crib sheet to create a tent or clubhouse they can play in but leave easily. The sense of restriction is one thing that finds older toddlers rejecting time in their play yard, so opening the side and giving it a unique redesign can make the versatile gear interesting again.
- Babies, toddlers and kids come with a lot of stuff, which in many cases includes very large stuffed animals which are very cute, but may find you very short on space. A pack n play is a great place for big, soft lions, tigers and bears to live when your kiddo isn’t inside, or after they’re too old to use the yard.
What to look for in a play yard?
Suitability for age
Units that are constructed with mesh on all sides not only offer superior ventilation, they also give you the best view of your child regardless of the position of their play space. As we’ve also noted under safety, it’s crucial to be aware of your device’s weight limit, age range, and other restrictions — when your child outgrows the height and weight limit of a play yard, it’s no longer safe to use.
Ease of use
For the tiniest infants, units that contain a raised cradle are best. Once she can turn over, or even if she’s making moves that herald that milestone is imminent, it’s time to put the bed section away.
You’ll want to look for a unit that sets up and folds up easily, as a stubborn setup and sticky joints can make for a lot of irritation. Likewise, a set of lockable wheels can make moving the unit around your home much easier.
Value for cost
As is the case with most baby products, there are numerous options available at a range of prices, from cheap to expensive. What really matters here is that you’re getting a yard that’s safe, durable, and has the features you need, so it’s best to avoid cheaping out (unless you find an amazing deal) but it’s probably not necessary to splurge.
Avoiding safety hazards like detached mattresses or flimsy out-of-date play pens is essential – always make trusted picks, and review our list of play yard safety hazards for more information.
It’s important to be aware of your child’s age range, height, and weight in relation to the limitations of their play space. Your child may need to use more than one play yard throughout their toddler years, graduating to larger sizes when their growth merits it.