How To Choose A Play Yard?
While our purpose is to educate parents on how to go about buying the right products that are suitable for their precious ones, please note that the tips here are mainly our personal opinions and do not mean to cast allegations or insinuations of any kind against any individuals or companies. These tips can be used as a good starting point. You should think carefully whether the tips make sense, do your own research and use your own judgments before buying a play yard.
There are so many different baby play yards available in the market, so you shouldn’t be ashamed of your confusion when you try to find the right one for your precious one. These products go by completely different names, such as play yard, playard, play pen, playzone, play room, play area, etc. Here are some good tips for choosing the right play yard for your baby:
Safety, safety & safety
What else can it be? Obviously, safety will always be the No. 1 concern in every parent’s mind. The issue is that there are so many different safety standards in this world – American, Canadian, European, Japanese, Korean, Australian, New Zealand, etc. No product has ever been developed and certified to meet all these standards mainly due to economical and technical reasons. And even within a country, there are multiple standards to meet for each single product most of the times. Take the European safety standards for example … Not many people will know it, but passing the most basic EN-71 European standards does not mean anything much regarding the safety of the play yard since the play yard is being governed by another standards within Europe! And even within the EN-71, there are different parts in the standards. Suppliers rarely mention these. Instead they will generalize it as ‘passing European standards’ or ‘passing EN-71 standards’ without telling you the details or what they fail. The worst thing is that standards keep evolving. Even reputable suppliers use old standards as they might have already failed the new standards. You might be confused now, but we take it to be our duties and obligations to educate consumers.
To keep things simple, just remember these rules of thumb in general: (i) avoid China brand if possible, but made in China is okay, (ii) go for brands from developed countries. Obviously, you can still go for a China brand if you know what you are buying. In general, brands from USA, Europe, Japan, Korea, etc. are considered as safe enough. Such brands would have imposed tight internal quality control process to ensure safety and quality regardless of the country of manufacture. A good example will be Apple, whose products are well known for quality and finishing even though they are mostly made in China!
Still on safety!
Don’t be surprised that we are still on safety since safety covers such a wide area. You don’t want your baby to get hurt when staying inside the play yard.
You would want the structure of the play yard to be sturdy enough.
The play yard must be safe enough so that it will protect the babies even when they stumble (which is common). You don’t want a play yard to do the opposite! And for that reason, we don’t recommend wooden or metal play yards.
For those play yards with legs and wheels, there will be a weight limit and the parent cannot stay inside with the baby. As such, we recommend extra safe play yards that sit directly on the floor with no legs. For such ‘legless’ play yard, you want to make sure that it cannot be shifted easily if the baby pushes it. Some brands have non-slip suction pads or rubber pads to address such concern. They are useful to a certain extent but their effectiveness will depend greatly on the floor surfaces and materials.
To really prevent the ‘legless’ play yard from moving under most circumstances, it will need to have an accompanying mat or mattress attached to it at its base. If it doesn’t come with a mat or mattress as its base, then you will need to get a 3rd party play mat that can fit nicely within the play yard (or at least close to that and sit inside the play yard, since a play mat larger than the play yard will not do the job). These accompanying mats/mattresses or 3rd party play mats will also serve the purpose of protecting the baby from directly hitting the hard floor surface.
If the play yard has a door opening, is there any foolproof design or safety mechanism to ensure that the child will not open it accidentally or intentionally and get out from the safe enclosure?
Can any panel or connector be pushed out easily by the little ones when they get slightly older? There are many brands that have loose connections whereby the smaller panels or connectors can be pushed out easily in a vertical manner.
Are they any sharp edges on any part of the play yard that might injure the little ones?
This is one of the most important considerations and yet the most difficult one to decide since most retail shops do not even display the bulky play yards nowadays. You will be shocked to know that even some Korean brands of play yards are low quality and poorly manufactured. If possible, try to have a look at the physical product first before buying.
You can find plastic, fabric, wooden and metal play yards in the market. Each has its own pros and cons.
Most preferred by Asian parents. Besides being brightly colored, parents also believe that the babies will not feel as painful if they accidentally fall onto something made of plastic (think wood and metal). Some plastic play yards come with so-called activity or play panels (the side that has different play items on it to stimulate your babies and keep them occupied). Some even have musical pieces on them which will play baby friendly melodies or lullabies.
Preferred by Asian parents too, especially among parents who are concerned about their babies biting plastic surfaces. Fabric play yard takes the No. 2 spot mainly due to its higher cost. But the good thing is that it is almost certain to come with a mattress as its base. So if you will to consider the total cost of play yard and play mat, the fabric play yard will cost lesser. And you get a fitting mattress which will prevent the play yard from shifting!
Less preferred by Asian parents. Simple … do you want your baby to fall hard on metal surface? We can’t bear to see that. But metal play yards are popular in European countries and USA.
Least preferred by Asian parents who are still worried about wood splinters. You actually don’t have to worry about that for good quality play yard (think of wooden baby cots even though they cost much more). What you need to be concerned about are baby chewing on the wood and the fading of the bright colors used by newer wooden play yard. Baby cots come with teething rails for a good reason, but wooden play yards do not have any teething rails!
Fitting Play Mats
Fabric play yard usually comes with a mattress as its base to prevent the yard from shifting if the baby pushes it.
As for plastic play yard, it usually sits directly on the floor and seldom comes with a fitting mat or mattress. Instead, some have non-slip suction pads or rubber pads to prevent the play yard from shifting. These are useful to a certain extent but their effectiveness will depend greatly on the floor surfaces and materials. So to really prevent plastic play yard from moving under most circumstances, it will need to have an accompanying mat or mattress attached to it at its base. If it doesn’t come with such a mat or mattress, then you will need to get a 3rd party play mat that can fit nicely within the play yard (or at least close to that and sit inside the play yard). Our recommendation is NOT to get a play mat that is larger than the play yard since a play yard that is sitting on top of a play mat might still shift depending on the mat surfaces. But the choice is yours.
Of course size matters! Seriously! Who wants to put the precious little ones in a small confined area? The play yard has to be spacious enough for comfort. But you also need to consider the available living space in your house.
The size of the play yard is usually measured in centimeters (cm) or millimeters (mm). Do not rely on the number of panels to determine its size simply because they are no longer accurate. Some dishonest shops and suppliers have resorted to unethical practices to take advantage of customer ignorance. They sell 8 panels plastic play yard without clearly mentioning the sizes even though they know that their so-called 8 panels play yard is even smaller than a standard 4 panels play yard from a popular brand in Singapore! It is our principle not to mention names since everyone has his own way of doing things. But as a consumer, you have the rights to know exactly what you are buying. Our advice is to always confirm the actual size of the play yard before buying so as to avoid any unwanted misunderstanding and frustration.
Obviously the height of a play yard is another major concern. A height of 55cm or more will be good enough, but some parents do not even mind 50cm. Most play yards are around 60cm high on average. This value should be measured from the lowest height and not the highest point in the play yard. Take for example … a play yard that is 60cm high except for a single point or two that is 70cm high should be considered as a 60cm high play yard. This sounds obvious and logical to us, but some suppliers don’t seem to understand that. Instead they use the highest point in the play yard to consider as the height of the play yard and use that to claim that their play yards are the tallest in the market, which we totally disagree as it is simply not the right thing to do. Always ask for the measurement from the base to the lowest height.
Don’t you think that it will be great if the play yard also comes with play center or play panel that has various activity items to simulate growing babies with music, games, textures, colors, shapes, movements and others? How about activities that help to develop their motor skills? Unfortunately, only some plastic play yards come with such activity panels and they cost more in general. Those that play melodies are even more expensive but they are definitely worth the buy. Of course you can always provide the babies with external toys for that purpose but that will clutter the limited spaces within the play yard. You want to keep the play yard neat (is that even possible?) so having activity items on the panel might be the best thing to have.
Warranty / After-sales support
Some suppliers and shops allow exchange or refund within 5 days, provided that the item is never opened and never used (but there will be collection fee and administrative cost). Obviously it will be great if that time period can be dragged further. Read more about our Exchange & Return Policy here.
As for warranty, very few of them provide it as most play yards are already reasonably priced in our market. In some cases, the suppliers might provide a limited 14 days or 1 month warranty that covers only defects in materials and workmanship. That is definitely better than nothing. In very rare cases, the suppliers may provide 1 full year of warranty against certain items. Wouldn’t it be great if that is even possible for baby products? Continue shopping to find out more or simply click here!
When we said easiness, we mean:
- How quick and easy to assemble it when setting up for the very first time?
- How quick and easy to fold it away for storage when you no longer need it?
- How easy to clean and maintain it?
- How easy to expand it, if you ever need to?
- How easy to sell it as a 2nd hand item if you choose to do so?
- How easy to supervise the baby?
Appearance is important. You want the play yard to blend in with your overall living space or the nursery room that you have painstakingly created for your precious one? You might want a colorful play yard to stimulate the baby (even though there are still lots of scientific debates on how color affects babies). Or are there certain colors that you prefer? How about the design? Nobody wants the precious little one to stay inside a play yard that has many vertical bars that look like being inside a jail. Do you want a play yard with legs and wheels?
Air-circulation or Ventilation
This is the least important nowadays since almost all modern play yards allow for great air-circulation. More and more parents are turning on the air-conditioning for the babies too.