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Expert Shopper Baby & Kids

The best playpen

Which playpens are best?

Whether your baby is crawling all over the place or has already taken their first steps, it can be difficult to keep an eye on them when you have to vacuum the living room, make a phone call or do other chores around the house. A playpen provides a safe place for a child to play or rest when they can’t be watched every second. 

Playpens are available in different styles, but many can be used both indoors and outdoors. They can vary in size, too, depending on how much space your child needs. One of the best playpens for indoors is baby playpen from Baby Care is a popular model for its durable construction and rounded, child-safe corners. 

What to know before you buy a playpen

Playpen types

Standard playpens are typically composed of plastic or wood panels that can be added or removed to adjust the size and configuration. There’s no floor, but a standard playpen usually has feet or suction cups for stabilization. You can find standard models with four to 14 panels and a gate, making it easier for your child to get in or out of the playpen. 

Portable playpens work well for outdoor use as they feature an attached floor to keep your child and their belongings safe. They usually have connected sides for stability but can collapse for easy transportation and storage. Many portable playpens include a carrying case, making it even easier to take on the go. For safety reasons, make sure you choose a portable playpen with an automatic lock that secures the sides. 

Playpen material

Wooden playpens tend to have a more attractive design than other options, making it an excellent option. However, these can suffer moisture damage and show teeth marks, meaning it isn’t the best option for a puppy playpen or if your child chews on edge. If a wooden playpen doesn’t have feet, it can scratch wood flooring too. 

Plastic playpens are usually thicker than wooden models but lighter weight overall. They’re typically more durable and extremely easy to clean meaning they’re great puppy playpen or kitten playpen. They’re gentler on hardwood floors and come in various bright colors. Many are specifically baby playpens featuring activity panels to keep babies entertained. Colorful plastic playpens can fade with regular sun exposure.

Panel quantity

Playpens can come with as few as four panels and as many as 14. The proper size or number of panels really depends on how often and where you’ll use your playpen. If you have a large area to set up the playpen, you’ll probably want more panels for greater versatility. If you’ll be using it in a smaller location, you may not want extra panels you won’t use.

What to look for in a quality playpen

Safety certification and features

Make sure your playpen has a Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association certification label for optimal safety. JPMA certification means that the playpen meets safety standards established by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. 

If you opt for a playpen with mesh sides, check that the holes in the mesh are no larger than ¼ inch. Examine the mesh periodically to ensure there aren’t any tears or holes that might become a strangulation risk. 

You should also look for a playpen with child-safe hinges, so you don’t have to worry about your little one’s fingers getting pinched or cut. 

Playpen stability

A playpen should have enough stability that it can stand on its own, so you don’t have to worry about it falling down when your baby is inside. Some models have locking mechanisms or feet at the bottom to help secure them. You can even find some playpens with feet that have suction cups for the most stability. 

Keep in mind some playpens are only stable when set up in square or rectangle shapes. However, some models can form an octagon or hexagon shape without sacrificing stability. 

Playpen height

Playpen panels should be at least 20 inches in height to keep your child from climbing out but many are much taller. A playpen with panels taller than 20 inches allows your child to use it longer as they grow. 

Playpen locking hinges

For added stability, a playpen should feature locking hinges to keep it steady. Some models have self-locking hinges that only engage when set up in a certain configuration. Others have hinges that lock manually, allowing you to choose from multiple shapes for the playpen’s layout. 

Playpen gate

Some playpens feature a locking gate that makes it easy to get in and out. Look for a model that only requires one hand to open and close, so it can be easily maneuvered, even if you’re carrying your child.

If you opt for a playpen without a gate, you’ll have to lift your child in and out.

How much you can expect to spend on a playpen

Portable playpens with mesh sides are typically the most affordable, ranging from $40-$60. Plastic and wooden models with six to eight panels generally range from $60-$100, but playpens with 10-14 panels are generally $100-$300.

Playpen FAQ

Can I fold a playpen for storage? 

A. Most playpens don’t fold for storage. However, you can separate the panels and stack them, making storage easier. 

Can I buy additional panels for a playpen to expand it?

A. Most playpen manufacturers sell additional panels to expand the size of an existing model. If a brand doesn’t offer expansion panels, you can always buy a second playpen and connect the two sets of panels to create a larger play area. 

What’s the best playpen to buy?

Top playpen

Baby Care Funzone Playpen

What you need to know: This easy-to-set-up playpen provides plenty of space for little ones to play and features parents love, like the one-hand release door. 

What you’ll love: This playpen is built to last, suitable for indoor and outdoor use and has rounded edges to keep children safe.

What you should consider: The gate sometimes sticks or doesn’t close completely. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top playpen for the money

North States Superyard Colorplay 8-Panel Play Yard

What you need to know: This highly portable, basic playpen works well for younger kids. 

What you’ll love: This play yard features a lightweight design that’s easy to fold for storage or transport. It can be set up in multiple configurations and works both indoors and outdoors.

What you should consider: It doesn’t work as well for older or active children. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Dreambaby Brooklyn Converta Playpen

What you need to know: A versatile, compact playpen with mesh panels that can also be used as a fence or barrier.

What you’ll love: This playpen offers a minimalist, modern look and folds for storage. Its mesh panels allow you to easily see inside and features a walk-through gate. 

What you should consider: This models is fairly pricey and provides a smaller play area. 

Where to buy: Sold by Buy Buy Baby and Amazon

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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