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- A reliable baby play yard creates a safe space for your little one to play, nap, or sleep through the night whether the family is home, visiting friends or relatives, or traveling hundreds of miles from home.
- The 4moms Breeze Plus Portable Playard is our top pick because it can be set up in about 10 seconds with one hand.
First, let’s clear something up here. While the term Pack ‘n Play is oft used to describe baby play yards from all sorts of different brands, it’s actually a brand-specific name licensed by the good folks at Graco. Much like calling any tissue a Kleenex or any cotton swab a Q-Tip, the term is casually bandied no matter which brand or product is being discussed. But not here, people. Here, we’ll be using the proper terminology, which is… playard? Play yard? Travel crib? Folding bassinet? Mobile baby maintenance station?
While as far as I can tell there’s not one generally accepted name for the hardware we’re discussing today, the general consensus among parents is that a baby play yard is an essential piece of family gear. With a play yard, you can establish a safe place for a newborn to nap, a baby to rest, or a toddler to play, and you can create that space just about anywhere and any time.
While different play yards have different attributes and features, they all share a few common features that establish their value. These include portability, collapsibility, ease of setup and take down, and the ability to safely contain kids from the newborn days into the toddler years.
I’ve personally set up easily a dozen different play yards in my day – as with car seats, high chairs, and other baby hardware, once word gets out that you’re handy with constructing, installing, and using baby gear, you get inundated with requests to help. Many I’ve dealt with are fantastically frustrating to deploy, and won’t be found on this list. Others lack the versatility to keep the relevant for more than a single phase of a child’s life and are also excluded.
Ah, but included you’ll find one play yard that, with a bit of practice, I learned to set up in about ten seconds, even if I had a baby in one arm. Another packs away so small you can tuck it under the bed, on a shelf, or just about anywhere else. And you’ll find one that can be adapted in so many ways it really is like a mobile baby maintenance station.
Here are the best play yards you can buy in 2019:
- Best play yard overall: 4moms Breeze Plus Portable Playard
- Best multifunction play yard: Safety 1st Prelude Play Yard
- Best budget play yard: Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard
- Best travel play yard: Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard
- Best compact play yard: BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best play yard overall
Why you’ll love it: Setting up and taking down the 4moms Breeze Plus Portable Playard could not be much easier, as it requires a single motion to open or collapse this sturdy, stable play yard.
I’m going to get the one issue out of the way right now: The 4moms Breeze Plus Portable Playard is heavy. As in it weighs more than twice as much as one of the other options on the list. And it’s bulky when packed away, too. But you know what? The weight and size are well worth it, because this is the easiest to use and sturdiest, most robust play yard I’ve ever seen, and ours remains in great condition even after nearly five years of use.
To open up the Breeze Plus, you simply push down on a disc located between the four folded up legs. It pops open and locks, and you drop in the mattress. Done. To collapse the play yard, you grab a loop attached to that same disc and pull upward. The frame unlocks and the legs collapse inward. Boom, finished.
If you’re attaching the included bassinet and changer, budget in another one minute. And don’t forget about the few seconds it takes to wrap the segmented mattress pad around the collapsed frame and zip everything into the bag.
My son slept in our 4moms playard’s bassinet for the first few months of his life, and he used the main compartment of the play yard for several years after that, napping and sleeping in it whenever we travelled. He has moved on to big boy beds, but we just happen to have a new daughter who has taken over use of the play yard and can look forward to two or three more years enjoying it.
Amazon customers have given the 4moms Breeze Plus Portable Playard a collective 4.4-star average rating, with one praising its “effortless setup,” though others do point out the heavy weight.
Also, it ain’t cheap…
Pros: Amazingly easy setup, large and stable, built to last for years
Cons: Heavy and bulky, expensive
The best multifunction play yard
- Safety 1st
Why you’ll love it: The Safety 1st Prelude Play Yard is a bassinet, changing station, baby supply sorting solution, and play yard all in one.
If you like your baby care products to have a tactical edge, then the Safety 1st Prelude Play Yard might just be the best choice for you. This is a play yard big enough for toddler, a bassinet perfect for newborns, a baby changing station, and a baby supply storage spot all in one package that can be collapsed down and stowed away when there are no toddlers, babies, or newborns around.
From the arch with hanging toys that can charm infants to the sturdy frame that can contain toddlers, the Prelude Play Yard is ready to serve kids at multiple stages of early development.
Because of the excellent adaptability of this play yard, we actually got one to keep at my in-laws’ house, AKA Grammy and Pop’s house. They have four grandchildren (and counting, I’m sure) who are all of different ages, so the Prelude Play Yard creates a napping spot for babies and a safe play place for toddlers.
Thanks to the pouches affixed to the side of the Prelude, we don’t have to schlepp diapers and wipes back and forth with us every time we visit, we just stock the thing now and then as needed.
One Amazon shopper called the Prelude Play Yard “super easy to assemble” while another noted its versatility, describing how she used it with her newborn son as well as with a one-year-old nephew. In a video review from Baby Gear Guide Review, the Safety 1st Prelude Play Yard’s versatility and ease of setup were on clear display.
Do note that while great for little guys, most kids will outgrow this play yard before they have turned three, as it’s not as hearty and stable as other options out there.
Pros: Versatile design, built in storage, comes with toys and hanging arch
Cons: Not as sturdy as other options
The best budget play yard
Why you’ll love it: The Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard has many of the features of other options on our list, but it costs about half as much as the next cheapest choice.
To be frank, you buy a Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard because of its low price, not because of its high quality. The good news is that this thing actually is of fine quality. All of which helps to explain why this thing is a best seller.
The Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard is relatively easy to set up once you get the hang of it, and collapsing it is simple with some practice as well. I will say that the first few times I helped a friend with their On the Go, mild frustration ensued. But once you master the process of using the push button lock, lifting the center, and tucking in the legs and wheels, you’ll be fine.
The play yard comes with a full-sized bassinet that installs or can be removed quickly, and when removed, the On the Go is plenty large enough for most toddlers.
The walls of the On the Go are made from a soft but strong mesh, so your little one will get plenty of airflow without risk of getting lose, while the frame is stable enough to contain a toddler who is rolling or bouncing around. And again … that price, though.
With nearly 3,000 reviews posted on Amazon at the time of this writing, the Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard has a stellar 4.7-star average rating. One owner is direct in saying it’s a “fantastic product for a great price,” while another adds that it “wasn’t difficult to set up” and is quite easy to move from room to room. Folding it back up can be a headache, FYI. Just keep practicing!
A product tester from BabyList called the On the Go Playard “a category defining product” that is wildly popular with families primarily “because it’s so inexpensive.” The writer added that despite being of good quality for the price, it is “hard to fold.”
Pros: Very inexpensive, comes with bassinet, wheeled for easy transport
Cons: Awkward to fold up
The best travel baby play yard
- Guava Family
Why you’ll love it: The Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard packs down small enough to tuck into a backpack pack that lets you carry this play yard anywhere with ease.
Remember how I said I loved the 4moms Breeze Plus Portable play yard save for how heavy and bulky the thing is? Well, the Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard isn’t using the term portable quite as lightly as 4moms, if you’ll pardon the pun.
At about 13 pounds, this thing is crazy light for products in this category. As it packs down into a carrying bag that has both traditional handles as well as backpack shoulder straps, moving around that modest weight is crazy easy.
The ease with which you can move this play yard is definitely its biggest selling point, but the unique zip open sidewall is a close second. A large mesh panel can be zipped open on one side of the play yard, giving you easy access to your baby without the need to lean down into the unit. For older kids, the open panel allows them to crawl right in or out of the play yard. Don’t worry, the zipper can’t be accessed from the inside.
Oriented as a bassinet, the Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard is great for newborns and smaller infants. As a play yard, it’s suitable for most kids into the early to mid toddler years. Kids will outgrow this rather small play yard more quickly than other larger options, but the amazing ease of moving this thing makes it worth it nonetheless.
Hundreds of parents have left reviews and ratings for the Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard on Amazon, and the play yard enjoys a shining 4.7-star average rating at present. One mom loved that it was “lightweight without being flimsy.” Another loved that “setup takes [her] less than one minute,” though she did note that it’s “narrower… and not as tall” as many other play yards, so kids do outgrow it faster.
Pros: Very light weight, comes with carrying backpack, zip open side wall
Cons: Kids outgrow it quickly
The best compact play yard
Why you’ll love it: When folded up and tucked in its case, the BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light is small enough to tuck under the bed, on a shelf, or in any closet.
When set up the BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light is 32 inches wide, 44 inches long, and 24 inches tall. That’s a bit smaller than most of the other play yards on our list, but it’s not the smallest, actually.
So why is this a great compact play yard? Because when it’s collapsed and packed into its storage bag, the thing measures only 19 by 23 by 5.5 inches. That slender, compact package can be stored under a bed, on a shelf, in the closet, in the attic, in the trunk, or really anywhere else.
So while BABYBJORN positions this play yard as a great choice for travel – which it is, to be sure – it’s also a fine choice for the home where space is at a premium, especially when we’re talking about extra storage space.
The BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light has mesh walls all around it with no solid panels that could cause a breathing issue, making it a safe place to rest little babies. The lack of a bassinet attachment means that all kids, from the newborn days into the toddler years, have to lie (or sit or play) down in the play yard, but that just means extra bending over for the adults and does not affect the safety or comfort of the child. Though the price here may be an even bigger pain than all the bending, frankly.
More than 400 people have left comments and ratings about the BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light on Amazon, and it enjoys a fine 4.6-star average rating. One mother speaks for many when she calls it a “very nicely made” piece of hardware that’s “super easy to set up and take down” with a “super comfy mattress.”
Pros: Packs down very small, 360-degree mesh walls, soft and comfortable mattress
Cons: Very expensive