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Play Yard Buying Guide

A play yard is a wonderfully versatile product that can be used indoors or out and is often used for travel. They are lightweight and portable and come with their own carrying bag. A play yard is useful as a place to nap at Grandma's house and a safe place for baby to play while you take a little time out. Play yards and play pens will have all or some of these features in common:

  • Mesh sides: Provides ventilation and allows you to easily keep an eye on your baby.

  • Storage pouch: Useful for storing blankets, toys and clothing.

  • Wheels: Usually only two wheels on one end that lock for safety and allow you to easily move the playpen from place to place.

  • Bassinet: Rests on the top rails of the play yard, is removable and is nice for when Mom has just come home from the hospital and bending over is difficult. The bassinets are designed to hold newborns up until your baby reaches 15 pounds.

  • Changing area: The changing table is similar to the bassinet in that it is removable and rests on the top rails.

  • Canopy: If you plan to frequently use your play yard outside, look for one that has a canopy. The canopy protects your baby from the sun's UV rays and provides shade to keep him a little cooler.

  • Toy Bar/mobile: A mobile is usually an extra item sold separately but some play pens will come with them.

  • Parent organizer: A handy storage area for wipes, diapers etc.

  • Fitted sheet: Sold separately, a fitted sheet will help keep the floor of the play yard clean.

  • Floor padding: You'll want it at least inch thick.

  • Padded top rails: Make sure it has durable fabric that can resist a teething youngster.

Age/Weight Range

If you buy a play yard with a bassinet, you can begin using the bassinet from birth. The bassinet will hold your baby until he is about 15 pounds. Otherwise, you will probably begin using your play yard as your child begins to crawl, around the age of six months. You'll continue to use it until your baby is about two years old, or 30 pounds.

Safety Tips

  • NEVER leave your baby unattended in the play yard.

  • Do not add padding or other objects that your baby can use to climb out.

  • Do not leave sheets or bedding in the play yard as it could pose a suffocation risk.

  • Avoid tying any items across the top or corner of the playpen; they can be a strangulation hazard.

  • Always test to make sure the rails are locked before putting your baby in your play yard to prevent collapse.

  • Check often for tears in the fabric and mesh.

  • The mesh holes in your play yard should be no larger than 1/4 inch. Anything larger can allow fingers and buttons to become caught.

  • Examine the mesh and its attachment to the top rail and floor frequently for loose threads. There have been reports of entanglements in threads (stitching) that unraveled.

  • Your play yard should have padding around the top rails and corners.

Buying tips

Safety is the most important feature in anything you'll buy for your baby. Only place your infant in a play yard that is sturdy and has no defects. A danger in buying used is that you may not detect any problems it might have or know if it has been recalled. You'll want a play yard that is easy to set up and take down but is also sturdy enough so it won't collapse on its own. Another big concern for parents is how easy it is to clean. Mesh netting will be easier to clean that fabric and cost you a lot less hassle. Think about what you'll use your play yard for, whether at home, travel or outdoors, then choose one that best fits your needs.

Related Links

Play Yard Safety Guide
Shop for Play Yards

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