Here’s how to make the most out of the pack and play so you can use this one thing in many different ways.
I am a minimalist mom when it comes to baby gear.
I was moving when I had my first baby… so money was what we needed for our baby shower. This was great in a few ways!
First, I could buy what I needed when I needed it. Secondly, I wasn’t given tons of stuff I thought I “should” use.
However, one item that I bought early on and have used time and time and time again (on three continents) is a play yard, pack ‘n play, or playpen (whatever the cool kids are calling it these days).
The one shown in the photo below is awesome because….it can go through doorways without having to be broken down.
With four kids in four years – and being a proponent of creative sleeping arrangements – I use our play yards all the time for napping, night sleep, and travel.
Note: It must be said, however, that you should never put your baby in the play yard, stroller, high chair, or infant seat all the time to the detriment of their development. Using this type of gear can be both helpful and convenient, but should not be used as babysitters.
Here are 8 different ways you can use your pack and play
After much practice and research, I have discovered eight main ways to utilize that pack and play (there may be more than you think)!
Trust me, you’ll want to get the most use of this incredible mommy tool… check out these eight ways to use your pack and play.
To get you started, I have added a list of the top 5 most popular pack and plays available:
- Portable Playard– With over 3,000 positive reviews the Sturdy Play Yard with Comfortable Mattress and Changing Station is a must for any mommy. It comes in a beautiful blue & green design and is very affordably priced!
- Nursery Center– The name doesn’t do this pack and play justice. It’s a top seller on Amazon and the Baby Trend Pack and Play has features such as a removable organizer of baby essential and a one hand locking mechanism.
- Playard– This Sturdy Play Yard with Mattress and Toys has almost 3,000 positive ratings and is super easy to pack up, carry with, and store.
- Pack and Play- The Graco Pack and Play includes a full sized bassinet and push button compact fold, which is way for storing.
- Travel Playard– This Portable Travel Playard has great traveling reviews and has a 5 star review! One thing that I really love about it is that it can be set up/taken down with a push and a pull of one hand!
Get my cheat sheets and find your family’s groove. Chore, independent play, meal, nap, bedtime, and MORE routine ideas!
1. The Pack and Play is Good for Napping
Sometimes, it’s simply inconvenient for kids to nap in the same room together. This is especially true for a toddler with an older sibling (here’s a big fat reason why this doesn’t work).
The pack and play is a great alternative to this situation. It allows you to give your kid a nap in whichever room you would like.
An added benefit to this is that you can get your child used to napping in a new location. Napping in another room or area will more likely allow your child to nap well at family’s homes, a sitter’s house, or in a hotel away from home.
Read: How to get all your kids to nap at the same time
2. Independent Play Time
We’re big fans of independent play time! The pack and play is one way I’ve been able to accomplish this with small children. Set some toys in there, and watch your child play safety.
As you can imagine, the pack and play a good way for babies and early toddlers to play without falling and hitting head. The pack and play allows them to move, bounce, and play with their toys safety.
Also, pack and plays have mesh sides! This is important because you can see in at all times.
It can even be a great place for baby to have tummy time.
3. Corralling with a Pack and Play
One of the best strategies for mothers with babies close together is to corral. This is how you can do necessary grown up things without your child getting into things while you aren’t looking.
Sometimes… someone comes to the door, you get a phone call, or need to cook dinner. Obviously, if you have a toddler who is a climber, using a play yard will come in handy.
4. Beach Trips
Now, if you’re going down to the beach for an hour or two bringing a pack and play along isn’t worth the hassle, in my opinion.
But if you are camping out for the whole day, and have a nice shelter or umbrella, bringing a pack and play is a lifesaver.
Others may disagree, but it’s the exact opposite of relaxing to hold baby the entire time at the beach.
For me, to be at the beach for 8 hours and either myself or my husband have to hold the baby the entire time is exhausting. This is especially true is baby is already walking…
5. Use the Pack and Play at Your Family’s Homes
My mom likes to keep a pack and play at her house so that my youngest two can nap or sleep there if they stay over. She has a spare room, but the bed is large and tall and the littler ones can’t be counted on not to roll off.
Safety first, of course. (What you must do if you let a toddler share a room with a baby)
If we have impromptu visits and the baby gets tired, there’s a place to sleep. This is more versatile than a crib which is not easily broken down or put up.
Read: How to get your baby to nap at someone else’s house
6. Places with Big Drop-Offs (A huge help with separation anxiety…)
If your child is used to napping in his/her pack and play, it’s not such a stressful thing for them to nap at the sitters.
Especially if your child is having some “drop off anxiety”, they may find comfort in having a bit of their familiar surrounding stay with them.
This is the equivalence to you bringing your favorite pillow when staying in a hotel room. The familiar pack and play may add an extra comfort element for your toddler.
After all, you want them to be comfortable while staying the day with the sitter or other family members.
7. When You Need “a Minute”
Let’s be real…sometimes a mama just needs a minute!
This is especially true is baby is a hip hugger or extra needy today. Having a handy pack and play gives you a minute to calm down, relax, and stop being angry. As a mommy, you could use a minute to pee, call a friend, call your mother, or whatever.
The truth is, using a pack and play can make sure everyone is safe…so you can be alone for a minute.
If you have a little crawler or pre-toddler, using the pack and play is a great way to get a few minutes peace. As long as you aren’t doing this for long stretches to Netflix binge, it’s not something to feel guilty about.
These lovely cards and checklists will help you create and keep healthy wind down and sleep routines for your little ones.Learn More
8. Use Pack and Play as a Newborn Sleeper in Your Room
We always put our babies in our room for their first few months of life. Nursing, safety, and overall peace of mind are found when baby is close.
I’m nursing and do not sleep well if I have to walk to their room and feed them sitting up.
By the time I get back to my room I am wide awake.
By keeping a pack and play in our room, I can feed the baby…even without totally waking up fully. How about that! Plus, he is there so I can check on him. Here are thoughts on letting the baby sleep in your room. When they are sleeping through the night with no feeds, then they go to their more permanent sleep situation.
Read: 10 reasons your baby can’t sleep
9. Hotels and VRBO’s
More often than not, hotels and VRBOs have cribs available. I’ve had success using cribs in both places, but I’ve also had situations where there were none… and that’s a disaster!
If you are driving somewhere, it’s good to put a pack and play in the car if you’re able. Check the ratings on the pack and plays listed at the top for travel ease.
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
FAQs on Pack and Plays
Yes! If you keep all the same safety standards you would in a crib, no toys, no loose blankets, put baby to sleep on their backs, etc. then it is safe.
You can use the pack and play from birth until your child grows out of it. It is a great thing to keep in the car or at a relative’s house, etc. That way, you can visit and still have a familiar place for bubs to sleep.
If they can fit in it, they can sleep in it! It won’t be as comfortable on a nightly basis as a bed, of course. But for travel or naps on the go it is a perfect solution.
You can use the pack n play for napping, independent play time, for corralling your little one, sleeping at night for travel, and much more.
If you are going to be home of the most of the time and traveling very little, you don’t need it. If you frequently go to others’ homes, travel, or like to put baby to nap no matter where you are, it’s a great buy.
This is great Rachel. Guess I never used our play yards to their fullest. Yeah, not so sure about taking it to the beach (have to walk through a 1/4 mile of sand just to get near the water) but I definitely made use of #7… a LOT (mom of triplets).
One of the play yards ended up in not the greatest shape so my neighbor actually bought it from us for their little dog. Strange people.
Rachel Norman says
Hahah that’s awesome, for their dog. Meanwhile I have a family member with a dog that needs a play yard…. Now we used it at the beach for our firstborn, but that was when it wasn’t a big trek from the car to the water!
Wow triplets! Were you trying to have multiples? Or did it happen without help? I’m fascinated by multiples. I’m considering fertility drugs to help my chances of multiples. Are they all the same sex? Congrats! Very lucky.
Hi Rachel! I love this post. It made me laugh since I had written a similar post on another baby item that could be used in so many different ways: http://www.babycantravel.com/2014/05/10/travel-with-baby-tip-aden-anais-blankets-are-a-great-multi-use-item/
(I hope that’s ok to share?)
It feels good to be able to reuse items! Especially since they are babies for such a short time.
Rachel Norman says
So happy you shared, going to check out now :)
I really surprise for seeing your outstanding reviews. Is it possible? When I read your post that this time I don’t know, but now, I know it. How to 8-way use a baby playpen. Thanks for sharing your incredible post. Stay keep to write another surprising post. I am waiting…
Our son loved his pack n play for naps! For #9, renting a pack n play or crib from Babyquip is a great alternative to lugging it around when traveling.
Shenaz kadri says
Hi Rachel, Amazing article. I never think that we can use a playpen with 8 different ways. I am Surprised. Thanks for sharing.
Jacquelyn | A Heavenly Home says
Haha! I realize now that we severely under-utilized our playpen with our older two. I would sometimes use it on our back patio when we sat outside in nice weather, but I never really used it inside. Now with our third… (third baby in 3.5 years!), I think we will be using it A LOT more as a safe place for the baby.
Mary Brice says
Really helpful information. I did not know all this before but your review really informative. I think age difference impact on using all this.
It is cool to learn these tips and make a nice play for baby. Thanks for your suggestion. I will recommend this to my friends.
Md.Mamunur Rashid says
Being a father I know the importance of using pack n play. But still, I was confused. But after reading this amazing article it’s clear to me that I should use it without any delay. Thanks for this beautiful and informative article.
Rachel Norman says
Great, you won’t regret it!
Lorie Anderson says
My son always loved hanging out in his pack n play. Sometimes he would cry if we took him out so we just let him play in there as much as he wanted. It was so funny!
Rachel Norman says
Awww, he loved his own play area :)
Great article! and realy useful read as i am currently researching on the different types of available playpens and how thay are used.