Tuesday, 11 November 2008 | Tags: , , ,

Playpens, also called playards, provide a safe haven for babies and toddlers to play or sleep while a parent's or caregiver's attention may be divided. Portability also makes playpens an easy take-along bed. We take a look at some playpens to find the sturdiest and most kid- and parent-friendly option.

The Basics

  • The playpen should be approved by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which ensures it has met rigorous safety standards of the American Society for Testing Materials.

  • Examine how the playpen is put together: Seams and edges should lie flat, while mesh walls should be lightly stretchable, provide good ventilation, and allow you to see the baby clearly.

  • Floor pads should be a maximum of one-inch thick and fit snugly against the edge of the playpen. It should be firm, not soft, which could become a suffocation hazard. Don’t add any additional cushioning.

  • In 2000, new safety standards were introduced so if you’re buying used, be aware of some safety issues:

    • Make sure there are no areas big enough to entrap small hands, limbs or even heads.

    • Rail locking systems should have a double locking mechanism to guard against collapse.

    • No protrusions over ¼ inch. Anything higher poses the risk of catching a child’s clothing causing strangulation.

Other Considerations

  • Other features to consider beyond a playpen’s basic function:

    • A detachable bassinet provides a smaller raised surface for new infants.

    • A removable changing station that sits securely on the top of the rails for easy diaper changing.

    • Pockets for storing diapers, wipes and/or toys. Some pockets are even removable for a portable diaper bag.

    • Sun/wind canopies pull over and cover the sides for protected outdoor play.

    • Lockable wheels make it easier to move from room to room.

    • Mobiles/entertainment centres can keep babies and toddlers occupied.


We tested these four playpens with infants, toddlers and moms:

  • Evenflo Roll & Go (with bassinet and sun canopy): $140
  • Kolcraft Travelin’ Tot (mobile and electronic center with lights, music, and voice recorder): $170
  • Cosco Eddie Bauer (extra padding, bassinet and change table): $190
  • Graco Pack ‘N Play (bassinet, change table, mosquito net): $240

Kid Test

  • The Kolcraft was a big hit with its entertainment center , and the voice recorder kept the 2-year-old audience intrigued.

Adult Test

  • Extra features like attachable change tables weren’t a big plus. It was more of an inconvenience since it’s just as easy to change baby on the floor.
  • The simple options without all the bells and whistles were most popular.
  • The Graco was easy to set up and take down, and was the lightest to carry.
  • The Evenflo was also popular for its price and simplicity.


We think simple is best. Depending on your budget, the less expensive Evenflo Roll & Go will do the trick, or the more expensive but easy-to-use Graco Pack ‘N Play.


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