In fact, small babies have an almost uncanny ability to get themselves into mischief, and a study conducted by the University of Haifa in 2013 showed that the overwhelming majority of parents reported a significant increase in stress and sleep deprivation once their little tykes start moving around on their own.
- 1 Why Do You Need a Pack and Play
- 2 Pack and Play Buying Guide
- 3 Top 5 Best Pack and Plays 2018(Reviews and Compare)
- 4 What about pack and play mattresses?
- 5 Picking Out Pack and Play Sheets
- 6 How to Clean Your Pack and Play?
- 7 How to Set Up Your Pack and Play
- 8 Conclusion
Why Do You Need a Pack and Play
Pack and plays are a lot safer than trying to ‘baby proof’ a room packed with potential hazards, and while it’s true that you shouldn’t ever leave your child completely unsupervised, they will still provide enough security to facilitate a small tea break, or just a few minutes with your feet up; free from worrying about whether or not your baby’s about to crawl behind the sofa again, or drag all the books off your coffee table.
Pack and play yards are great if you travel a lot too: As long as you choose the right one, they can be folded up in a matter of minutes, and they allow you to create a safe space wherever you are, which is particularly useful if you’re staying in a cluttered spare bedroom, or don’t have time to safely baby proof a hotel room.
Pack and Play Buying Guide
Picking the right pack and play isn’t easy though: Safety is absolutely paramount, and it’s also important that you find a model that’s well-built, and sturdy enough to cope with escape attempts, particularly if you intend to keep using the pack and play as your little one grows.
You’ll also want to keep an eye out for special features: Pack and plays have evolved a lot over the last few years, and a great many now come with additional attachments that allow you to turn a relatively simple playpen into a changing station or a bassinet.
This is great if you are very space conscious. It’s also much appreciated by parents that want to keep their baby in the same room as them for the first few months, but don’t want to spend a lot of money upgrading from Moses baskets, to cribs and then cots.
Several studies have shown that SIDS, sleeping disorders and a number of smaller health complaints can be avoided by keeping your baby in the same room as you for the first 3-4 months of development. However, these studies have also shown that the best possible solution is to have your baby sleep in a small bassinet, rather than sharing a bed with you.
Because a great many pack and plays come with a bassinet attachment, they save you the hassle of looking for a sleeping solution for those first months, and you’ll still have a top-of-the-line pack and play once they start crawling around too, giving you the best of both worlds, and saving you a little money in the process.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you buy a pack and play with a nice thick mattress, lockable wheels and the kind of straightforward construction that’ll allow for easy cleaning. And then there are things like ease-of-use, or how easy the pack and play yard is to take down and move around – which will be of huge importance if you’re intending to travel a lot.
All in all, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot to consider, particularly if this is your first pack and play, and you’re not quite sure what you should be looking for. To help you pick the right one, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of all the things you’ll want to look out for, as follows:
As you’ll probably be folding your pack and play up quite a lot, making sure that it features robust clips, a strong metal frame and strong sides is absolutely essential. You want everything to fit nice and snug, which means avoiding brands that are known for poor build quality, and checking reviews to ensure that people have a consistently good experience.
Adequate Safety Features
If you’re going to leave your child in the play yard for any length of time, you’ll need to be sure that it’s safe to do so. When buying a pack and play, we’d always recommend checking that it features safety clips, locks on the wheels, and a good amount of padding on the floor to protect your baby from any bumps. A low center of gravity is a plus too, as it will ensure that your baby can’t tip the whole thing over.
Most modern pack and plays boast see-through mesh sides, which is a really important feature to check for. Mesh sides make the whole thing much lighter, which is great if you’re traveling. They also allow you to see exactly what your little one is up to, and they allow for adequate ventilation too, which is a huge plus. In our opinion, the more mesh on the sides, the better the pack and play.
Foldability/Ease of Use
We’d always recommend that you look out for pack and plays that are known to fold away easily; there’s nothing worse than struggling to set up a play yard while your little one is crying out for attention, and you’re trying to unpack after a long journey.
If you’re going to move your pack and play from room to room, a strong set of lockable wheels is a must. This is less relevant for large play yards, but it can make a huge difference if you want to keep your baby in the same room as you, and it means you can quickly move them about without needing to empty out the pack and play first.
A Good Mattress
If at all possible, we’d also recommend that you look for a pack and play that features a nice plush mattress that will help to keep your little one safe and comfortable. Most pack and plays have a built-in mattress, but the degree of cushioning varies tremendously and it’s important to try and find one that can provide adequate comfort.
As mentioned above, modern pack and plays often come with a range of extra features, from reconfigurable storage solutions to changing tables, canopies and mobiles. To a certain degree, the accessories and features that are worth looking out for will depend on your own requirements, but we’d always recommend looking for bassinet attachments, changing tables and canopies where possible, as these are always useful things to have!
Below, we’ve reviewed the best pack and plays available on today’s market, and included a full rundown of all the special features that they include, so that you can see exactly what your options are.
Top 5 Best Pack and Plays 2018(Reviews and Compare)
These products comply with all US and UK safety standards and they’re all made by leading brands too, which means that you can trust them to provide the safety and security that you need.
|Graco Pack n’ Play Playard With Folding Feet||Travel||▪ Foldable feet|
▪ Lightweight design
▪ One-click disassembly
▪ Comfortable mattress
|Joovy Room2 Portable Playard||Twins||▪ Large floorspace|
▪ Premium quality
▪ Heavy-duty mattress
▪ Safety features
|Graco Playard with Newborn Napperstation||Newborns||▪ Micro-fleece fabrics|
▪ One-touch disassembly
▪ All-in-one nursery
|BabySeater Portable Playard||Toddlers||▪ Plenty of space|
▪ Washable mat
▪ Hardwearing design
|Graco Pack and Play Yard With Snuggle Suite||Sleeping||▪ Robust structure|
▪ Lights and sounds
Graco Pack n’ Play Playard With Folding Feet – best for travel
A lightweight, flexible and well-built pack n’ play, this option is definitely our top pick if you plan on traveling a lot. This model is even about 3 pounds lighter than the Graco On the Go Playard.
As with all Graco products, the build quality is exceptional: The mesh sides are robust but soft, and airy enough to ensure good ventilation. The surrounding fabric is easy to wipe clean, and the mattress is the same mattress that’s used on all Graco playards, which means that your baby is sure to be safe and comfortable.
This playard also boasts a full suite of safety features, and it can be set up in under 10 minutes. Such simple setup is ideal if you’ve been traveling for a long time, and don’t want to spend a long time trying to clip things together or slot things in place.
- Foldable Feet
Better yet, this pack and play features foldable feet and wheels, which means that it folds down to be incredibly compact. This means that it uses up less trunk space than equivalent models, and that it’s substantially easier to store than the average playard.
- Comes with a carry case
On the subject of portability, this pack and play also comes with a lightweight carry case, which can hold the entire playard once disassembled. This makes transporting it an absolute breeze, and also reduces the chances of you accidentally leaving part of it behind!
The only slight downside is that it lacks many of the special features seen on other pack and plays, which means there might be better options out there if you don’t plan on traveling much.
Joovy Room2 Portable Playard – best for twins
Boasting 10ft2 of interior space, this is definitely the biggest pack and play we reviewed; making it ideal for anyone with two children, or anyone who wants extra room for their baby to crawl around in.
The build quality of this product was exceptional too: Everything feels very robust, the materials are evidently of a very high quality, and you only have to run your hand over the fabric to feel that it’s a premium option.
The stark, black and white color scheme, the gently rounded corners and the perfect way in which all the pieces line up really reinforces that too – this is the playpen you want if build quality comes before everything else.
- Ideal for Outdoor Use
The Room2 has evidently been built with versatility in mind, and we were really impressed with how easy it was to wipe down after a messy play session too. If you’re looking for something that can stand up to use in any space, this is probably the one!
- Great Safety Features
The Room2 was also one of the sturdiest pack and plays we tried – it has a very low center of gravity, which makes it all but impossible to tip over, and it benefits from locking latches and other important features.
Its size can be a bit of a handicap though – although it does fold up easily, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s bigger, and heavier, than every other pack and play we’ve reviewed here.
If you’re going to travel a lot, we’d probably pick something smaller.
Graco Playard with Newborn Napperstation – best for newborns
Of all the pack and plays we reviewed, this was definitely our top pick for anyone that wants a product that’ll grow with their children.
From day one, this excellent playard provides a bassinet attachment, a changing table attachment and handy shelves that can be used to turn the main body of the pack and play into a mini storage unit. All of these features can then be removed once your baby has outgrown them, and you’ll be left with a really strong and durable playard that can be used to facilitate all kinds of play, without putting additional stress on you.
- Fantastic Build Quality
It goes without saying that a Graco product would be well built. But aside from the sturdy frame, one-touch disassembly and other features that we’d expect from one of the world’s leading pack and play brands, this particular model also boasts some really stand-out, microfleece fabrics, and a mattress that’s comfortable enough to facilitate long hours of play/sleep.
- The Ultimate All-In-One
The huge variety of attachments allow you to use this pack and play as an all-in-one nursery too. This is particularly important if you’re short on space, or just want a convenient way to keep your newborn in the bedroom with you during those crucial first months.
The bassinet attachment is incredibly comfortable, and all of the additional attachments clip in place using sturdy fittings, which makes the whole thing feel very durable.
The only slight downside is that all those extra attachments and fittings provide a bit of a challenge during transport. Some reviews do also highlight the fact that this pack and play is slightly harder than the rest to put up/pack away, especially if you’re using all the extras.
BabySeater Portable Playard – best for toddlers
More in-line with the traditional playpens that we grew up with, this fantastic option is nonetheless ideal for those of us with toddlers, who want plenty of space to explore.
Although it eschews the free-standing design adopted by other models we reviewed here, this playard more than makes up for that by providing plenty of floor space for your little one to play in, and it’s surprisingly robust too.
In fact, this particular pack and play seems to have been built with sturdiness in mind – there are two super-secure locking clips to keep everything in place once it’s set up.
The whole thing also folds down in a matter of seconds, which means it’s still a good option for those of us that don’t want to leave our playpens set up all the time.
- Safety-Conscious Design
Best of all, the whole playard is made from mesh and a lightweight metal frame. This means that you can see your child at all times, and that they’re guaranteed to get enough cool air while they play, nap or explore.
Once everything was locked into place, we also found that this pack and play was more than strong enough to stand up to a determined toddlers escape attempts, which is always reassuring.
- Surprisingly Lightweight
For such a big pack and play, we did also find that this product was quite lightweight. It is a lot bulkier than some of the other playards that we reviewed, but once it’s folded up, it still fits neatly in the carrying case (provided) and it would fit in the trunk of a larger car.
It’s probably not an ideal choice if you plan on holidaying abroad, but you could take it to a relatives house.
The only downsides are the lack of wheels, which makes moving it around a bit of a chore, and the lack of mattress, which makes it unsuitable for smaller babies.
Graco Pack and Play Yard With Snuggle Suite – best for sleeping
If your little one seems to like sleep as much as they like playtime, this is definitely the pack and play for you.
Made by one of the industry’s leading brands, this high-quality playard is jam-packed with extras, including a removable changing station, and a bassinet cum bouncer which you can clip to the top of the playpen to create a safe and comfortable bed whenever (and wherever) you need it.
The build quality is astonishing too, with several reviewers commenting on the fact that it’s lasted for several years, and more than one pair of sticky hands!
Aside from the bassinet/bouncer and changing station, this pack and play also provides a removable storage area, which makes it nice and easy to keep extra wipes and other essentials close to hand.
The actual playard itself is a top quality product too – it boasts robust mesh sides, plush cloth coverings and a nice thick mattress that’s more than capable of shielding your child from harm.
- Keeps Everything Within Arms Reach
Thanks to the extra robust changing station (which can be used until your baby weighs 30lbs) the bassinet and the storage space, this fantastic pack and play can be used as a mobile nursery, and we’re sure you’ll appreciate having everything close to hand when your baby needs to be changed in the middle of the night!
The only slight downside is that the extra features do add on a bit of extra setup time, which is definitely something to be aware of if you’re traveling lots!
What about pack and play mattresses?
Some people like to add extra mattress pads to their pack and play, and with good reason too: If you’re intending to let your baby sleep in the pack and play, or want them to be properly comfortable, a little bit of extra padding is a must.
Although it’s not strictly necessary, extra padding makes for safer play too, and if you find that your little one is particularly accident prone, you may well want to consider getting a mattress for your playard.
Do take care when picking a mattress though: You must always pick one that fits the pack and play exactly, or you risk leaving gaps that your baby can get their fingers stuck in.
It’s also best to pick one with a protective coating, in case of spills or accidents, and if you can find one with a machine washable inner, you’ll also be much happier when the inevitable does happen, and you can just stick everything in the washing machine.
Picking Out Pack and Play Sheets
If you’re going to get an additional mattress, you’ll also want to consider pack and play sheets. There are three key rules to observe when buying sheets for a pack and play:
Firstly, you should always ensure that the sheets are 100% cotton, as these are the only sheets soft enough to prevent rashes, and your baby will be much more comfortable than they would be otherwise.
Secondly, you should always try to find machine-washable sheets, which can be washed at around 40 degrees, as this is the most hygienic way of cleaning them.
Finally, if at all possible, you should try to make sure that you only buy fitted sheets, as babies can become tangled in loose bedding.
How to Clean Your Pack and Play?
Another thing to consider is the ease with which you can clean your pack and play. In general, most modern playards are made from three different types of material: soft plastics, fleecy fabrics or metal. This means that keeping them clean is, for the most part, quite straightforward: Machine washable elements can be quickly removed, and any parts that aren’t explicitly labeled as machine washable can be spot cleaned using a soft cloth, water, and a mild detergent.
We’d avoid pack and plays that can’t be disassembled for easy cleaning, or pack and plays without a protective cover on the mattress, as these products are generally quite difficult to keep in good working condition.
How to Set Up Your Pack and Play
As noted above, it’s important to consider setup when choosing a pack and play. Most modern playards can be set up in a matter of minutes; the sides generally unfold to form a rectangle, and then the base drops in before you lock everything in place with a pair of safety catches.
Some models are even designed to be setup with one hand, and feature a one-click button that frees up all the foldable parts in a matter of seconds.
Generally speaking, pack and plays that can’t just be unfolded and locked in place are to be avoided: Difficult fixtures means a complicated construction, which can mean lots of different points of failure. It also means extra hassle when moving your pack and play.
The only exception to this is playards which have a lot of additional features, as these generally do require longer setup, despite not actually affecting the structural integrity of the playard.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when picking your first pack and play. That said, taking the time to make sure that you’re buying a product that’s easy to clean, easy to use, and safe enough to rely on will help to improve peace of mind in the long run. Taking the time to figure out what your baby needs will also ensure that they’re much happier, and that they get much more out of the long hours they’re sure to spend roaming about in their playard.