How to Choose the Right Pack n Play?

A pack n play (also called a “play yard”) is a portable crib and play pen, all in one.

But unlike, the portable cribs of the past, today’s play yards are lightweight, can be set up and taken down quickly and come with convenient traveling cases.

How to Choose the Right Pack n Play?

Okay, true confession time: I never actually used my pack n play. My babies used their cribs to sleep, and they always cried when I tried to put them in there to play. Plus, we hardly travelled during those first few years.

Why Buy It?

So why would I recommend a pack n play as a great baby shower gift? Well, it’s one of those baby gear items you either must have, or you never use.

For me, I never used it. In fact, when we finally took a trip when my second one was two, I ended up having to borrow a pack n play, because by then, I’d already sold mine!

BUT for parents who travel frequently (not us) or who are just lucky enough to have babies who will pleasantly play in there (again, not us), they’re a godsend.

In particular, I’ve noticed that parents of multiples (twins and triplets) use their pack ‘n plays a lot. I guess they just need every possible safe place they can find to put a baby down!

Also, some moms I surveyed would put their babies in the pack n play to nap, and the crib to sleep. One reason to do this is if you live in a two-story house, you can use the pack ‘n play downstairs and be able to see the baby napping.

How to Choose the Right Pack n Play?

Bottom Line: It makes a great gift if the parents plan to travel (even just twice a year makes it worth it), if they can see themselves putting the baby (or babies) in their to play, or if they want another place for baby to sleep comfortably in the house.

In fact, there’s no reason you can’t use the pack n play as a bassinet in the parents’ room for those first few months. If mom is breastfeeding, she doesn’t have to go far to get the baby. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says it’s safer than co-sleeping.

How Much to Spend? Which One to Get?

You can expect to spend between $65 and $200 on a pack n play, depending on how many bells and whistles you want to get.

My top choice is the basic Graco Safari Trails Pack ‘n Play.

It seems to have enough of the bells and whistles parents want — a removable bassinet, a removable toy bar, push-button fold and mesh sides for ventilation, but is reasonably priced.

If you want to get something with a few more bells and whistles, especially if it’s going to be used to entertain baby as well as sleeping, go with the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonder Aquarium Play Yard.

How to Choose the Right Pack n Play?

It comes with a removable bassinet, carrying case, and a fish mobile that makes “swimming fish” music and sound effects (hey, if it doesn’t put baby to sleep, it’ll probably make him pee!)

Finally, if you want something a little sportier and more versatile, go for the Graco Pack ‘n Play Sport.

More of a playpen than a place to sleep, the Pack ‘n Play Sport has a cool, round design and is ideal for indoor and outdoor play (at the beach, park, backyard, you name it). It’s super lightweight, sets up in seconds, and has a removable, adjustable canopy that’s supposed to block 98% of the sun’s UV rays.