In this review feature, we check out the best pack and plays of this year. Pack and plays, also known as play yards, serve as a small sectioned off area that your little one can play in. Essentially, they are the modern day version of the traditional play pen. This prevents devious little troublemakers from getting into dangerous areas of the house. In addition, it provides a safe napping place for your child to sleep in.
In our first section we talk about what a pack and play is and how it differs from the traditional play pen. Then, we compare two broad categories of pack & plays available. Next up is our selection guide, where we note the most important features to keep in mind when shopping for the best pack and play for you. Our review section is where you’ll find pack and play reviews. We take an in-depth look at of the best pack n plays and the best play yards of this year.
11 Best Pack and Plays of 2016
Welcome to the pack and play reviews section. Here, we provide our readers with an overview of best pack and plays and the most popular options.
The Disney Sweet Wonder Play Yard is a fun pack and play that comes in two delightful themes: micky and minnie mouse. It comes with an on-the-go carrying bag for robust portability.
You get a great value from Disney — bassinet, easy clean changer, deluxe hanging storage organizer, and spacious play area. The mesh is breathable and easier to see through so you can keep an eye on exactly what your little one is up to (such as investigating which of their toys may be edible).
We like to think of the Evenflo pack n play as the amusement park for babies. This has most of the features of the Disney Sweet Wonder with the addition of a floor mat that converts to a playtime mat (with the three hanging toys) for a nice pad for your baby to sleep on.
The three toys are detachable and overall this pack and play is very easy to setup and take down. The changer rotates out of the way when you are finished using it.
The Graco Pack n’ Play On The Go is one of the most popular pack and plays of all time. This is a simple play yard with practical features and includes the bassinet. It is made by Graco who is commonly known for inventing another portable piece of baby gear: the packable crib.
A very affordable option, this play yard is an excellent value and comes in 9 color styles with different graphics.
If you’re looking for something with an ultra fast set up, this is the best pack n play with bassinet for quick set ups. Once you get it down, you’ll have this play yard up in under 30 seconds and your baby snoozing away in another 30 (you can always dream right?).
The mattress pad for the floor is machine washable for easy clean ups. The oversized changing table snaps on and off and makes changing time much easier. All the accessories and the Chicco Pack n Play fit in a carrying bag.
Other Recommended Options:
What is a Pack and Play?
Pack and plays are known by many names: pack n plays, pack & plays, care stations, in-room nursery stations, baby jails, or play yards. While they go by many names, they all have the same purpose: to provide your little lovebug with a safe and cozy area to nap and play in. That also means you get a much needed rest from toting them around and can relax knowing they aren’t going to wreak havoc on anything valuable.
Generally, pack and plays are much more portable than play yards, hence the term “pack”. Play pens are the ancestor of the pack and play with typically one main distinction: pack and plays are rectangular in shape while play pens are usually squares. The longer rectangle shape makes the pack and plays double as a sleeping area. Some of the best pack and plays also come with rocking seats and/or bassinets. Essentially, they are designed to grow along with your baby — starting out in the rocking seat as a newborn, using the bassinet as they grow larger, and then down to the pack and play floor for them upon reaching the toddler stage.
Most parents now prefer a portable pack and play to a standalone bassinet or cradle because it’s a lifesaver when it comes to travel or visiting family and friends. These typically are constructed with a foldable design, which can be assembled and disassembled in about 30 seconds. The result is a nice foldable, rectangular package you can take and store just about anywhere. Another reason pack and plays have grown in popularity is that most parents only get 3-4 months tops out of a cradle or bassinet before it gets exiled to storage.
Some parents will purchase a lightweight pack and play for on the go and have a larger play yard that stays put in the home. It all depends on your situation and what baby gear you have already accumulated. Sometimes a baby gate is more than sufficient for creating a safe place for your baby to play, other times a pack and play is called for. If you’re “ahead of the game” and your little bundle of joy is still waiting to make their way into this world, and are researching options, a deluxe pack and play may be a great option to save money and space. As mentioned, you get a changing table, bassinet, rocking seat, and storage area all in one. Talk about efficient!
Types of Pack and Plays
There are two broad categories of pack and plays. Within each category, some models are designed to be extra portable while others are meant to stay put in the house.
#1 Basic Pack and Plays
- Safe nap and play area
- Light-weight, small footprint
- Great for traveling and “on-the-go” parents
- Very Portable
Basic pack and plays are usually light-weight and geared for easy set up and take down. Most of these type of pack and plays have mesh siding and a travel bag for ultimate portability. If you travel a lot and often find yourself visiting others, these models are probably an excellent fit for you.
Keep in mind that most of these units do not come with a rocker seat, bassinet, or changing table. That means you’re purchasing a standalone playpen type pack and play which is great for older babies and toddlers but isn’t ideal for a newborn. However, if you already have a standalone changing table and/or bassinet you probably don’t need a fully featured “deluxe” type model.
#2 Deluxe Pack and Plays
- Safe nap and play area
- Entertainment and interaction features
- Great for home use and occasional traveling
In general, the deluxe pack and plays are heavier and are fitted with more entertainment features. This is better if you have an active toddler. Plus, you’ll probably get a couple “stations” that securely fit along top of the pack and play such as a changing table, storage organizer for diapers and the like, as well as a bassinet. If you’re striving for luxury you can find pack and plays with a canopy, music console, nightlights, vibrating mattress, and other such goodies.
Of course, all these extra features cost a pretty penny too. When your browsing this type of pack and play, doublecheck the dimensions before making a final purchase. Sometimes parents end up buying one and finding out it won’t fit through a door (without folding it down) and is less than ideal for traveling. Many interior doorways are about 30 inches wide, so if you want a model you don’t have to fold down to move room to room than watch for widths in that territory.
Things to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Pack and Play
Play yards and pack n plays come in all shapes and sizes. Your most basic pack and play will have a metal-frame that is covered in fabric with four sides that can be dropped and folded. While all pack and plays share this basic design there is a wide range of features to look out for when shopping for the right pack and play for you and your little one.
If you don’t already have a changing station set up, having a removable changing table that comes with some pack and plays is pretty convenient. These changing stations are usually designed to attach to the top railing of the pack-n-play. Some of these can be flipped over to the outside of the rail and hang there until you need to use them again.
Durable Siding Material
You’ll want to find something that at a bare minimum has some pretty durable siding material such as thick mesh. This is what will take a beating (especially from rambunctious toddlers) and need to hold up to any vigorous charging or playing.
Removable bassinets are another feature of many pack and plays. Though they are secure, you never want to leave your baby unattended in the bassinet mounted on the side rails. They are always safest sleeping in a full-sized crib. These modules are removable, so once you’re baby gets older and learns to push up on their hands and knees you’ll want to remove it and let them roam in the play yard below.
True to their name, most pack and plays are extremely portable. The most portable pack and plays are designed to be quickly folded down and moved from place-to-place or room-to-room. If you are going to be traveling often, you want to pay extra close attention to the foldability of the models you are looking at buying. Some pack and plays can be disassembled and reassembled in under 60 seconds while others take longer. Also, there are pack and plays that feature wheels on the four corners to make it super easy to move around the room.
Most parents quickly recognize the value of having plenty of storage especially with mobile type baby gear. Zippered pockets, hook on pouches, and other clever storage units come in pretty handy especially when your constantly on the move. Nearly all of these storage options face outward from the play area, out of range of your baby’s reach.
Sparkly lights, toy bars, and soothing jingles are just a few of the entertainment options that come with some pack and plays. Some even have remote controls! Sure, these features will ratchet up the price pretty quick, but if you have an older baby or toddler you may want to consider a model with lots of entertainment features to keep them busy.
Somewhat like a stroller, some pack and plays feature a canopy. This shields your baby from harsh light and some of these canopies even have hanging toys that your baby can interact with. Usually most pack and plays won’t see the outdoors nor the direct sunlight making this an unnecessary addition in some cases.
Pack & Play Safety Considerations
As with any piece of baby gear, safety is an important consideration. Fortunately, the Consumer Product Safety Comission (CPSC) has very rigorous safety standards for pack-n-plays and play pens. Pack and plays must go through stability tests, entrapment tests, floor strength tests, meet height requirements, and include a latch and lock mechanism to prevent the play yard from folding down on the child. Most accidents occur nowadays because of negligence on part of the user.
Safety Tips When Shopping for a Pack and Play:
- Check the maximum weight limit. Be sure your child is well below this weight limit to make sure you get plenty of use out of it.
- Examine the thickness and material of the side walls and frame. You want something that will hold up to the most spirited tantrums. You’ll also want something free from BPA/other dangerous chemicals.
- Always double check the latch and lock mechanism is secure before placing your little on in the pack and play. You don’t want the pack and play to accidentally fold down during play time.
- When you purchase a pack and play, read through the manual that comes with it. Make sure you understand the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.