Generally known as play yards, playpens, travel yards, or portable play yards, these cozy “bed-like” items are being used by numerous proud parents for their beloved children. Although all yards have their own “turn of the wheel”, they are largely based on the same basic idea. They are in short, portable and safe “cribs” for your child – their own space.
These portable play yards for the little ones are mostly rectangular in shape. They are constructed with a center floor and have mesh fabric sides with top and bottom rails. These rails can be locked and unlocked, allowing the unit to be easily removed and folded. When folded, it becomes quite a small and convenient storage unit, perfect for transport; hence the term “portable” and “travel”.
When your play yard is fully and properly folded, it resembles a long rectangular shape that can then be placed in a carrying case.
Ask any new (or seasoned …) parent and they are all likely to sing to the same tune: how these play yards come close to ideal baby gear. Just take a look at parents traveling with their baby; you’ll probably find it hard to see a couple, or a single parent, without one these days.
Play yards come in a wide variety of brands, styles, patterns, and colors. Add to that as many additional accessories as possible and you begin to see how anyone will be able to find one to suit her wallet, needs, and want. In the end, the biggest challenge will probably be deciding which one to choose.
In addition to the folding feature described above, here are some of the things you might want to include:
A bassinet? For newborns, you will need a bassinet that fits or sits on the floor of the unit. Typically, the bassinet will be in use until the baby reaches approximately 10-15 pounds.
The crib and play pen combo function? Used as a pen, it gives you the brake you need while traveling or working around the house. At night, it works as a practical portable crib.
A station changer? Some of these travel yards have a very useful function. By placing a changing table, usually on top of the unit, it is much less complicated to change your little one’s diapers.
A canopy? This is an important extra if you intend to use the unit outdoors, something many parents obviously do. The canopy will provide shade and protect the child from direct sunlight.
Wheel set? This will ensure that you can maneuver the pen throughout your home.
When choosing a playpen for your baby, your main concern should be safety. Make sure the unit has been tested and approved by the appropriate national authorities. In the US, you would look for the logos of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Society for Testing and Materials, and the Youth Product Manufacturing Association.
You are advised to ensure that the playpen mesh openings are less than 1/4 inch. Also, be sure to check for loose threads, tears, or holes in the mesh and any top cover at regular intervals, as well as when you first mount the unit.
Is the unit robust? Yes, it is made in such a way that it can be assembled and disassembled without tools. Nevertheless
It must also be rock solid and stable. Hey, we’re talking about your precious baby, right?
Easy to clean and maintain? This vital issue is the reasons many caregivers and parents prefer models that have removable sheets and mesh sides.
Wooden playgrounds often have side slats. These slats should be spaced 2 3/8 “maximum. Hardware (such as staples and screws) should all be in place and installed securely.
Always take the time to ensure that the sides of the gaming pen are firmly locked in place. Otherwise, the crib may collapse with your child inside.
It is never a good idea to put too many toys and other items in the yard.
How is the ease of use? Although the issue of safety is first and foremost, it is also wise to check how easy (or difficult) it is to install and disassemble the equipment. Since portability is one of the most important things here, you need to make sure you don’t need too much time with complicated procedures to get started.
A baby should only be placed in a playpen for very short periods of time. Obviously, they also need to be held, cared for, and played with, and they also need to spend time on the floor exploring their surroundings under the watchful eye of Mom or Dad.
Play Yards or Play Pens
Play yards or playpens are safe places for your baby to play and nap. It can move and you don’t have to worry about it coming out.
Buying advice tells you what to look for when buying a play yard or playpen.
The safety tips tell you how to use a play yard or playpen.
Buy a new play yard or playpen if possible. Look for the date of manufacture on the bottom of the play yard or on a label.
• Look for a JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) label. The sticker tells you that the play yard or playpen at least meets voluntary safety standards.
• Make sure the pad is no more than 1 inch thick. It should be firm and fit well. Do not use a pad designed for a different play yard.
• Make sure the holes in the sides of the screen are smaller than 3/4 of an inch. Your baby’s fingers can get caught in bigger holes.
• Follow the directions to set up the play yard or playpen. Check that all latches and hinges are tight. Hear that they fit into place. Apply downward pressure to make sure they are really locked. Don’t throw away the addresses. A babysitter or grandparent may not know how to open the playground and you want them to do it correctly.
• Always keep the sides up when your baby is on the play yard or playpen.
• Always keep your baby in sight when she is on the play yard or in the playpen. Never leave it unattended.
• Place play yard or playpen out of the reach of blinds, curtains, or electrical cords.
• Once your baby is able to stand up, remove any toys that she can use to get out.
More safety tips
• Do not add extra blankets, soft bedding, padding, or mattresses. If it’s cold, dress your baby in a coat.
• Do not place the play yard or playpen anywhere your baby is exposed to heat or wind, such as near a stove, fireplace, campfire, or a drafty window or door.
• Don’t put two babies in a play yard or playpen made for just one baby.
Do not use a play yard or playpen that has broken latches, hinges or rails, protruding rivets, or breaks in the screen. Don’t try to repair the tears.
If you use the changing Station
• Always use the safety straps.
• Keep your hand on your baby at all times.
• Remove the station when your baby is on the play yard or in the playpen.
If you use the bassinet
• Put your baby to sleep on his back.
• Stop using the bassinet when your baby is 3 months old, weighs 15 pounds, can roll over or stand up.
How to choose a play yard
A playpen, also called a play yard, is an essential part of standard baby equipment. It is a good place to put your baby when momentary restraint is needed for a phone call, meal preparation, or perhaps household chores. But use it sparingly.
The ideal arrangement is a carefully child-proofed home where a smaller baby can be allowed to exercise on a blanket on the floor and an older baby can wander under watchful eyes. It is important for babies to be able to practice getting up and crawling in an unrestricted environment. You can talk to your baby while she works around the house and give her physical freedom. This provides an excellent learning environment.
Many families find that the playpen quickly becomes a bulky and possibly unsafe toy bin that takes up too much space. In fact, more than 3,000 playpen injuries occur each year serious enough to require emergency treatment. Safety standards for parks are voluntary, so compliant manufacturers label their products to notify shoppers.
There are two basic types of playpens: those built with wood and those made with metal tubes and nylon mesh. The wooden playpens are usually heavier than the mesh ones; they fold down when their two hinged sides are even inward while the two floor panels are raised from the center. Mesh-sided playpens require a variety of folding maneuvers, in some cases even requiring the playpen to be completely upside down.
Mesh-sided playpens come in a variety of sizes and shapes, from crib-sized rectangular models to larger, multi-paneled designs. The playpen support tube is typically constructed of chrome, chrome metal, or aluminum. Some models have straight legs with caps to protect the floor, while others have a bent tube design; some of the latter may have bare metal universal joints that cause floor abrasion and rust stains.
Most soft-sided playpens use vinyl with heat-welded seams for an edge at the bottom of the screen (which provides protection against drafts) and at the top of the playpen to cover the hinge assembly and bars. The more expensive models have thick foam padding between the vinyl and the bars to prevent injury in case babies fall.
If you decide to buy a playpen, consider the following points.
Railings must have the following characteristics:
• Ability to support 50 pounds without breaking or bending
• A locking device to prevent the playpen from accidentally collapsing
• Side rails at least 20 inches high to prevent baby from slipping out
• A locking device to prevent the playpen from accidentally folding or baby lowering the sides
• Dual action to unlock the sides
• Hinges with no scissor, cut or pinch potential
Check the vinyl thoroughly:
• Older models and used vinyl covered playpens often have vinyl on the top rail which, if broken, could cause baby to bite and suffocate.
• Make sure the vinyl upholstery is thick and has no tears or holes. Each year there are hundreds of incidents of babies chewing on sections of vinyl and ingesting or sucking on them. Pinch the vinyl. Thick vinyl is difficult to wrinkle and feels heavy when separated from the padding; Thin vinyl wrinkles easily and is less durable.
• Make sure vinyl seams are heat welded or sewn. Look for smooth seams. Heat-sealed seams must appear uniform to eliminate breakage problems. Machine-stitched seams should not leave hanging threads, gaps, or holes where the seam has not touched the vinyl.
The floors of the playpens must have the following characteristics:
• Ability to support 80 pounds of static weight
• Ability to support 50 pounds of bouncing weight without sagging
• There are no metal or hardware staples for a baby to drop and swallow.
• There are no sharp screw heads that a baby can fall on if the padding slips out of place
Make sure there are no sharp edges, bumps, or points that could hurt the baby.
Wooden playpens are heavy and difficult to move, but much safer than mesh ones. Wooden playpens give babies a better view, back support, and bars that can help them stand up. As with cribs, there is the possibility of babies hitting their heads on the bars.
Look for these features:
• Slats spaced no more than 2 3/8 inches (like crib slats)
• Well finished, splinter-free wood surfaces
• Teething rails on all four sides, which must be attached securely so that little fingers cannot get under them
Make sure the mesh is tightly woven so that clothing doesn’t snag, which could lead to strangulation. But keep in mind that when the mesh is tight enough to be secure, the baby’s view is limited and the world outside the playpen becomes blurry. Be aware that there is a potentially fatal choking pocket between the mesh and the mattress when the drop side is lowered. Also, with the fold-down side down, children can cut themselves or get their fingers caught in the locking mechanism.
So far we have focused on baby equipment at home, but in the next section we will focus on some of the equipment you will need outside the home: strollers and baby carriages.