Baby Cheapskate Guide to Play Yards

Are play yards a must-have? I recently posed that question to readers at the Baby Cheapskate Facebook page whether they thought play yards were necessary. As with so many other baby products, some said that they were an essential for every parent, while others said that they hardly used theirs. Some had skipped them altogether and hadn’t missed them. We can gather with absolute certainty that some parents will find them essential while others won’t. :)

Your lifestyle determines how useful you’ll find a play yard. The most frequent uses for the play yard are reported by parents with large homes and by parents who travel. Play yards in two-story homes find frequent use downstairs for convenient diaper changing and napping, while on-the-go families take their play yards along for use as portable cribs.

Other parents liked using the play yard in their bedrooms so that their newborns could sleep close by. Ironically, most babies don’t seem to spend much time in play yards actually playing.

You’ll get the most use out of a play yard before your baby is a year old, though some parents use them for napping until their kids are about two, or until they reach the weight and/or height limit given for the particular model (usually around 30 lbs. and 35″ tall). The bassinet, of course, won’t serve you nearly as long. Most max out at around 15 lbs. Changing stations can usually hold toddlers up to about 25 lbs.

Shopping:
You can save big by picking up a second-hand play yard, but keep in mind that play yards are often recalled. Check for recalls at CPSC.gov before buying and inspect carefully.

If your primary use for the play yard is travel, look for a lightweight, easy-to-set-up model with a sturdy carry bag. Skip the bassinet and changing station. Or save yourself 15 lbs and go for the PeaPod travel bed (see the “play yard alternatives for travel,” below).

If you plan to use the play yard as a mini-nursery in your home, get one with the bassinet and/or the changing station attachments and with tons of pockets for all your necessities.

If you buy new, there’s no reason to spend more than about $85 for a play yard with a bassinet or more than $100 for one with both a bassinet and a changer. Skip all the bells and whistles; you don’t need them. Forego the bassinet and changing table and you can pick up a play yard for about $50.

Thrifty Play Yard Picks: (prices accurate as of 9/22/09)
Basic play yard:


With bassinet:

  • Graco Pack n Play in Tango in the Tongo and Kensley (shown, right) is around $65 to $70 at Amazon and Walmart. About 22 lbs.
  • Pack n Play in Safari Friends is $69.99 at Babies R Us. About 22 lbs.


With bassinet and changing station:

  • Graco Pack n Play in Margo is $69.99 at AlbeeBaby.com. About 29 lbs.
  • Baby Trend play yard in Nambia (shown, right) is $89.96 at Walmart. About 31 lbs.
  • Safety 1st Deluxe Play Yard in Lexi is $88 at Diapers.com. Weighs 34.4 lbs.
  • Graco Pack n Play in Mia is on sale for $89.99 at AlbeeBaby.com (reg. $149.99). About 29 lbs.


Lighter play yard alternatives for travel
:

  • Graco Travel Lite Crib in Ambrosia: $69.99 at AlbeeBaby.com (it’s $59.99 in Sally–pink!). Weighs less than 20 lbs.
  • Kidco Peapod Travel Bed: $60 at Babies R Us. Weighs about 5 lbs. Try PeaPod Plus for larger kids.

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