How necessary is a play yard? You can certainly live without one. But a play yard can fill a need you may not know you have until you start using it. Of course, a play yard gives your baby a place to play. Some play yards have extras to amuse your baby, including a mobile, a detachable toy bar, or an entertainment center that features music, nature sounds, and/or dancing lights, some activated by remote control. As a portable changing station, some play yards come with a changing-table insert or an attached changing table that flips into position from the side and an organizer or built-in storage shelves for diapers and baby wipes. Although a full-sized crib is the safest place for your baby to doze, a play yard with a bassinet attachment can also double as a portable crib for home or travel for babies weighing 15 pounds or less. The latest versions offer a night light and a vibrating mattress pad (batteries not included).
Play-yard frames are typically made of metal tubing. Mesh on three or all four sides provides ventilation and allows you to keep an eye on your baby. Most models have hinges and lock buttons in the center of the top rails. To set up a play yard, you'll need to pull the top rails up so that they're locked, then push the floor down. To fold this design, you'll need to pull the floor up, and then raise the top rails slightly while pressing the release buttons to unlatch and collapse the top rails. When assembling your play yard, read the owner's manual carefully and keep it handy for future reference.
If it's going to function mostly as a playpen or you're on a tight budget, you can probably go with a basic model and skip the extras. A pair of lockable wheels or swivel casters on one end will make it easier to move from room to room. If you'll use it for travel, you'll want a play yard that's lightweight, folds quickly and compactly, and has a carrying case. You may even want to roll the packed unit. A carrying bag that allows the play yard's wheels to roll when it's packed is ideal.
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