Playpen vs. Playard vs. Pack 'n Play: What's The Difference?

Does it sometimes feel like you have to learn a whole new vocabulary when you become a parent?



Jogger (nope, they’re not a pair of comfy pants).

Before you know it, you’ll be fluent in this new language, but until then you may be left scratching your head trying to figure out what all these words mean. And perhaps there’s nothing as confusing as the world of baby gear.

Take, for example, playpens, playards, and pack ‘n plays. They all sound similar—and they look pretty similar too. But while they’re all safe places to put your baby down to play, they are actually distinct types of gear with different uses.

What is a playpen?

What is a playpen? A playpen is an easy way to create a safe space for your baby or toddler to play in when you need to free up your arms. They are essentially a sturdy, mini fence that you can set up on a solid surface anywhere you like, indoors or out, to contain your baby. Playpens can be made out of plastic, wood, or metal, are easy to fold up and put away (although they’re rather bulky to store), and have walls that are high enough so your child can’t climb over the top. 

Playpens are a great place for your baby to practice sitting, rolling over, crawling and standing, and for playing independently: place a few books and sensory toys in the playpen for your baby to play with so they learn to entertain themselves. One thing they’re not made for is sleeping—playpens should only be used for playing.

For safety, you should never:

  • Place soft bedding, pillows, or a mattress in the playpen
  • Use string to tie toys to the sides of the playpen
  • Position the playpen near windows, especially windows with corded blinds
  • Leave your baby unsupervised

What is the difference between a playard vs a crib

Playard vs crib, what’s the difference? As stated above, playard are great for when your baby is engaging independent play but not for sleeping. This is the main difference between playards and cribs. Cribs also required a thick mattress that provides more cushion than the base of a playard.

What is a playard?

Like playpens, playards provide a safe place for your baby to play but are much more versatile. Playards have a sturdy frame, breathable mesh sides, and a base with a cushioned mattress. They usually fold up without any trouble and are easy to move from room to room. Most even come with a convenient storage case so you pack it up and take it with you for visits to grandma, on vacation, and other places that aren’t thoroughly babyproofed.

In addition to providing a safe place to keep your baby out of trouble, playards can be used as a nap space or travel crib, and some playards, like the 4moms®  Breeze® Plus, even come with attachments that transform them into a bassinet or a changing station.

For safety, you should NEVER:

  • Place soft bedding, pillows, or a mattress in the playard
  • Use the playard without the mattress or with a mattress from a different manufacturer
  • Leave toys in the playard while your baby sleeps
  • Leave your baby unattended

What’s a playard vs. a pack ‘n play?

What is a pack “n play? As you’re researching playards, you may come across the term pack ‘n play and wonder what the difference is between a playard vs pack n play. The terms are more or less interchangeable: A pack ‘n play is a collapsible playard that’s easy to fold down and pack up into a storage bag.

As you prepare for your baby, you may be wondering, “Do I really need a playard?” While it’s not an essential piece of baby gear like a crib or a car seat, for those times when you need a safe place to put your baby down or want an extra changing station in your home, a playard is a functional, versatile addition to your registry that will make caring for your baby so much easier.