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Even if your home is fully babyproofed, there will be times you need to open an oven or use the bathroom without a little one underfoot.

In these situations, a playard can be a lifesaver! Formerly known as “playpens,” these enclosed structures are designed to keep your baby safely contained and give you peace of mind in a wide range of situations.

Playards are framed enclosures that have mesh or fabric walls and a floor. They’re intended for babies that are less than 35 inches tall and cannot climb out.

Playards are foldable and portable (although some more than others), meaning they provide parents with a safe place for baby on trips or when their hands are full at home.

While it’s certainly possible to survive without a playard (in fact many essential baby item lists leave them off), it’s a product many families choose to invest in. Especially for new parents, the freedom and peace of mind they can give you are priceless!

If you choose not to invest in a playard, you may be able to use a baby swing or high chair to keep your baby safely contained nearby while you accomplish necessary tasks.

You can also place your baby in their crib, but many parents prefer not to do this, worrying that it will send mixed signals about what their baby is supposed to do in their crib (ahem, sleep).

You can use a playard starting from the very first days your baby comes home from the hospital. Many parents choose to wait until their child is a little older (i.e. rolling around or crawling), but it really is just a safe place to put your little one.

Whenever you choose to start using a playard, don’t forget it’s safest to keep a line of sight when your baby is inside. And, even if you’re occupied with cooking or emails, you always want to be within earshot.

Trying to find the perfect playard? You’ll want to consider the following:

  • Buy new(ish). Recent hand-me-downs from friends and family are OK, but inspect the product carefully before use. Because of safety protocol changes and the chance that an older playpen has been recalled, it’s best to steer away from ancient garage sale finds or your personal childhood hangout.
  • Add-ons. Playards can include a variety of features ranging from a canopy to a built-in changing table. It’s important to think about how you intend to use your playard and what features your family might benefit from.
  • Price. Especially since a playard is not essential, it’s important that whatever one you choose fits in your budget!
  • Portability. If you plan to travel with your playard (or even just move it around your house frequently), you’ll want to make sure that it folds easily and doesn’t weigh a ton.

When choosing our favorite playards, we took into account safety features, add-ons, cost, and portability. We also heavily factored in reviews from parents like you.

Price guide

  • $ = Under $100
  • $$ = $100–$200
  • $$$ = $200–$300
  • $$$$ = Over $300

Best overall playard

Summer Pop ’n Play Portable Playard

Price: $

A simple playard, this option from Summer is lightweight and appropriate for indoor and outdoor use. It’s easy to set up and tear down, and its extra large shape allows for you to sit inside with baby or to accommodate multiple kiddos.

The option of an additional canopy attachment (purchased separately) means you won’t have to worry about finding shade for your baby if you’re at the beach — although a few parents say they just flip theirs upside down and place a blanket on the ground.

Downsides: This playard doesn’t include a mattress, so it’s best used on carpet or grass. And more than one parent suggests using pipe insulation foam or pool noodles to cover the frame’s metal bars.

Best playard for travel

BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light

Price: $$$

A great option if you travel frequently, this roomy playard is lightweight, portable, and machine washable. One reviewing parent even claims they’re able to set theirs up in 15 seconds!

While the price tag is an expensive one, it’s built to last for many years and its modern, sleek design fits well in many different types of rooms. One negative, however, is that the included mattress isn’t a standard size so you’ll have to buy their specifically sized sheets (sold separately).

Best playard with bassinet

Graco Pack ’n Play Travel Dome LX Playard

Price: $$

This is a playard that will grow with your child! The bassinet feature allows your infant to sleep in peace, but it can be removed to offer more space when your child is ready to roll and pull up. The diaper changer can be used on top of the playard or removed to be used anywhere else you’d like. It even offers space to store diapers, wipes, and creams.

This playard does have a bit more weight to it and can be trickier to fold up, but those may seem like small trade-offs for all the features it offers, especially for the price.

Best playard for outdoor use

Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard Deluxe

Price: $$

Appropriate for indoor or outdoor play, this large playard offers plenty of space for playdates. Its quick, easy assembly makes it ideal for traveling to various outdoor locations, and it has a full canopy that can act as a full dome or half dome depending on whether and shade options.

Fans of this playard say it’s perfect for keeping their little one shaded and protected on trips to the park or beach. And one mom says she loves using the attached tablet sleeve to play music and cartoons for her kiddo.

Best budget-friendly playard

Cosco Funsport Play Yard

Price: $

If you’re looking for a no-frills option at a good price point, this is the playard for you. A very sturdy playard without a ton of bells and whistles, this option from Cosco does the job without breaking the bank.

The design does offer two wheels to help when moving from location to location and includes a bag. A few parents complain that the fabric is not machine washable, but the overall consensus among reviewers is that this a solid, easy-to-use playard.

Best luxury playard

Nuna Sena Aire Travel Crib

Price: $$$$

If comfort for your baby (and yourself) is a top priority, this is the playard for you. Easily set-up and taken down with one hand, this Greenguard Gold Certified playard is lightweight and detailed.

The included mattress is quilted to provide your little one plenty of comfort. Like a crib, the base can even be lifted so you don’t have to strain your back placing your little one near the floor. And the simple, sleek design will fit well in most rooms.

Thinking this is a dream come true? Maybe. But at over $300, these bonus features and any additional add-ons come with a pretty hefty price tag.

Best playard for small spaces

Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib

Price: $$$

Whether you’re living in a small New York City apartment or need something to fit in the corner of your hotel room, this playard will offer your infant or toddler the space they need to sleep and play without taking up a ton of valuable floor real estate.

This playard is extremely light and designed for easy portability. (Though some parents say folding it back up isn’t as easy as setting it up!) Reviewers note you’ll want to be careful with the straps when it’s folded up in its backpack shape, since they’ve been known to rip off.

Whether you need a safe place for your baby to play while you cook or a comfy place for them to sleep on vacation, a playard can be a handy item to invest in! With various add-ons and price points, there really is a perfect one out there for every family.