Do you ever wish you had a few more minutes for yourself without the baby disturbing your peace? I have been there and have great tips on how to go about getting the best playpen on the market today. Playpens or portable ‘baby cages’ enable you to have a safe place to put your baby in so you can shower, use the restroom or even just take a quick break.
All parents deserve a break. Playpen gives you a chance to avoid parental fatigue which has been rising over the past few here in the US. According to AAP, more than 5 million U.S. parents experience it each year.
This past summer, when the country reopened after the pandemic, I was happy for the hours that I was able to get as I could get my baby engaged on the playpen while I did other things.
If this is your first child, you may be wondering what a playpen is and when would be the best time to start using one. Let’s start by answering the common question first:
What is a playpen?
A playpen is a fenced area where your baby can play without you having to constantly monitor them. It is a great way to create a safe enclosure for the baby to explore without worrying about them getting into something they are not supposed to. From around the 6th or 7th month, when your baby is just starting to crawl, you may begin using your playpen.
Among the baby gear we review here, playpens are actually relatively new. The first version of a playpen was invented in 1922 by an American woman named Emma Read who called it a ‘portable baby cage’.
Like some parents who live in big houses, sometimes multi-story houses, Emma found herself needing a baby enclosure so she could provide fresh air and sunshine for her two small children.
Her Patent Application to the US Patent’s office shows a sketch of Emma’s playpen which almost looked like a small dog house. The sides were made of chicken wire and the bottom was a piece of wood.
Below is a sketch of Emma’s baby cage from 1923;
The biggest difference between Read’s baby cage and modern-day playpens is that most playpens on the market now are made to be used indoors only. From unsafe and bulky designs of the early 20th Century to the modern-day brands, there has been a lot of progress in innovating different designs.
Below is an image of a modern-day crib.
Can I use Baby Playpens indoors and outdoors?
Most modern-day playpens are made with weather-resistant materials. However, it is not advisable to use them outdoors all the time as the harmful UV rays from the sun can damage the material and make it less durable.
Some recent brands such as POP ‘N GO Baby Playpen below come with a removable UV shade cover.
How much should I expect to pay for a Baby Playpen?
The prices of playpens can range anywhere from $60 more depending on the features, brand, and design.
Types of Baby Playpens and Best Brands to Get:
- Freestanding baby gate: These playpens come in the form of an enclosure, there are also freestanding baby gates that can create a safe space for your baby to play. These types of gates are great if you have a fireplace or something else that you need to block off. Go for freestanding baby gates if you want the most affordable type of playpens. They are made out of molded plastic and have mesh sides. Some of them even come with a built-in toy bar!
- Playard: Playards are a great option if you are looking for something that will grow with your child. Many playards on the market today come with removable bassinets, changing tables, and other features that make them perfect for both infants and toddlers. Walking around the house carrying your baby all the time can be tiring. Sometimes you just need to put them down so you can get things done. That’s where a playpen comes in handy. It gives your baby a safe space to play while freeing up your hands. Go for playards if you plan to be moving a lot. Here is an article on playpens vs playards.
- Metal Playpens: Wrought iron playpens are beautiful, but they are not the most practical option. They are heavy and difficult to move around. If you decide to go for a wrought iron playpen, make sure that it comes with wheels so you can easily move it from one room to another.
- Fabric playpen: If you want a super portable playpen that pop-ups, fabric playpens are the best. Aside from being lightweight, they are also much easier to store than other playpens.
What are some features to look for when choosing a Baby Playpen?
When picking the best playpen, safety should take precedent. Look for playpens with padded edges, no small parts that can be swallowed, and made of weather-resistant materials.
- Breaking or collapsing walls and closing in on the baby: Go for brands with known safety track records such as Graco or BabyBjorn. Also, consider brands with no history of recalls, and to ensure you get a brand with sturdy walls that won’t collapse on your baby, go for those made of sturdy aluminum frames with excellent joinery.
- Asphyxiation from soft bedding: Soft bedding or playpens with soft bases and beddings pose the risk of asphyxiation. CDC and AAP recommend not using them. Instead, go for playpens with a hard base such as a plastic bottom or those lined with firm foam.
- Strangulation from chords especially if you have other gadgets such as a wired baby monitor that has exposed wires running through the playpen frame.
- Injuries from sharp points or jagged edges: spect the playpen for any sharp points or jagged edges that can cut or scratch your baby. Also, avoid plastic playpens as they are more likely to have these kinds of hazards.
- The smell of some plastics: Some plastics can emit a harmful gas called VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These gases can be harmful to both conclusions, the best baby playpen is the one that is safe for your baby and fits your budget.
In order to avoid these hazards, it is important to choose a product that is certified by the Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA). The JPMA certification program tests products against the latest version of the voluntary safety standards.
While some risks of the baby being on the playpen may be caused by the playpens themselves and associated accessories such as vertical liners, some can also be caused by caregivers. There have been cases of parents leaving their kids in playpens in perhaps hot weather. A recent case of a Florida couple led to a death of an infant in a playpen as reported by CBS here.
You also want to make sure you get a playpen that is the right size for your needs. If you have a small space, then you may want to consider getting a portable playpen. These are typically smaller and can be easily moved around the house.
If you have a larger space, then you may want to consider getting a multi-level playpen. These are typically larger and have multiple levels that your baby can play on.
A small playpen measures at least 5 inches wide and about 22 inches long with a height of about 15+ inches. Some models are even larger. For example, the Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard with Reversible Napper and Changer has dimensions of 40 x 28.5 x 33.25 inches (LxWXH).
Go for the size that will work with the space you have. If you have enough space, pick any brand based on other factors but if you live in a compact space such as a compact apartment, go for smaller playpen.
When it comes to the price of playpens, you can expect to spend anywhere from $40 to $200. The price will depend on the features, brand, size, and material.
Some great reputable brands such as Baby Trend, Lotus, Graco and Hiccapop may be relatively more expensive compared to newer brands such as Mloong. I have found it worth spending a little more to get a trusted brand with a reputation to keep.
If you are looking for a playpen that is easy to set up, take down, and transport, consider brands such as Pop ‘n go which can literally be assembled in minutes and can be easily moved around the house. The ease of assembly will determine how often you use the playpen. Go for easy-to-assemble brands by reading the reviews and manuals on how easy you’ll be able to put it together.
Some playpens will come with wheels while others will not. If you plan on moving the playpen around often, then it may be worth getting one that has wheels. However, if you do not plan on moving it around, then wheels may not be necessary.
Weight and portability:
Consider the weight and portability you are looking for a playpen that is easy to transport, then you will want to consider the weight and portability. The lighter the playpen, the easier it will be to transport.
Go for playpens that weigh around 10 pounds. If they have add-on features that add to the weight, consider if those items are wort it and whether removing them would increase the rate of playpen use.
The weight also influences the stability of the playpen. A good playpen should not be too flimsy or top-heavy as you don’t want it toppling over on your baby. Also, make sure the bottom is weighted so it doesn’t slide around on slippery floors.
Once your baby makes the big discovery that their tiny hands and feet can help them become mobile, you know you are in trouble! You can no longer trust they will remain put on their play mat as you go for a short trip to the kitchen or the bathroom. That’s when the idea of getting a playpen hits you. We also have a variety of fun activities and baby gear for indoor and outdoor play.
In this article, we have reviewed the best playpens for babies in the market and give you helpful information to enable you to make the right choice.
What is the Best Brand of Baby Playpen?
Costzon is our Top Pick
Material weighed a lot in our evaluation of the best baby playpens and considering only those made from non-toxic materials and with enough play area, we settled on Costzon Baby Playpen as the overall best baby playpen available in the market today. We picked this brand as the best available playpen option for kids for three key reasons;
- It has a super large play area for baby, about 36 cubic feet which is almost twice the average of most brands in the market
- It is made of breathable mesh walls
- It has extra safety features including anti-slip suckers and safety gates.
No other brand comes with all these features at the affordable price that this top choice comes with. We have reviewed 10 other options you can compare and determine which is best for your baby and household.
Comparison Table of the Best Baby Playpens in 2022
|Dimensions(Inches)||Play area||Material||Extra features||Check Price|
|Costzon playpen||47x 47 x27||36 cubic feet||Steel||Balls|
|Babay playpen||59 x 59 x 25||Steel|
|Johgee six panel|
|IYUT playpen||71 x 59 x 27||Steel|
|VOOCV playpen||71 x 59 x 28||Aluminum|
|Mloong playpen||71 x 59 x 26||Steel|
|Joovy Room 2||40 x 40 x 29||10 sq feet||Metal|
|Evenflo Versatile||29 x 8 x 28||18.5 sq feet||Plastic|
|Baby Care playpen||82 x 58x 29||31.6 sq feet||plastic|
|Graco playpen||40 x 28 x 29||Plastic||Bassinet, changing table, toy bar|
Reviews of 10 Top-rated Baby Playpens in 2022
Below are reviews of our best playpen picks that you can get for your baby today;
1. Costzon Baby Playpen, Extra Large Playpen for Babies w/ Safety Gates
The Costzon playpen is top on our list because it’s well made, spacious, easy to set up, and even comes with balls for reasonably good pricing. This playpen is an excellent choice for people without much space and will give your baby a good amount of space without feeling confined.
It is built with a durable steel frame and an oxford covering over foam filling to prevent injuries when your child bumps on it. You can see your child from all sides through the breathable mesh, and there is a zippered door your baby will love to crawl through during play. The feet have anti-slip cups to keep the playpen stable, and the bottom has a thick plastic mat.
With this playpen, your child can have tons of fun because it comes with 50 colorful balls to keep him busy. There is even enough space for a play friend to join in. Read more on the importance of play for toddlers.
It’s easy to take down and assemble whenever you need to take it to other rooms where you can watch your baby. The fabric can be removed and wiped down with soapy water to keep it looking fresh.
- Heavy-duty construction
- Small and compact, doesn’t take up much space
- Comes with 50 colorful balls at no extra cost
- Easy to set up
- Great size; provides plenty of space for the baby to roam and play with balls and toys
- Very attractive
- Bottom is thin; parents had to use a thicker mat or rug underneath for cushioning
2. Babay Playpen Extra Large Activity Center Indoor & Outdoor Large Playpen
This playpen is our second choice because it provides a large space for your child to play with a friend and is made with durable materials like our first choice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a bottom pad or balls, but it’s slightly cheaper.
It is easy to assemble and takedown to take it to any room in the house easily or even outside. The mesh walls allow 360-degree visibility for you and your child, and the zipper door on the sides will enable them to crawl in and out.
The playpen itself is very sturdy and has anti-slip cups to keep it firmly on the floor. Since it’s made with steel tubes and oxford cloth, you can be sure it will survive rough handling from your child. It’s also lined with foam to cushion your child from bumping on the hard parts and getting injured.
- High quality materials and very sturdy
- Provides large play space
- Attractive design
- Easy to clean, fabric comes off and can be hand washed
- Does not come with a bottom mat
- The suction cups do not do a very good job; parents have had to use rugs underneath to keep it from slipping.
3. Playpen for Baby, 6-Panel Foldable Portable Baby Playpen, Indoors Outdoors Child
This one is a six-panel playpen, which provides plenty of room to play without taking much space. The hexagonal shape keeps it well-balanced and stable. It’s number three on this list because it has a foldable design, making it easy to make room to room and travel with.
The playpen is built with iron pipe and oxford cloth material. It is also lined with foam for cushioning. It has bracket supports with oval feet which adsorb to the ground firmly to keep the playpen from slipping away.
Although the bottom is very flimsy, the surrounding mesh is firmly held by buckles to prevent children from pulling it down or deforming. The mesh allows an all-around clear view and can be detached for easy cleaning. There is also a zippered door which is fun for kids.
- Very portable, it’s lightweight and foldable
- Provides plenty of play space
- Cute colors and design
- Great pricing
- May not last; buckles and straps that hold the mesh in place feel very flimsy
4. Joovy Room²-Playard, Portable-Playard, Playpen, Black
The Joovy Room 2 is a 2-in-1 product that will give you your money’s worth. It provides your child up to 10 square feet of play space and a thick mattress on the bottom for comfortable naps and it is also featured in our guide and reviews of the best play yards.
It’s super sturdy and has a very attractive design with clean lines and clear mesh for maximum visibility from all sides. In addition, it’s portable with two wheels, which makes it easy to roll it from room to room and folds up compactly for travel. A storage carry bag is included.
We rank it a bit lower on this list because of its heavyweight, which makes it less convenient if carrying it around. Also, it has high walls and doesn’t have a door that kids can crawl through like other playpens, so you have to lift your child in and out each time, which can be tiring.
- Large play space
- Can be used for sleep or play
- Very sturdy and well made
- Attractive design
- Heavy and cumbersome
5. IYUT Baby Playpen with Mat
The IYUT is a great option if you are looking for an extra-large playpen where you can play with your child. It comes with a thick, colorful mat that makes it look beautiful and provides your baby with all the cushioning they need as they learn to crawl, stand, and walk alone.
It is pretty sturdy for everyday play as it’s made with steel pipes and has suction cups on the corners to prevent it from slipping around. In addition, it is coated with foam to guard against injuries. The mesh enclosure is soft and allows you to supervise your child’s play from any direction. It also has a door.
We also love that this playpen is easy to assemble and take it down in just a few minutes without needing tools and that you can take it with you during travel because it also fits compactly into its own included carry bag.
- Plenty of space for two adults and a baby
- Includes a thick mat
- Easy and fast assembly and disassembly
- Includes carry bag for convenient storage during travel
- The soft mesh can rip easily during play
6. VOOVC Baby Playpen
When looking for a lasting playpen that your child can use for years, you want one made with sturdy and durable materials, which is exactly what you get with the VOOVC playpen. Not just that, it’s very spacious with enough room for two adults and two babies to play together.
We love the stylish design of this playpen with activity panels that introduce letters and fruits, shapes, and objects.
The playpen is made from an aluminum frame that holds up to 150 pounds of weight without deforming and hard-wearing oxford fabric cover to last for years. Even the mesh is double wired all around to ensure it won’t rip while still maintaining visibility. On the corners, there are anti-slip suckers to keep it firmly secured on the floor. There are also two doors.
Although it’s made of plastic, it has undergone rigorous physical and mechanical tests and is also certified free of BPA and other harmful chemicals.
It has a fuss-free setup process that takes less than fifteen minutes. Plus, the company has 24 hours online service to help you solve any problems you might encounter with this product.
If you need to take this playpen to the park or travel, you can easily do so because it fits compactly into its own bag, which is included.
- Extra large space for two babies or baby and adult to play together
- Very sturdy and well made
- Beautiful designs
- Has doors for easy in and out for the baby
- Easy to set up
- Includes a carry bag for easy transfer
- Great pricing
- The floor is thin and slippery; you may need to add a mat or rug underneath
7. Mloong Baby Playpen with Mat
The Mloong is another fantastic option to consider. It is super cute, has plenty of space for a parent and baby to play together, and even comes with a mat at affordable pricing.
The playpen is made with heavy-duty steel pipe and sturdy plastic parts to hold up even when the baby is shaking it. It has mesh on all sides for visibility and two doors for easy entry and exit. As a parent, you will love that the mat is reversible and has beautiful drawings on both sides and a very easy surface to clean. It only requires a damp cloth to clean up food bits and the baby’s saliva. Even the oxford fabric cover is waterproof, so it is also easy to clean as well.
It comes with a carry bag for convenient storage and travel.
- Large space for adult to play with baby
- Very sturdy
- Cute, high quality mat
- Very easy to clean
- Includes travel bag
- Some had challenges with assembly
8. Graco Baby Playpen
The Graco playpen is a multifunctional unit that also works as a player. It doesn’t have much space like other playpens here, but it provides enough space for small babies to play with their toys. Also, because it has a small footprint and wheels, it’s convenient to take it with you around the house so you can keep an eye on your baby as you do other tasks. It also easily folds down compactly, making it easy to store and transport, and comes with a carry bag.
The playpen is such a valuable investment if you have a newborn because they can use the removable bassinet for naps and nighttime sleep. You can also opt for the model with a bassinet and a changing table, that way, you conveniently meet all your baby’s needs from one station.
- Sturdy and durable
- Great space for small babies
- Has a compact fold for easy storage
- Easy to assemble and disassemble
- Wheels make it easy to take around the home
- Bassinet provides comfortable bed for your baby to sleep
- Changing table enable convenient diaper changing
- Storage pockets provide space to stash wipes, bibs, and a few diapers
- a toy bar provides amusing objects for your baby
- Your baby will outgrow it soon, needing you to buy a more spacious playpen
9. Evenflo Versatile Play Space
The Evenflo can be used both indoors and outdoors, so you can take it with you wherever you go. It’s pretty tall and has a good amount of space for your baby to roam. We love that it comes with nonslip pads to protect your floor surfaces and also reversible feet with built-in stakes to secure it firmly when using it on your lawn outdoors.
It is made with six plastic panels held together by a push-button hinge, which is easy for an adult to take apart and use the panel as a walk-thru door. The webbing design on the panels allows you to observe your baby but doesn’t allow a child to step and pull themselves up and climb out.
The playpen comes fully assembled, but you can buy two additional panels if you need more space. It’s lightweight and foldable for easy storage or transportation.
- Can be used indoors and outdoor
- Foldable for storage and transportation
- Has both anti-slip pads for indoor surfaces and reversible feet with stakes for outdoor use
- Doesn’t have a bottom pad
- Not as sturdy as its peers made of metal
10. Baby Care Fun Zone Playpen
If you have multiple kids in your house who love to run around, you can keep them safely contained using this extra spacious playpen, provided you have enough room. With almost 32 square feet of interior space, this is one of the largest playpens for babies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a floor, but the company sells mats that fit perfectly.
The enclosure looks simple, but it’s high quality, sturdy, and colorful. It has non-slip pads and place holders on the bottom to prevent sliding around. The slats on the wall will let your child see outside and prevent climbing. There is also a double lock door to keep your child from escaping. Check out these slacklines for fun play as well.
The playpen is a great choice for many because it requires no tools to assemble or disassemble and is easy to clean. Some parents have also bought multiple units, and the panels connected seamlessly, making a massive playpen. In addition, although the playpen is made of plastic, it does not contain BPA, phthalates, or any other harmful chemicals.
- Extra-large play space
- No tools needed to assemble or disassemble
- BPA free
- Heavy, not portable
Buying Guide for the Best Baby Playpens in 2022
What is a baby playpen, and are they necessary?
A playpen is basically a small enclosure where babies can play safely. The enclosure can be made of plastic, metallic grill, or mesh, and the interior has to be visible from the other side to allow the baby to see the parent and vice versa.
A playpen is not a must-have item, but if you want a safe place where you can leave your baby for a short while to have some alone time, take a shower, fix a meal, or do some other housework, it would be a handy item to have. Plus, many playpens are multi-functional and can work as a baby gate, changing station, travel crib, etc.
Are playpens bad for babies, and are they safe?
Some experts do not like the idea of keeping the baby contained in a restricted area. They prefer the baby to have the freedom to explore the home so they can get proper exercise and see different things, which is critical for healthy development. This means being on constant watch, so the baby doesn’t get into trouble. But this may not always be practical, as parents still need short breaks during the day to rest or do some tasks. On these occasions, a playpen can be of great use.
So if your baby is happy to play in the playpen, they can, but not for prolonged periods. Otherwise, they will feel abandoned and lack exercise, which is bad for their development.
You should never force your baby into the playpen if they don’t want to get inside. Also, watch for signs that suggest that they need a break from the playpen, such as becoming fussy, crying, or attempting to climb out.
Baby Playpen Pros and Cons
The following are some advantages and disadvantages of playpens that you should know about:
- They keep your baby safe- You can leave your baby to play in the playpen and relax, knowing they are safe and happy while you get on with something else.
- They are convenient- playpens are easy to make room to rooms whenever you wish because they are easy to set up and takedown.
- The child might feel isolated– leaving your child in the playpen for too long may make them feel abandoned and affect their development.
- They may not work for some babies– some babies do not like being in enclosed spaces like a playpen, in which case, the parent is left with no option but to sell or give it away.
How We Picked the Best Playpens
After extensive research and reading through hundreds of parents’ reviews, we used the following parameters to determine the best playpens to choose from.
Playpens in the market are made of different materials from plastic, wood, mesh, and metal and some have a mixture of these. We preferred playpens made of metal frames for their sturdiness and durability. Most had mesh enclosure and foam filling to cushion the baby against injuries if they accidentally bumped on the hard parts. They also have fabrics that can be easily washed.
We also chose some plastic playpens that we felt were sturdy, easy to clean (needed only to be wiped), and certified as free of harmful chemicals like BPAs, Phthalates, etc.
Since kids need a soft landing as they crawl or try to walk, we ranked highly playpens that conveniently included a mat or pad.
- Ease of use
You should be able to use a playpen conveniently when the need arises, so we considered those that had good ratings for ease of assembly and disassembly or were foldable.
We liked playpens that you can take with you easily to different rooms in your home so you can keep a close eye on your baby or for travel. These are playpens that are light to carry or have a foldable design or wheels.
As a baby grows, it will need bigger space to roam. So we considered playpens that had enough room for the baby to play with their toys. In addition, we liked models that could be conformed to different shapes and those that could be expanded by adding more panels—that way you don’t have to buy a bigger playpen, which is more costly.
- Extra features
Nowadays, manufacturers are adding all sorts of useful features to their playpens, giving you more value for your money. For example, some of the suitable playpens we chose have balls, and others have removable bassinets and changing tables.
Can a baby sleep in a playpen?
Yes, babies can sleep in a playpen only if it has a firm surface and no soft beddings, toys, or other objects in it to avoid suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment hazards.
- About the Author
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Mary Stephens is our infant development and baby fun activities specialist here at Motherhood HQ. She has over 10 years of experience dealing with kids, previously as a K3 teacher and now as a K9-12 teacher specializing in physical education and Social Studies. She is certified to teach in New York and Massachusetts and when not teaching trampoline jump tricks or giving toddler safety guides, she enjoys writing and providing helpful guides to parents on baby fun activities from infancy to toddlerhood. Mary is also an independent consultant providing parents with fun activities at home and appropriate toys and baby gear for infants and toddler development. She can be reached at her email, mary.s(at)motherhoodhq.com.