A playard, also known as a playpen, is a child item many parents find essential. They’re great for giving caregivers’ arms a break while keeping a baby or toddler safely contained. Little ones love them, too. They can play, nap, and explore in their own approved space knowing caregivers aren’t far away. If you’re a first-time caregiver or if a playard isn’t an item you’ve used before, here’s what you need to know about playpens for toddlers and babies and how to choose the best playard for your child.
Again, a playard is just another term for a playpen, though when described as a playard, the item will often include more bells and whistles. Playards are a portable and multifunctional piece of furniture you can use to contain your baby or toddler. Many caregivers use playards as a way to give a child space to play without allowing them to roam out of view. Since they’re portable, you can keep a playard in the nursery, set it up in the living room or your home office, or bring it with you to a babysitter’s home or on a trip.
Depending on the design of the playard and the accessories it allows for, you can also use it as a place for a baby to sleep. A playard may include a removable bassinet, changing station, toys, lights, mobiles, and more.
Bassinets are used simply as a place for a newborn to sleep. These are also often portable, depending on the design, and can typically hold a baby up to three or four months old. Being smaller and portable, bassinets have the advantage of allowing newborns to sleep in the same bedroom as the parents. A crib is a more stationary piece of furniture you’d keep in the nursery or perhaps in the parents’ bedroom as a place for a baby to sleep after it transitions out of a bassinet until reaching two or three years old. Some playards are equipped with a bassinet feature which can be used as a sleep space for newborns up to four or five months old. The playard itself can then be used as a portable sleep or play space for an older child.
When deciding which option your child and family may benefit from most, consider your lifestyle. Do you have the space for a playard, which is considerably bigger than a bassinet and a bit wider than a crib? Do you want to be able to bring your baby from room to room with you as you multitask? If so, a bassinet may be the best choice. Do you travel a lot? If yes, a playard can provide a familiar sleep space while away from home and keep little ones from wandering around a hotel room or others’ homes and can help keep toys to one spot.
There are many kinds of playards to choose from, ranging from more simple, standard models to a deluxe playard with a bassinet feature, mobile, built-in toys, lights, sounds, and more. When deciding between playards, keep these considerations in mind.
If you travel frequently or want to be able to move your playard around the house, portability is key. Look for a playard that can be easily set up, folded, and carried. Many will come with a travel bag for your convenience. Make sure it’s also lightweight enough for whoever will most often transport it. Some playards even come with wheels so you don’t have to lift them to change locations.
Child’s Height & Weight
Make sure to read the product description on the playard you aim to purchase. Most are suitable for children weighing up to 35 pounds with a height of no greater than 38 inches. The bassinet attachment should be reserved for babies weighing up to 15 pounds. Further, you don’t want your child to be tall enough to climb out of the playard and risk getting hurt or wandering away, so make sure to check the weight and height recommendations on a playard to find a match for your child.
Deluxe playard models tend to come with some storage options, like side pockets that are convenient for tucking away diapers, wipes, and other changing supplies. They’re also useful for storing and organizing toys, pacifiers, teething items, books, and other supplies you may want within reach. Depending on how you plan to use your playard, these storage options could provide much-need convenience. Just make sure they’re out of the child’s reach if anything that could be a potential hazard is stored.
You can also opt for a playard with a variety of accessories for little ones to enjoy. There are playards that play music, feature mobiles, include toys, and have fun light displays. If you want your playard to provide long sessions of entertainment for your child, these extra features can help keep them occupied.
Like anything else your baby touches, playards can get dirty quickly. Look for one that’s easy to clean and maintain. Check product descriptions for playards that have a wipe-clean surface, and it’s ideal to get one with attached washable sheets so you can quickly detach them and throw them in the washing machine. Some playards are made with zip-off fabrics so you can wash the outer layer of the playard itself as well.
Consider your budget and how much you think you’ll benefit from a playard, as well as which features are best for your baby. The best playard for you is the one that provides a good return on investment. If you think you’ll use it often, the convenience may justify the cost. Assess which features you really need, how much space you have, and whether this will be a primary or a secondary sleep space for your child.
Chicco has a variety of playards ranging in features and price points. Our lightweight (under 13 pounds) Alfa Lite travel playard, for instance, won in Good Housekeeping’s Parenting Awards and is fast to set up and comes with a zip-open side to make gentle placement of younger babies easier. The Chicco Lullaby collection includes playards with bassinets, changing stations, mobiles, storage options, soothing melodies, soft mattresses, and zip-off, machine-washable covers. Most importantly, every Chicco playard is JPMA-certified, which means it’s been independently tested and approved for meeting the Juvenile Product Manufacturers’ Association’s standards for safety, quality, performance, and functionality.