Whether at home or traveling, a playard is one of the must-haves for parents of little ones. Here we are sharing our top picks for the best Pack n Plays and playards to keep your baby or toddler safe!
You’re in full on nesting mode, ensuring you have everything ready for the big day when your little bundle of joy arrives. If you’re like me, you’re cross checking every baby book and registry ‘must have’ list. Then, you come across ‘playard.’
If you’re old school like me, you’ll wonder to yourself, “What on earth is that, and do I really need it?” First, let me be clear that ‘playard’ is just another fancy name for what a lot of us know to be a ‘playpen’ or ‘pack n play.’
To answer the second part of that question – Yes! This is a must have!
As a mom of 4, I have found my pack n play to be one of the most essential items I have used almost daily with my little ones time and time again. You might be saying to yourself, “But wait a second! I rarely leave home! I am not going anywhere.” While it may be true we aren’t traveling as much, there will still come a time where you want to visit a family member or a friend’s house and find yourself game-planning on where you will set your little one down to nap.
Most importantly, however, I have found that the most use my pack n play has gotten over the years is in my very own home. Need to run to the restroom? Boom. Pack n play. Do you have grandparents watching your little one while you work, but you worry about them running up and down the stairs to the nursery? Boom. Pack n play. Has your newborn grown out of the bedside bassinet but you still want to have your little one room in with you and your husband isn’t keen on the idea of disassembling the crib to transfer it out of the nursery and into your room? Boom. Pack n play!
For any of these instances, you want something that is easy to set up, portable, and safe for sleeping. Let’s take a look at the best picks and why we here at Parenting Nest love these options.
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Mom Pro Tip #1: If you’re a newly expecting mom and are thinking about where to register for the best diapers and more, start your baby registry here and check out Amazon’s baby registry welcome box full of useful goodies!
Best Pack n Play and Playard for Babies and Toddlers
Why we like it: First off, The Graco Pack and Play on the Go Playard, is by Graco, a trusted brand for years, and a Parenting Nest favorite. We are fans of many Graco products, including their bassinet for twins. Graco has a great reputation for durability, where their products can withstand the test of time, and I can attest to that.
This pack n play is compact, and easy to transport. This particular model comes with a playbar to keep your little one entertained, which is perfect to use along with the bassinet insert that you may safely use with newborns up to 15 pounds who cannot yet push up on hands and knees. It also grows with your little one, where you can continue to use this with toddlers up to 35 inches in height.
Why we like it: The Baby Trend E Nursery Center features a one hand locking system, which makes set up a breeze. We know that developmentally early on, babies see high contrast black and white images best, so this pack n play’s easy-to-detach mobile is perfect for entertainment and development.
Also handy and easy to detach when on the go, is the organizer for baby essentials such as diapers, wipes, and creams. This model also comes with the bassinet insert for access to your sweet baby without needing to dive deep and lift up from the bottom of the pack n play.
Many of these items are available with Amazon Prime’s fast free shipping (often arriving in just one or two days!). If you’re not already a Prime member, you can get a 30-day FREE trial of Amazon Prime here!
Why we like it: If the Baby Trend E Nursery Center (the previous recommendation we shared) is the Toyota of pack n plays, then the Baby Trend Retreat Nursery Center is like the Cadillac (or if you’re like me, the Mercedes- Benz)! Sure, the Toyota is quality; dependable and sensible. The Mercedes-Benz, however, has a bit more bells and whistles with a bit more flash.
This model not only comes with the easily accessible bassinet insert and the convenient storage essential station, but it also comes with a Rock-A-Bye Bassinet with a canopy. This is a great add on for a comfortable spot for your newborn to rest, with some added shade for a cozy napping nook. It also comes with an electronic music center equipped with music and nature sounds, along with a nightlight and a vibration feature to help lull your little one to sleep.
Last, there is a separate changing station that is super convenient for home use, and easy to remove when using the pack n play on the go. It's easy to see why this playard is currently a #1 best seller on Amazon!
Mom Pro Tip #2: Send in that recall postcard! Best to be safe and send in the recall postcard to your product’s company sooner than later. My husband and I did this right after setting up our baby products prior to the baby’s arrival. That way, we are set and will be notified in the event any of our larger products like a pack n play are recalled for any reason. Safety first!
Why we like it: Similar to the Baby Trend Retreat Nursery Center, our next pick, the Graco Pack ‘N Play Quick Connect DLX Playard has many of the key elements of a pack n play that you might be looking for. This model also has a newborn seat, diaper changer, and a mattress that can adjust from an easy to reach bassinet position down to the toddler position in order to grow with your needs.
It also comes with a convenient storage organizer too. There is no music or vibrate feature, but if you’re like me and always have a machine on standby to play white noise and music, then this model might be a perfect fit for your needs.
Why we like it: If your needs are straightforward and you are looking for a simple model of a pack n play, then the Dream on Me Portable Zodiak Playard is the pick for you. This pack n play is light weight and reasonably priced to meet your basic needs of requiring a safe space for your little one to sleep or play. It comes in a variety of colors, and has a padded mattress for comfort and safety.
Mom Pro Tip #3: Does pregnancy or birth have you in a fog? Does full on mommy- brain have you questioning at what point you should transfer from the newborn seat to the bassinet insert? Well, you’re not alone and most manufacturers have helped us out by printing their recommendations somewhere directly on the pack n play. If that doesn’t work, then do what I did as a backup and save all of your papers and manuals in a folder somewhere in the back of the baby’s closet in the nursery. That way, your future, exhausted self will thank you when everything is organized all in one spot!
Why we like it: Last but not least, we recommend looking into investing in the Fisher Price On-the-Go Baby Dome. We actually received one of these gems as a gift in addition to our pack n play that we had already purchased, and it’s an essential that we never knew we needed so badly!
Our baby was born in August, and it was still plenty hot enough to enjoy the outdoors, but we needed to make sure she had a safe place to nap free from the sun’s rays while my older son let loose at the park. This dome was perfect to tote along on our outdoor adventures in those early months.
Strap this stroller fan on for some cool air, and you're in business! We even brought the dome along for hotel stays instead of the full size pack n play a couple times when we knew our hotel space would be a little snug. Of course, this travel playard is only for babies who aren't yet mobile, but it's definitely a great option for the little ones!
Mom Pro Tip #4: While the pack n play mattresses are stain resistant and pretty easy to wipe down, you might want to add some additional comfort for your little one. If you are in the market for sheets to safely add to the pack n play, I would suggest seeking out sheets made by the same brand as your pack n play. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a wrestling match when attempting to put on the sheets from different brand or company.
MEET THE AUTHOR
As a mom of 4 kids (and the oldest of 4 kids herself), Amanda has over 30 years of parenting experience. A former special education teacher, Amanda has a Master’s degree in Special Education and a second M. Ed. in Educational Leadership.
When she’s not working, Amanda enjoys DIY projects, exercising, photography, and long walks through Target.