Sometimes, we all need a little help. If you have a toddler, you know exactly what we mean. There just isn’t enough time to keep up with them and get everything else done! Having a playpen or a play gyms gives you some hands-free time where you can watch your baby, attack some chores, and maybe even take a little break. So, where are the best ones? We’ve put together some tips for finding the best toddler playpens and playards along with our top-10 picks.
How to Pick the Best "PLAYPENS" FOR TODDLERS
It’s really a balance of what you are looking for out of a playpen or playard, and what your toddler’s needs are. Their age and size will steer you in one direction. You also want to think about how you plan to use it. Will it be something that you plan to set up and leave in one area, or do you need something that can be easily packed in a bag and tossed in the car? How about indoors and outdoors? We’ve put together a comprehensive list of key features below that will make it a littler easier to compare our top picks.
Safety is always our first consideration when we are reviewing all of our toys, and you’ll notice various certifications from safety organizations like ASTM, CSPC, and JPMA as you look through our list. Safety is a “given” on any product that we recommend. It’s so important that we don’t even include it in our key features. If it’s not certified and tested to be safe for the recommended age and size, it won’t have a chance of making our line-up.
1. Recommended Age
You’re not only looking for the recommended age for the playpens and playards, you’re also sometimes looking for weight and height restrictions. They all have their own specific designs and accessories, making some of them safer for toddlers under a certain age and size.
Are you looking for a playpen or a playard? Better suited for younger, growing toddlers, playards often come with accessories to safely accommodate younger babies as they grow. Playpens are, for lack of a better term, corrals designed to keep your busy, little animal safe in their own space where they can play, nap, or get a little crazy.
You’ll see them made out of mesh, plastic, or wood. The nice thing about mesh is that it’s soft, and you can usually see through it almost entirely, so you can both can keep an eye on each other. Plastic will create a more sturdy play area, especially for older toddlers. And, plastic is a little easier to keep clean. Wood will work just as well as plastic or mesh, though it’s probably better suited for older toddlers.
How much space will it take up when it’s set up? And, what about when it’s broken down? Whether you plan to leave it set up in place, move it with you around the house, or pack it in your car, the size matters a lot. Not to mention, you don’t want one so small that your toddler feels confined. They need room to enjoy their own little, safe place.
It might not matter so much when it’s set up, but it will definitely matter if you need to move it. Again, it comes down to how you plan to use it, and how often you’ll be toting it around.
It will matter at some point with all playpens and playards, and you probably only have so much storage space. You’ll either be taking panels apart and stacking them, or you’ll be folding it and storing it in a carrying bag. Either way, you’ll want to make sure that you have adequate space to accommodate it. And, it’s always a plus if disassembly is a snap, right?
Baby Care Play Playpen
Made with ultra-durable, BPA-free, thick plastic, ten panels, with a door, lock into place creating a colorful and attractive play pen. The Baby Care Play Playpen is ideal for boys or girls, it’s available in grey, sky blue, pink, or vivid. It even has strong, skid-resistant pads on the bottom to hold it in place. You can easily set it up in less than five minutes, knowing your little one will be safe and secure. Your baby can grow with it from their early crawling stages through their late toddler years, when they’ll just be too busy to sit and play with their toys.
Size: 86.2 x 57.9 x 24.8 inches
Weight: 40.7 pounds
Storage: Stackable panels
BabyJorn Travel Crib Light
An ideally designed playpen for babies and toddlers, the base is wider than the top, making it nearly impossible to tip over. Your baby will enjoy a soft, cushy mattress for either playtime or nap time. The BabyJorn Travel Crib Light super-easy to fold and tuck into the included carrying case, and it’s so lightweight. And, setting it up couldn’t be easier. One swift jerk and it snaps into place, with no other pieces that need to be attached. How simple is that?
Age: Birth to 3 years
Size: 44 x 25 x 32 inches
Weight: 11 pounds
Storage: Easy fold, carrying bag included
Cosco Funsport Playard
Best Budget Buy
Here’s a very affordable playpen, ideal for smaller spaces at home, or on-the-go. The Cosco Funsport Playard packs away quickly and easily, and can be stored in a closet or easily tucked into the back of your car. The side wheels make it easy for you to move it around, but they’re only on one side, so your little one can’t wiggle it around.
Age: Birth to 35 inches
Size: 40.2 x 30 x 28.2 inches
Weight: 21.4 pounds
Storage: Folds, carrying bag included
Summer Infant Portable Playard
Best portable playard
The Summer Infant Portable Playard is not only awesome, but it’s so versatile! You can use it indoors or outdoors. The simple design makes it a cinch to set up, and it folds just as easily. Just toss it in the included carrying bag, hang it over your shoulder, and off you go. It’s ideal for on-the-go families with toddlers.
The bottom is waterproof, which is a big plus! The sides are made with an almost transparent mesh, so you can keep your eye on them while they play. And, the top edges are padded for their little fingers and mouths.
Age: 6+ months to 2 years, under 35 inches
Size: 6-sided, 4′ wide, 26″ tall
Weight: 12 pounds
Storage: Folds, carrying bag included
Playpen Safety Center Indoor Outdoor
Best large playpen for toddlers/ Best pink playpen
The Playpen Safety Center Indoor Outdoor is ideal for your little sweetie. This pretty, pastel play pen will give her plenty of room for her favorite toys. Rounded edges on the tops of the panels will keep her safe as she pulls herself up to peek over the edge to say hello. The interlocking panels, held firmly in place on the floor by suction cups, can be arranged to form a square, circle, oval, or against two corner walls, creating an even larger play area.
Size: 20 square feet
Weight: 20 pounds
Storage: stackable panels
North States 3-in-1 Wood Superyard
Best 3 in 1 playpen
The North States 3-in-1 Wood Superyar is made of beautiful, solid wood, six panels including a heavy-duty gate are easily connected, creating three different safe zones. It can be used as a play pen where your baby can play safely. It can also be extended and used as a doorway-blocking gate, or attached to the walls surrounding a hazard, keeping them safe from a no-no.
Age: 6+ months to 2 years
Size: 6 panels, 144″ total
Weight: 4.4 pounds
JaxPety Baby Playpen
Best outdoor playpen
Vibrant primary colors and pictures adorn the lockable door and interlocking sides of this sturdy JaxPety Baby Playpen. There’s even an interactive activity center on one of the walls with a phone and a few other clickety clacks. The solid plastic design makes it ideal for inside or outside use. They’ll be pulling themselves up and racing around it in no time. You can even toss in some pit balls for added fun.
Age: 6 months to 2 years
Size: 8 panels, each 31″ wide x 24″ tall
Weight: 35 pounds
Storage: stackable wall panels
Chicco Lullaby Baby Playard
The Chicco Lullaby Baby Playard is Attractively designed with neutral colors, this playard is ideal for infants, babies, and toddlers. Newborns can cradle in the cozy napper. As they grow, you can use it as a bassinet, and then it converts into a full size playard. There’s even a detachable changing table, along with pockets and cubbies to keep all of those baby wipes and lotions handy.
Age: Birth to 35 inches or 30 pounds
Size: 31 x 45 x 46 inches
Weight: 41.3 pounds
Storage: Folds, with carrying bag
4moms Portable Removable Bassinet
Best playard with bassinet
With a sleek, modern design, this playard, 4moms Portable Removable Bassinet is big enough to give your baby plenty of room to play, and small enough to make them feel safe and secure. The bassinet is removable, making it ideal for a baby as they grow, or if you have both a young toddler and a young baby. If that’s you, then you need all of the help that you can get! And setting it up and breaking it down couldn’t be easier. One push to open it, and one pull to close it. Nice!
Age: Playard-up to 35 pounds or 35 inches tall, bassinet/infant seat-up to 18 pounds
Size: 43 x 30 x 29 inches
Weight: 23 pounds
Storage: Folds, with carrying bag
Delta Children 36" x 36" Playard
You and your little one can watch each other through the artistically decorated animal-themed mesh sides on this tidy, functionally designed playard. With Delta Children 36″ x 36″ Playard’s soft mattress pad, they’ll be able to sit with their favorite toys, take a little snooze, or hang onto the padded rails and jump for joy. It’s small enough to keep them close to you, and big enough for them to be comfortable.
Age: Toddlers less than 30 pounds and 35 inches
Size: 38.5″ square x 28″ high
Weight: 28 pounds
Storage: Folds, carrying bag included
FAQs: All you need to know
Q What’s the best way to keep them clean?
A Sanitizing wipes…ah, a busy parent’s holy grail! You’ll want to have these within reach, a lot. They’re great for quick cleanups, and for wiping them down every so often. They even work on the mesh. For heavier cleanups, here are some tips.
- Outside: A nice, sunny day outside is perfect for cleaning playpens and playards. Always avoid bleach and household cleaning chemicals. Good ole soap and water, with a little elbow grease, and a thorough rinse from the garden hose will do the trick. As an added bonus, the sun will help it dry!
- Bathtub: Always check the user’s manual. But, sometimes they can be soaked in soapy water in the bathtub, cleaned, and rinsed. You can even add a little vinegar and baking soda to the soapy water if you’re dealing with some tougher stains.
- Inside: You can also give them a thorough cleaning while they’re set up inside. A solid sponge, soapy water, a good rinse, and plenty of towels, and it’ll be as good as new.
Q Is a playpen or a playard better?A They’re both great! It’s just a matter of what you need out of it. Playards tend to have accessories for babies as they grow into toddler-hood. And, they’re usually a little smaller and easily transportable. Playpens can be designed for younger babies as well as older toddlers, with all of the stages in between, and can be either on-the-go or stationary.
Q Are there any safety issues to be aware of?
A Our top picks have all been thoroughly tested and are safe for toddlers within their age recommendations. However, there are some things to be aware of to keep your toddler safe.
- Always keep them where you can see them.
- You’ll want to keep them away from curtains, blinds, or anything else that they can grab.
- They also shouldn’t be anywhere near stairs.
- You should never add a mattress that isn’t specifically made for it.
- Be careful putting larger toys inside that toddlers can climb on.
Q At what age should you thing about getting one?
A There’s not really a specific age. But, it’s best to acclimate them with one around the time when they start exploring on their own. This is when both you and your toddler will appreciate their little safe haven. And, then they’ll be able to grow with it.
Q Can a toddler sleep in one?
A They’re perfectly safe for them to sleep in. If it’s a larger one, without a padded bottom, you’d want a soft pallet for them to be cozy. If it has a soft, padded bottom, they’d be good-to-go. They’ll sleep almost anywhere, right? Just remember, it’s takes a little more effort to lift them out of a playpen or playard than out of their bed.
Q How do we choose our best picks?
A We look at everything. First and foremost, we look at the safety standards. Then, we look at how well it’s made, and how long it will be usable for your toddler. We’re also comparing all of the key features that we list in our reviews. While we stand behind all of our top picks, as we research, we find attributes in some that are more ideal for certain ages, environments, or uses, and deserve to be called out and recognized.
Baby Care Play Playpen – Best Overall
Built to last forever with safe, durable, thick, plastic interlocking panels, this playpen has over 30 square feet of playing area designed to keep your toddler safe throughout their growing years, providing endless hours of happy play time, making it our choice for the best toddler playpen.
BabyJorn Travel Crib Light – Upgrade Choice
Built a little taller than some playpens, with soft, mesh sides and its own comfy mattress, this JPMA certified playpen is ideal for older toddlers who may have outgrown their smaller playards.
Cosco Funsport Playard – Best Budget Buy
Priced at around $50, suitable for babies and toddlers up to 35 inches tall, and padded all over, it can even be folded for on-the-go action, making it ideal for a starter playard that will take them well into their toddler years.