As vaccination rates are increasing and society as a whole is cautiously reopening, we are embarking on a summer that looks much different from 2020. It may finally be time to reschedule the barbecue/party/family reunion/vacation that you canceled last year. Since being outdoors is still the safest way to gather with people outside your home, today we’re looking at the best outdoor portable play yards that will keep little ones safe and give parents the chance to use both hands for something other than holding a new baby.
Play yards and playpens are terms often used interchangeably and for the most part that works. Playpens tend to be used indoors only and include added features like bassinets and changing stations. Play yards can be used indoors and outdoors, are more portable, and are typically larger, thus giving rolling babies and active toddlers more room for playing.
Play yards are great to use outdoors since they keep kids and their toys in one contained area, which is especially helpful in spots that pose dangers, such as camping sites with fire pits. Play yards can also double as beds, giving your little one a shaded spot for nap time at the beach. Since young children still aren’t being vaccinated, play yards also pose a new added safety feature of letting aunts and uncles wave and interact with your little one through mesh paneling without actually touching your child.
For a play yard to be useful to the entire family, it’s got to be lightweight and portable, easy to set up and take down, and safe and comfortable for little ones. All the play yards on our list check these boxes and more. Parents, get ready to venture outdoors with a play yard that will help your little one get fresh air, minus the bug bites and sunburn.
1. Veer Basecamp Ultimate Portable Play Yard
For a play yard that will grow with your family and is big enough for multiple kids to enjoy at once, there’s the Veer Basecamp Ultimate Portable Play Yard. Veer has been making high-end wagons that can lug your kids, their gear and even your own stuff (parents get to have stuff too!) for years and now they’ve created a play yard that is perfect for outdoor play. Meeting ASTM safety standards and JPMA certified, the Basecamp measures 56 by 43 inches and stands 35 inches, big enough for several kids to enjoy at once. Great for multiple seasons, the Basecamp has water-resistant mesh sides and a roof for easy visibility, as well as a UPF 50 removable rain and sun cover. Six stakes and four sandbags are included for a more permanent set up and the lightweight play yard, which pops open with two hands for fast assembly, can be stored in a convenient storage bag with a shoulder strap. The Basecamp is free from pinch points, includes easy access zippered opening, and comes with an Air Pad for comfortable play and nap time.
2. Graco Pack ‘n Play LiteTraveler
BEST FOR SHADED AREAS
The Graco Pack ‘n Play LiteTraveler offers plenty of room for little ones to play without weighing down parents. The LiteTraveler comes in two models, including one option without a padded floor and canopy and one with, which we’ve included on our list since it’s a better fit for outdoor use. The UV 50 canopy only covers half the play yard, so parents may have to find a shaded spot for little ones or move the play yard as the sun moves. We like that the padded floor adds a bit more protection for little ones when the play yard is on a surface other than carpet. The one-step fold makes it easy to set up and break down the play yard in seconds and the airy mesh sides keep air flowing on warm days. A zippered activity door helps to give parent’s backs a break and the washable fabric on the edge of the play yard provides an easy way to keep the area clean where hands and mouths like to linger.
3. Fisher-Price On-the-Go Baby Dome
BEST FOR NEWBORNS
Getting out of the house is a massive feat for new parents, but with the Fisher-Price On-the-Go Baby Dome, giving your newborn a place to safely lay and enjoy some fresh air has never been easier. If your jogging stroller doesn’t haven’t a bassinet option and instead features an attachment for the car seat, it’s important to give babies a break on long walks or days spent out and about. Babies should not be in their car seat for more than two hours a day, which is why we like the Fisher-Price On-the-Go Baby Dome. It gives little ones a safe and contained place to lay on their backs or get in a few minutes of tummy time, and the sturdy sides provide a safe place to grab and pull themselves up as babies grow. The dome can be fully closed for a shaded nap time that will keep bugs at bay and the play yard comes with removable toys. It folds flat for easy storage and transportation and weighs only 12 pounds, making it easy to carry and set up anytime your baby needs a car seat break or you need a baby carrier break. Who knew some tiny humans could get so heavy?
4. Joovy Gloo Inflatable Travel Bed
BEST FOR NAP TIME
Even the most compact play yards will still take up space in a car or wagon, but for times when you still need an enclosed area for little ones, there’s the Joovy Gloo Inflatable Travel Bed. Designed for newborns up to toddlers, the compact and lightweight play yard has a dew resistant, bug proof, and UPF 50 outer shell. A pop-up setup takes only seconds to get the Joovy Gloo ready for little ones and gives them space where they can safely play outdoors. A self-inflating sleeping pad provides extra cushioning on hard surfaces and creates the perfect place for nap time. We also like that the Joovy Gloo, which comes in six colors, weighs only 5.6 pounds, making it one of the most portable options on our list.
5. Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard Deluxe
BEST FOR NAP TIME
The Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard Deluxe is one of the most versatile play yards on our list. The large, 15 square foot play yard has a detachable UPF 50 canopy that covers the entire play yard, making it easy to keep your little one shaded on sunny days. The canopy can also be zipped to a half dome. One of our favorite features is the roll-down shades, which block out light and makes nap time possible even when outdoors on a sunny day (the shades can also block wind and sand). Six airy mesh sides make it easy for parents to watch their little ones as they enjoy the water-resistant, padded floor. The Play-Away has several useful features, including a touch-screen enabled pouch for times when parents really, really need a break. Plus, the entire play yard can be easily folded into the included storage bag.
6. Summer Pop ‘N Play Portable Playard
For a basic play yard that will give your little one a safe and enclosed place to roll and roam outdoors without you having to dip into their college saving funds, we like the Summer Pop ‘N Play Portable Playard. The compact play yard can be assembled and put away in seconds and comes with a carrying case. At 14 pounds and providing 14 square feet of play space, the Summer Pop ‘N Play offers a safe, no-frills play area that is perfect for shaded areas. Great for babies aged six to 24 months, the play yard has a water-resistant canvas floor that will keep the dampness from wet grass out and keep your little one in.
7. Baby Jogger City Suite Multi-Level Playard
BEST BACK SAVER
Constantly bending over to lift and set down little ones can take a toll on parent’s backs. Add in carrying gear (alllllll the gear) and parents have a big load to take on, both literally and figurately. The Baby Jogger City Suite Multi-Level Playard is designed primarily for indoor use, but it also offers a great option for small outdoor spaces. An integrated bassinet helps to save parents’ backs when their newborn needs a place to sleep. As babies outgrow the 18 pound limit of the bassinet, the larger 35-inch play yard area can be used for both playing and napping. The City Suite includes a mattress that fits both the bassinet and play yard, providing a comfortable surface whether little ones are indoors or outside. The City Suite weighs 13.5 pounds and stores neatly in its own carrying case.
8. Guava Family Adventure & Travel Set
If you plan on doing a lot of traveling and need a play yard that can pull double, or even triple-duty, the Guava Family Adventure & Travel Set is worth the price. The set includes the Lotus travel crib, which can be used as a crib or small play yard. An SPF 55 nap and fun shade help to block out the sun and provide a dark cocoon for sleep time. The side of the crib has a zippered opening for easy access. We also like the mosquito and bug shield that covers the entire play yard and helps to protect little ones from bites. An organic cotton fitted sheet and plush quilted sheet for older babies are also included. Everything fits snuggly into a travel backpack, making for a convenient carrying setup.
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