The list of things to buy for growing babies seems to get longer and parents must question whether every item is essential and whether the cheapest or the dearest is necessary to meet their needs. A play pen is a safe space for babies or toddlers to spend some of their day time outside of their cot. Although babies might fall asleep in the pen, it is intended as a space to play so it should be stimulating.

Is a Play Pen Essential?

A play pen is a luxury and in many homes completely unnecessary. For some families it is very useful and treasured because it offers the opportunity to put the crawling baby or walking toddler into a safe contained space at a time when it is not practical for to have her or him roaming freely. In some households there are enough people for this to not be an issue, or the child could be placed in a cot.

Small, Fold-Away, Portable Play Pen & Travel Bassinet

Budget play pens double up as travel cots and retail for around $60 or £30, e.g. Graco Pack ‘n’ Play.


  • Low price
  • Their use as a travel cot and a safe space for a very young baby
  • Portable
  • Can be packed away and stored easily, so ideal for small home



  • A toddler or active baby would not play for long in this small space
  • Short life span as a play pen compared with more expensive models

Luxury Play Yard, Extra Space for Maximum Play

Substantial play pens or play yards retail for upwards of £80 and include: Lindam Safe & Secure, the Babydan Baby Den, the Kidco Playden (U.S.) and similar.


  • children have a large area to play
  • two toddlers can be accommodated comfortably
  • a gate allows easy access for an adult to join in the play, sort the toys, or clean
  • a gate will give make this a versatile play space for the growing children
  • some models can have extra “walls” added to make the area even larger
  • some models have extra options to transform into a play house


  • Expensive
  • Take up a large amount of floor space
  • May be bulky to store
  • May be simply too large for some homes

Play Yard Safety

Guardians should note child safety:

  • children should be supervised, with closer attention if more than one child is in the play pen
  • as if the children were in their cots there should be no blankets or cushions which could suffocate
  • nothing small enough that the child may chock
  • no dangling cords that the child might be strangled

Choosing the Best Play Pen or Play Yard

If there is the space to keep a larger play pen erected full time, and the family thinks this is something that will assist child safety, then the larger play pens will be better value for money. This is because children can be content playing whilst confined within them for a short time until about 2 years of age, possibly older. The travel cots may be used for sleeping but are unlikely to be useful as a play pen for longer than just a few months.