Last Updated on January 23, 2023 by Ines
What is a Pack ‘N Play?
If you are familiar with the basic Pack ‘N Play’s description, you already know a lot about its ways of use. So, what is a Pack ‘N Play? A Pack ‘N Play (also called a Playard) is a portable sleeper and playpen that can be used from birth through the toddler age. In short, a Pack ‘N Play is a portable crib and play area for infants and toddlers that you can use at home or take it with you wherever you go.
It is one of the most helpful pieces you can own. From nap time at home or sleepovers in grandparents’ house to traveling and camping, the use of Pack ‘N Play is incredibly versatile. And these are only its primary uses. As you will see, a Pack ‘N Play can be used in many other ways too.
The basic characteristics of all Palayards are the same, but there are some differences you should know before your purchase.
For instance, are you travel a lot? It is a big difference if you carry around a 30lbs Pack ‘N Play, or a lightweight model such as Guava family Lotus, which weighs only 13lbs.
On the contrary, if you intend to use it mostly at home, you should consider additional features, like toys, newborn napper, etc. By the way, Graco’s Pack ‘N Plays offer the most accessories, for a very reasonable price.
Lightweight Pack ‘N Plays
Heavier Pack ‘N Plays
Types of Pack ‘N Play
To help you understand their differences, we have divided them into three groups:
1. classic, traditional Pack ‘N Plays
2. Care Station Playards
3. lightweight Pack ‘N Plays or travel cribs
Regardless of their type, most Pack ‘N Plays own a full-size bassinet attachment, which you can clip on the top of the unit. As such, they can be used from day one, instead of classic infant bassinet.
A raised bassinet allows the baby to be higher up, so you can reach her or him easier, like with classic bassinet.
Traditional Pack ‘N Play:
Traditional Pack ‘N Plays, such as Cosco Funsport Playard, are the cheapest type. Usually, they possess an automatic folding system for the compact and hassle-free fold, wheels, and convenient carrying bag for the transport.
Traditional Pack ‘N Plays weigh less than Care station Playards, but they’re heavier than lightweight travel cribs. As such, they’re more appropriate for travel than Care stations, yet worse option than travel cribs.
Care station Pack ‘N Play:
Care station Playard possesses approximately the same interior dimensions as traditional Pack ‘N Plays. It’s usually heavier and takes up more space, but it offers lots more than a traditional type.
Overall dimensions and added features differ from model to model. But most Care station Playards hold two or more following features: a portable napper, which can sometimes double as a rocker, changing table, storage organizer, soothing devices like a musical box, or crib mobile. Some, like most Graco’s Playards, have even all of them.
Only Care Station’s base unit and full-size bassinet fold up into a carrying bag. Other accessories don’t fit in, so you will have to pack them separately.
Care station Pack ‘N Plays are the best choice for home-usage. They are also a great option for grandparents’ house. Not only it can be easily folded away, but it also offers everything they need for their grandson or granddaughter. From a safe sleeping place to the changing table, storage unit, and more.
Lightweight Pack ‘N Play or travel crib:
If you intend to travel with your baby, this one is the right choice for you. Lightweight travel cribs are especially convenient for traveling by plane. Everything is adapted for easy travel, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it at home too.
The best travel cribs are ultra-light and fold up small into a travel bag, suitcase, or convenient backpack.
While traditional and Care station Playards stand on legs, it’s the sleeping area of this type usually placed on the floor. That contributes to the stability of the lightweight unit and makes it safe for your baby.
For what is a Pack ‘N Play used for?
Pack’ N Play is most frequently used to provide a safe sleeping and playing area for infants and toddlers while traveling, at home, or in grandparents’ house.
6 ways to use your Pack ‘N Play:
- a safe place for an afternoon naps
- as a handy Playpen at home
- a familiar sleeping and playing area while traveling
- a secondary crib in grandparents’ house
- instead of newborn bassinet next to parent’s bed
- as a safe sleeping or playing space outside
Using Pack ‘N Play for sleep:
Pack ‘N Play is a safe sleeping place for your child. You can use it at home, in grandparent’s house, or take it with you wherever you go.
I don’t recommend using a Pack ‘N Play instead of the crib every night. I’m not saying this because I would think the crib is safer. I’m claiming this because of the mattress! You should never use a crib mattress in a Pack ‘N Play!
Why shouldn’t you use a crib mattress in a Pack ‘N Play?
Because it is too thick for a Pack ‘N Play! A crib mattress used in a Pack ‘N Play causes a severe safety risk for newborns and young babies. Because it is surrounded by a soft mesh, a Pack ‘N Play doesn’t have solid sides. Baby can roll out of the thicker mattress and become trapped between the mesh and mattress’s edge. That could lead to injuries or even suffocation.
To lower the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrom), use only the included Pack ‘N Play mattress or purchase the one that is classified safe for Playards.
Although they are getting more and more comfortable, Pack ‘N Play’s mattresses aren’t as comfortable and supportive as classic crib mattresses. A Pack ‘N Play mattress is perfectly fine for napping, sleepovers, or even longer vacations, but it cannot compete with the crib mattress in quality.
Pack ‘N Play can be used as a playpen:
Pack ‘N Play is a safe place for your baby to play at home. When you are alone with a baby, it is hard to go on the toilet, let alone clean or cook. Having a Playard allows your baby to be safe, so you can go at least to the toilet without worrying.
As you can effortlessly move it around the house, you can place it in the kitchen when you are preparing a meal, etc.
Some Playards, like Lotus, have a zippered door on the side. This feature has many advantages, and one of them is transforming the Playard into a fort for your toddlers. They absolutely love it!
Using Pack ‘N Play as a travel crib:
Using own portable crib saves you a lot of troubles. First of all, babies tend to sleep better in a familiar environment. And second, you don’t have to worry if your holiday accommodation possesses a suitable baby bed.
All Pack ‘N Plays fold and pack up into included carrying bag. However, there are differences between them, which affect the suitability of their use on the vacations.
If you intend to travel a lot, pick a lightweight travel crib, such as Babybjorn. Such a travel crib is ultra-light and packs up really small. There is a big difference if you take a 13 or 40lbs Pack ‘N Play on the plane or train.
For traveling by car, you can choose whichever you want. We had Graco Pack ‘n Play Nearby Playard, which is a care station. If we went on shorter vacations, we took it with us without any problems. Of course, I had packed only the Playard and full-size bassinet and left all the accessories at home.
What I want to say is, that although it’s heavier and carrying bag is not as small as on lightweight travel cribs, we had no problems fitting our Graco into the car trunk with all other baggage.
Is Pack ‘N Play a suitable choice for grandparents’ house?
In my opinion, it is! Pack ‘N Plays and portable cribs are the best choice for naps, play, and sleepovers in grandparent’s house.
The best model for grandparents’ hose is the Care station Playard. Such Pack ‘N Play will offer everything they need, from infant through toddler age. It’s like a little nursery in one. And when it is not in use, they can easily fold it away!
Pack ‘N Play can be used instead of the bassinet!
If you want to save some money, use a Pack ‘N Play instead of a classic bassinet. It is cheaper, and your child can use it longer.
While your baby can use a classic bassinet for the first 6 months the most, she can use a Pack ‘N Play for 4 years or even more.
Pick a traditional Pack ‘N Play or Care station Playard, and place it next to your bed. But remember! Use only the full-size bassinet, which hangs in the Pack ‘N Play overnight!
Accessories, like newborn nappers, bouncers, or nest-like bassinets that attach on the top of the Care station Playards are very handy during the day, but they are NOT intended for longer sleep!
Using Pack ‘N Play outside
Whether you put it outside your house, take it with you on the beach, or use it on a camping trip, a Pack ‘N Play keeps your little one safe. Just don’t forget to provide the shade and/or mosquito net.
Is a Pack ‘N Play necessary baby equipment?
Because of its versatility, it’s a great solution, which many parents find essential. However, a Pack ‘N Play is certainly not a necessary piece of baby equipment. But you’ll have to replace one piece (a Pack ‘N Play) with more pieces of baby equipment if you want everything a Pack ‘N Play can offer.
Some parents even use it instead of the crib, but I would never do that! For occasional sleep, even longer holidays, I am absolutely for it! But not for every night at home.