Playpens can provide a safe space for babies to play and peace of mind for the supervising adult. We’re not suggesting you leave your little one alone but no matter how hard you try, there comes a time when every parent needs to pee.
But while some babies are cool with their own company for a short space of time, some will see their playpen for what it is: a baby prison.
Before splashing your cash on something that may just wind up as storage for all your baby’s things but that your actual baby won’t entertain, check out our guide.
There's a huge variety of playpens on the market to suit a wide variety of tastes – both adult and child – and budgets. Here’s how to choose the best one for you.
How to choose the perfect playpen?
First and foremost, think about how much floor space you have. There’s no point buying something that doesn’t fit in your front room. If in doubt, go smaller than the surface area there is. You may have exactly three feet square of space available but remember that you’ll probably want the option of walking around the playpen.
How often will you use a playpen?
If your baby loves it, you could use it every day.
How much money should I spend on a playpen?
A basic model will set you back about £50. A fancy one can cost over £100.
Are playpens safe?
There are some basic tips to follow: firstly, only buy a playpen with the BS EN 12227:1997 safety mark. Don’t leave your child alone unless absolutely necessary. Keep the playpen clean; don’t leave it near an open fire or other heat source and don’t tie anything across the top as this is a strangulation hazard.
What are the best playpens to buy?
This is our pick of the bunch.
Best wooden playpen: Costway Baby Playpen Wooden Foldable Children Kids Child 12 Poles/bars Play Pens Room Divider Heavy Duty (6 panels), RRP £52.99 Amazon
This playpen is very easy on the eye and the neutral pine will blend in with any décor scheme. Or you could paint it whatever colour you like, using water-based paint. It’s sold as six separate panels so there are shape options from triangle to hexagon and it could also be used as a room divider.
Any downsides? It’s probably not the most exciting option from your baby’s point of view so you’ll need to add your own toys, baby mirrors, bells etc.
If you don’t have much space to play with, this portable playpen could be the one for you. It folds into a compact travel bag, which would be great for returning the living room to an adult space once wine o’clock ticks around. It’s got a weather resistant canvas floor and so can be used outside too.
Any downsides? There’s no door so you have to lift your infant over the sides, which might not be ideal if you're suffering from back pain.
If pink, blue, cheery orange and bright-as-butter yellow give you a headache, this is the playpen for you. It comes in soothing white with a detachable, sage green play mat. The hexagon shape is pretty cool too.
Any downsides? It’s not cheap. And white is extremely unforgiving when it comes to raisin stains.
OK, deep breath. This is the mother load. A 1.5 metre square fun palace featuring four anti-slip play mats and a fitted activity panel, plus it comes with 200 bright coloured balls to turn the playpen into a ball pit. Heck, we’d have hours of fun inside this one ourselves.
Any downsides? You need a lot of space to make full use of this. And it could be too reminiscent of soft play centres for some.
The classic. Babydan have been in business since 1967, so there’s a chance you may have played in one yourself. It’s simple in style but sturdy and can also be used as a room divider. It comes with a detachable, washable play mat in neutral grey.
Any downsides? You’ll need to add all the baby entertainment accruements yourself.
This basic model has a one handed locking system and translucent panels so you can keep an eye on your little one. It folds away for easy storage.
Any downsides? It looks a little clinical. And you’ll need to buy wall fixing attachments separately if you want to use it as a room divider.
Best playpen for outdoors: Babymoov Babyni Pop-Up 3-in-1 UV tent / Playpen /Activity Gym (Tropical), RRP £36.29, Amazon
If you’re hoping to spend lots of time outside, this playpen could be ideal. It protects from UV rays, wind and sand and comes with three toys. Plus it folds up into a very manageable, over-the-shoulder bag.
Any downsides? It’s only for the very little ones.
Surreal by name, surreal by nature, babies will be entranced by the wild colours, teddy bear shapes, and the activity panel this playpen offers.
Any downsides? You have to buy the balls separately.