No matter our age, we all have our own space that’s *just* for us. We may not love being in there as much as we’re forced to be, but we make the best of it.
For example, adults may consider their office cubicle a sacred space. (Or maybe it’s the car that’s your sacred space … because you’re escaping from the cubicle.)
Pre-teens and teen-agers consider their bedrooms a special space. And as parents, we are willing to let them have it to themselves, because we’re terrified to go in there.
For babies and toddlers, the toddler playpen is their space … because parents say it is. (Enjoy that power now, because it’s only going to last a few more years.) The kids may scream bloody murder when you initially place them in the play yard toddler space, but they’ll eventually calm down and find a way to entertain themselves.
As parents, we can feel at ease knowing that they’re safe in there, rather than roaming freely through the house, jamming forks into outlets and trying to climb every unstable piece of furniture. Inside the playpen, the toddler thankfully has to put its constant effort to injure itself on hold. And mom and dad, you may even get a quick break.
If you find the little smiling characters on most of the play yard toddler options to be more scary than soothing, you’ll appreciate this basic portable play yard. No smiling clouds. No grinning kitties. No laughing whatever-that-character-is-supposed-to-be. It’s a nice change of pace. This unit is smaller than most with 18.5 square feet of enclosed space, but this enhances its portability.
When you need an outdoor toddler playpen, this Regalo model ships with a full canopy to keep the sun off the toddlers. The sides consist of a tough mesh that allows airflow. And the bottom layer is a nylon that keeps dirt and sand away. It’s almost like a bubble of protection for the toddlers … and God knows they need it.
When you need to create a makeshift play yard for a toddler in an odd shaped room, this eight-panel gate does the trick. It even has a door for access for the parents. It also works as a 17-foot safety gate if needed. When you install this properly, you’ll finally feel like you’re outsmarting the toddler. (The feeling won’t last long, but at least you’ll always have your memories.)
When you want a bit more coverage area in a portable play yard for a toddler, this model is a smart choice. It has 34.4 square feet of enclosed space, yet the eight panels consist of a thin, lightweight plastic that’s easy to fold up and carry with you anywhere. (Because it’s thin plastic, we’re pretty sure a determined toddler with some tools could find a way to break out of the enclosure, so you may want to pat the kids down and confiscate any contraband before they go inside.)
When you have a neighbor who always likes to rudely comment on your parenting techniques, we’d suggest hiding this toddler playpen in the house where the neighbors can’t see. It works well, and it looks nice, but the design in the plastic panels looks a bit like jail cell bars (if you look past the smiling bears, of course). The last thing you want to do is give the nosy neighbor an opening, so she can ask if you feel good about placing your baby inside kiddie jail. (Better yet, take this play yard outdoors, sugar the kid up, and let her go nuts inside with every loud toy you own. You might as well earn the disapproving looks.)
We like this play yard design because of the versatility of the 12 panels. You can create some odd shaped enclosures when needed. And the kids will love the smiling bear face on every panel. Front and back. Every panel. That’s 24 smiling bear heads that we’re pretty sure we’re going to see in our nightmares tonight.
This toddler play yard is limited to 25 enclosed square feet, but if you don’t need something huge and hate the way other play yards assemble, you’ll appreciate the smartly designed buckles that connect to each panel with this model. It also has rubber feet on the bottom of the panels to keep it anchored when the toddler tries to escape by running through the playard wall Kool-Aid Man-style. Oh yeah!
If you’ve had it with all of the pastels that dominate baby clothing, toys, play yards, and everything else, this Safe Zone toddler playpen is the answer. It’s mostly gray and black with bold accent colors. Added bonus: If — who are we kidding? — when the toddler smears some sort of goo on the panels, it will hardly be noticed.
This 14-panel play yard toddler design works in a square or circle shape, and it’s available in a few different color patterns. But if you plan to use it inside, we do have to caution that one panel has a small soccer ball net in it. Sure, it’s great that the kid can do a little physical exercise while inside the toddler playpen. But if you think this 23-inch height wall is going to stop the kid from kicking the soccer ball over the top and destroying the most expensive item you have nearby, you’ve never spent time with a toddler.
We really like the design of this play yard. It’s sturdy, and it has a couple of activity panels on the inside, including one with a whiteboard. Now, you’ll notice the photograph of this product shows a cute toddler kneeling on a cream-colored rug, wearing a cream-colored sweater, drawing on the whiteboard … and holding one marker with several others nearby. We realize this photo captures a moment in time. And we also realize in another 36 seconds, this unsupervised child will have drawn on the whiteboard, the sweater, the rug, and probably five other things.
This 16-panel play yard has plenty of items to keep kids entertained, with cutouts of stars and circles, brightly colored panels, a hoop, sliding beads, and more. Admittedly, it’s probably not the best place for the kid when it’s nap time. (Heck, we’re almost feeling overstimulated just looking at the photograph.) But we’re confident they’ll never be bored when they’re inside.
Every parent loves toys where the toddler pushes a button over and over, and the toy plays some tune that’s stuck in your head for the next 12 hours. So here’s some great news: This 18-panel play yard for toddlers has a push button music box. #losingmymind Because we do like that the large number of panels in this unit allows you to set up any shape you want, we’ll put up with the repetitive tune (and we’ll keep a pair of ear plugs handy).
When you want the biggest and sturdiest play yard toddler product, this Buckland model is tough to beat. It’s easy to assemble, it stays in place against the the typical rough toddler treatment, and its wall is a little taller than some others. Plus there’s no excessively happy character artwork imprinted on it. (We hope the toddler can somehow manage to stay happy inside without having dozens of smiling characters staring at him or her.)