Playards vs PlayPens vs Pack n Play

Use of Playards

Parents buy playards because they are multifunctional and versatile pieces of furniture with many uses. For starters, they are used as a safe playing area for the baby. Sometimes parents need a safe area where they can leave the baby from time to time to attend to other things. A playard provides them with a perfect space.

Secondly, a playard can be used for sleep, just like a crib. This is one of the features parents maximize on. Playards come with a mattress so the baby can nap during the day. Some with a thicker crib-like mattress are comfortable for overnight sleep as well.

Third, because playards are small and compact, parents can use them for room sharing. With the baby sleeping right next to the bed, parents can easily monitor and attend to their needs.

Playard also serves as portable crib during travel because they are lightweight, foldable, and easy to carry with a travel bag. In addition, some models give you all those handy features you need, including a removable bassinet, changing station, and storage compartments as a one-stop solution for all your baby’s needs. We have reviewed the best playards in the market today here.

Uses of a playpen 

A playpen is essentially designed to provide a safe area that the baby can be left while the parent attends to other things for a little while. Small babies and toddlers need to be monitored constantly to ensure they do not run into hazardous situations or places within the home. But, constant supervision may not always be possible as parents sometimes need to rest, take a shower, cook or attend to other tasks. In such situations, a playpen provides a safe place for the baby to play unsupervised.

Second, parents can add a mat (if it’s not included) or a firm mattress on the floor of the playpen to make it more comfortable for the baby to nap or sleep. We reviewed the best available playpens here.

Third, playpens can easily be folded and put away when not needed to free more space. Also, once folded, they can easily be carried to different locations where the baby can play as you do something else.

Difference Between Playards & PlayPens 

Appearance It is a simple enclosure that creates a safe place inside where the baby can playIt is a piece of furniture that looks just like a playpen, except it has a mattress.
Materials Playpens are made from different materials such as wood, metal, or plastic Playards can also be made from metal or plastic. However, some models have parts made with different materials of wood, and others from plastic or metal.
Portability Not all playpens have wheels but most can easily be taken down, folded, and transferred to a different area in the homePlayards come with wheels so they can easily be moved room to room
Foldable design Some playpens have foldable panels that collapse on top of each other, for easy storage and transportation during travel. Some come with a carry strapMost playards are  foldable and come with a storage carry bag for convenience during travel
Bassinet n/aSome playards have a bassinet where the baby can sleep for the first months
Changing station n/a Some playards have changing stations, making diaper changes convenient
Storage n/aSome playards have storage drawers others have pockets to keep essentials like wipes, diapers, blankets, within easy reach
Mattress n/aPlayards come with a firm mattress where the baby can sleep without the risk

Playard vs Pack and Play 

Play-yard is a small enclosure made of mesh walls and plastic and metal frame where babies can play safely. On the other hand, Pack n Play is the brand name of a particular Graco playard instead of a product category. The Pack n Play has become so popular like ‘Kodak’, or ‘Kleenex’, that parents use it synonymously when referring to any playard, not just Graco’s.


Play-yard is a product category, a subdivision of playpen, while Pack n play is Graco’s most popular playard.

Playards are basic playpens with a mattress, while pack n plays are usually 3-in-1 playards with a built-in bassinet, removable napper, and changing station.


Both names are usually used interchangeably to mean the same thing- a playard

Both are small enclosures made of tall mesh walls and plastic or metal frames.

Both have wheels for mobility around the house

Both can be used for sleep and play

Both can be folded for easy storage and transportation during travel

Both have a compact design that doesn’t take much space, making it possible for parents to share their bedroom with the baby at night.

Features of both Playards and Pack n Plays


Both playards and pack n plays are equipped with a mattress that provides a soft landing for your baby and a comfortable place to sleep.

Portable design

Both pack n plays and playards were designed to be easily transported in and out of the house. They come with wheels for mobility around the house and a travel bag for easy packing and carrying during trips.

Foldable design

Both playards and pack n play are foldable. Their sides can collapse, fold, and be stored in a travel bag, for transportation or just to store away in the closet. This feature makes the playard or pack n play ideal as a portable baby bed when visiting family and friends.


Most pack n plays and some playards have a bassinet feature that can be used for sleep from day one. The bassinet keeps the baby higher up where it’s easier for the parent to reach the baby. As the baby grows, you can drop the mattress to the lowest setting to avoid your child from falling to the ground if they roll. 

Changing table

Both playards and pack n plays can have a changing station attached at the top of the structure. Having a changing table is very convenient because you can just change the baby where they are and eliminates the need to buy a stand-alone changing table.


Both playards and pack n plays can have a platform located at the top of the structure where parents can lay their baby for quick naps when they are still tiny weeny. But if you use the napper, you must be extremely careful to ensure you have properly secured your baby. This feature may not be needed if you have a bassinet, but it’s still nice to have.


Most modern playards and some pack n plays have some type of storage; some have one large pocket on the side while others have two so you can keep essentials like diapers, toys, wipes, and bibs within close reach.

Musical mobiles-some playards come with all the bells and whistles including mobile toys, lights, music, and vibrations to help entertain and soothe the baby to sleep.

What is each one suitable for?

A Playard is suitable to use as a portable baby bed and a safe place to leave your baby when you need to step away for a short while to rest or take care of something else. On the other hand, a pack n play is suitable for providing a safe place for your baby to hang out, sleep, and some models have a table to change the baby’s diapers.

Playpen vs Pack and Play 

A playpen is a category of furniture that describes an enclosure where babies and toddlers can be left to play without constant supervision. In contrast, pack n play is a subcategory of a playpen with several add-ons such as a bassinet, changing station, and napper.


A playpen is a simple piece of furniture that creates a safe restricted area where babies can be placed while parents attend to something else. However, pack n plays provide more than just a safe space, and they also include extra features like a bassinet, changing station, napper, and storage pocket.

Pack n plays usually come with a soft mattress, which is not the case with most playpens. Parents often add a mat inside the playpen floor for more cushioning.

Third, pack n plays are usually more expensive than playpens because of the extra features.


Both products provide a safe space where parents can leave the baby on their own to do other tasks around the house.

Both products can be used for napping or sleeping with a suitable mattress.

Both products are easy to take around the home as they can collapse or fold down, ready to be transported to another area for set up. In addition, some models of both playpens and all pack n plays have wheels for easy mobility.

Features of both


Pack n plays and come with a mattress, while some playpens have a mat or none at all. Therefore the baby can nap in the pack n play. However, parents often need to add a mat or mattress inside the playpen to make it more comfortable for the baby.


Some pack n plays have a bassinet for newborns to sleep in, which is not the case with playpens. However, even if the baby can sleep in the playpen, it is not as convenient because the parent would have to bend all the way down to put the baby to sleep as opposed to a bassinet, which keeps the baby raised and easy to reach.

Changing station

Some pack n play includes a changing station which playpens do not have. This feature is convenient because you can change the baby right where they are without needing to go to the nursery.


Some pack n plays have a napper attachment for the newborns to nap. This feature is not found in playpens.


Both playpens and pack n plays have foldable panels, making for easy packing for travel.


Pack n plays are highly portable compared to playpens. Once they are folded, they fit in a travel case that can easily be carried on the shoulder and also have wheels to move around the home. Playpens do not always have wheels or a storage carry bag.

What is each one suitable for?

Playpen’s primary use is for providing a safe space where your child can roam and play without needing constant supervision, while pack n play can be used for sleep, play, and many other ways depending on the additional features it has.

Playard vs Crib

Playards and cribs are some of the most popular items parents that new parents have to consider. 


Both come with a mattress, so they are safe and comfortable for the baby to sleep.

Both have tall walls that prevent the baby from climbing out, and so they are used as a safe place for the baby to play.



Playards are lightweight and easier to transport because they are made from lightweight materials such as plastic and mesh, built over metal frames. On the other hand, cribs are usually made from wood, which is heavier and they do not fold, so they are cumbersome to move around the house or even travel with.


Although both products can be used for sleep, your baby would sleep more comfortably in the crib because they usually have a five times thicker mattress than a playard. Parents find that as their child grows, they need to get a thicker mattress because the one that most playards come with grows thinner and thinner.


Parents find pack n plays more convenient to use to attend to the baby at night than a crib. This is because pack n play takes less space and can be placed right next to the bed instead of sleepwalking to the crib in one corner.


Cribs are made with very sturdy wooden materials and are thus more durable than pack n play made of lightweight materials.


Pack n plays have easily foldable sides and can be stored away to free more space when not needed. On the other hand, cribs are not collapsible or foldable unless you disassemble them.

Aesthetic appeal

Cribs are considered more stylish and elegant as they come in different wood finishes compared to pack n plays that use plastic and fabrics.


Cribs are much more expensive than pack n plays and provide you with excellent value because your child only needs one until they move to the toddler bed.

Playard vs Bassinet

A bassinet is a small bed for a newborn baby. It often has a hood and is very easy to carry around the house. Some bassinets can sit on the floor while others need to be hoisted on a stand. 

Babies outgrow the bassinet by three or four months.

Play-yard is much bigger and has tall mesh walls, so it has the capacity to hold both babies and toddlers. In addition, it is suitable for both sleep and play, while the bassinet is only for sleep. 

A playard can have other additional features such as a bassinet, changing station, music, night light, etc.

Both of these are great solutions to keep the baby close. However, playard can give you more handy features that you will love.

PlayPens, Pack n Play and Playards vs other Portable beds

Besides playpens, pack n plays, and playard, there are also other portable bed options that you might consider depending on your needs. These are:

Mini crib

A mini crib is just what it sounds like; a smaller version of a regular crib. A regular crib mattress measures 28 by 52 inches while a mini crib mattress measures 24 by 38 inches. This makes the mini crib the ideal solution if you want your child to sleep in a crib, but you have limited floor space. The downside of a mini crib is that your child will only be able to use it for a shorter time before moving to a toddler bed.

The mini crib is not foldable or very portable, even if it comes with wheels. The wheels just make it a bit easier to move it around in the room.

Portable crib

Although some manufacturers market their playards as portable cribs, a true portable crib looks like a mini crib, but its sides can easily be taken apart and laid neatly on top of each other for storage or transportation. You won’t even need any special tools to disassemble.

Portable baby bed

Although playards can be used as portable baby beds, they also have other uses.

A portable baby bed is designed only for sleep-not for play without supervision. This is because they usually have a short contour to keep the baby from rolling off the bed compared to a playard with tall walls that will prevent your child from climbing out.

Portable beds come in many forms, but they are all foldable and can easily be carried for travel with your child. The most common is a simple rectangular frame made of fabrics or inflatable side cushions. Other models take the shape of a pop-up tent, and these are only suitable for newborns who don’t move around. The material they are made from is lightweight and flexible, so it can easily be tipped by a crawling baby leading to injuries if their little limbs get stuck. There are also other portable beds that are similar to camping beds, but these are designed for older children above 4 years because they do not have a safety railing on the side.


​​Is a pack and play worth it?

Since a pack n play is a portable and multifunctional unit that you can use from birth through toddler years for sleep or play, many parents find it an essential product that provides excellent value for their money. No wonder the Graco Pack n Play has become so popular that parents use it when referring to any playard.

Whether you are at home or visiting family or friends, a pack n play is your ideal because it offers a safe place for your child to hang out and sleep.

Can I use a pack and play instead of a crib?

Yes, your child can use a pack and play during the first months, and then later, when they are bigger, transfer them to a crib. Pack and plays have a built-in bassinet that you can take advantage of.

Can I use a playard instead of a crib?

Yes, you can opt to use a playard instead of a crib. Both provide a safe spot for your child to play and sleep. However, you may need an extra mattress if the playard is your child’s bed as they grow. Play-yard mattresses tend to be thinner than crib mattresses.

Most parents, however, parent find that having both playard and a crib is ideal.

Is it safe to use a pack and play as a crib?

Yes, pack and plays have a firm mattress and tall walls to keep your child contained, comfortable, and safe.