Best Baby Playpens for Crawling Babies and Toddlers

Let me guess: you’re looking for the best baby playpen because your sweet little bump-on-a-log has started rolling, crawling, or walking, and now you’re panicking about finding a safe environment for them to play in. 

I have been there! 

I have gone through several iterations of playpens for my two toddlers over the years, and I can tell you which ones I used and my top picks for specific needs (like small spaces, outdoor use, and more). 

Baby standing at gate of playpen with toys in the background.

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What is a Playpen? 

A playpen is a gated area for a baby, child, or toddler to play. Although you can use a Pack n’ Play (also called a playard) as a playpen, these won’t be the focus of this article. 

Pro Tip: Introduce a playpen to your baby early so they get used to playing independently in an enclosed space. Use it for tummy time and floor time in the early months. Avoid tears and protest later on.

Safety First 

I’m guessing your primary goal for your playpen is to make a safe place for your child to play. A playpen is a great alternative to gates to protect babies from stairs and unsafe places in your house. 

Just make sure that the playpen itself is safe! Here are a few things to look for, although you might need additional safety features depending on your specific use: 

  • Breathable mesh sides (or made of breathable material) 
  • Safety lock (to prevent unwanted escapes)
  • No sharp corners or sharp edges 
  • Height and weight limit 

Before purchasing your playpen, check that it meets safety standards and does not have any recalls by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and check out ASTM and JPMS to ensure it meets requirements for babies and toddlers. 

Note: If your child will be sleeping in the playpen (for naps or travel), it must follow all of the safety regulations for bassinets, cribs, or Pack n’ Plays. A safe sleep space is a flat, empty surface with a tight-fitted sheet. You must remove any toys, loose bedding, or pillows before putting your baby down to sleep.

Playpen Features and Considerations 

Before buying your playpen, you’ll want to consider some of the main features that playpens have to offer: 

  • Indoor and outdoor use: Are you going to use it indoors, outdoors, or both? 
  • Portable vs. stationary: Will you travel with it or keep it in one place? 
  • Expandable or not: Do you want to be able to add or remove extra panels to adjust the size? 
  • Convertible or not: Do you want also to use the playpen as a gate? 
  • Size: How big is your space? 
  • Customizable configuration: Do you want to be able to set up your playpen in different shapes (rectangle, square, octagon, etc.) 
  • Frame: Do you prefer wooden, plastic, or metal playpen frames? 

You should also think about some of these extra features

  • Ease of use & ease of assembly 
  • Easy storage 
  • Included travel bag or carry bag 
  • Play mat or padded floor 
  • Gated entry
  • Changing table for quick diaper changes 
  • Suction cups (to keep it from sliding on non-carpeted floors)
The best playpens for large spaces and open concept, small spacs, travel and outdoors, multipurpose. By Mommy Maker Teacher.

Why I Chose the Playpens I Chose 

At my house, we have used 3 types of playpen and a Pack n’ Play:

1. Regalo Extra Wide Baby Gate

With my first, we used the extra-wide baby gate to close off our living room. This allowed us to baby-proof the entire living room and give him free rein. We liked that the gate could convert to a playpen, although we never used it that way. 

Baby standing in front of Regalo Extra Wide baby gate.

Key Features:

  • 16 feet wide
  • Optional additional panels
  • It can be configured as a gate or playpen
  • Gated entry with child lock
  • Wall mounting kit included
  • The shape can be customized
Best Extra Wide Gate
Regalo 192-Inch Super Wide Adjustable Baby Gate and Play Yard
$109.99 $89.99
With eight customizable panels, stretching 16 feet, this extra wide baby gate was the only one to fit in our open-concept living room. Easily take it off the wall and transform it into a playpen.
02/23/2024 02:57 pm GMT

2. Mult-Panel Playpen

When my second was born, we wanted him to have a safe space separate from where our toddler played. Although we *loved* this play pen and its features, it was ultimately too big for our space, and we returned it for the Toddleroo playpen. 

Baby playing with interactive panels on an 18 panel hard plastic playpen.

Key Features:

  • 18 panels
  • Foldable design
  • Heavy-duty plastic
  • Gated entry with child lock on the outside (to prevent escapes!)
  • Suction cups to prevent slipping on non-carpeted surfaces
  • Interactive activities on the panels
Most Fun For Kids
Albott Baby 18 Panel Playpen
$169.99
Your baby will love the built-in interactive panels and fun colors. There are limitless combinations for these panels to create the perfect size playpen for any size space.
02/23/2024 03:02 pm GMT

3. Toddleroo Playpen

We purchased this playpen as a replacement for the Costway Playpen. It was smaller, but you can add and remove panels to customize the size. As our second child got older, we purchased the wall mount to convert this to an extra-wide gate, creating a larger play space. 

Baby playing inside Toddleroo playpen.

Key Features:

  • Large play area: 6.5 feet width (corner to corner)
  • 8 Extra tall panels 26″
  • Easily assembled (no tools or connectors)
  • Customizable and repositionable
  • Foldable
  • Carry strap
  • Anti-slip pads for non-carpeted surfaces
  • It can be used as a gate with a separate wall mount
  • You can purchase additional panels and gate
  • You can purchase a soft playmat for additional protection
Toddleroo System
Toddleroo 8 Panel Free Standing Play Yard
$109.99 $89.99

This indoor-outdoor made in the USA playpen was perfect for our needs. We used it as a smaller playpen (took out two panels) for our baby. Then expanded it when he got a little older. Finally, we used it as an extra-wide gate to block off half of the living room for even more space once he crawled. I wish we had known about the add-on door for when we used it as a gate! See details below.

02/23/2024 03:07 pm GMT
Toddleroo System
Toddleroo 2 Panel Extension
$47.99

I wish I had known about this door expansion for the Toddleroo playpen!  The additional made-in-the-USA panels add 64" of length to your gate or playpen (increasing it by 34 additional square feet!). If you're considering using this as a gate in the future, the door is a must-have!

Pro Tip: You can buy the original playpen with a gate (but it is smaller with only 6 panels) or this expansion.

02/23/2024 03:22 pm GMT
Toddleroo System
Toddleroo Superyard Wall Mount Kit
$18.67

Use this made-in-the-USA wall mount hardware kit to convert your Toddleroo playpen to an extra wide barrier. You can buy a door (sold separately) for convenient access.

02/23/2024 03:12 pm GMT
Toddleroo System
Toddleroo Foldable ABC Padded Play Mat
$73.99 $69.97

This giant 71" by 71" foldable play mat fits perfectly with the Toddleroo system. It is made of foam but covered with a waterproof barrier, making it great for outdoor use. We used our Toddleroo gate on a carpeted surface indoors, so we didn't buy the playmat, but this is an awesome add-on if you have hardwood or tile floors to offer your baby some extra protection.

02/23/2024 03:16 pm GMT
Toddleroo System
Toddleroo 6 Panel Play Yard
$92.99 $86.99

Grab this smaller version of the Toddleroo original playpen and get the door as a bonus! This indoor/outdoor playpen features 6 made-in-the-USA panels that are 26" tall and create a play area that's 5.5" in diameter.

Looking for a larger surface? Buy the 8-panel original playpen and grab the expansion set with a door!

02/23/2024 03:27 pm GMT

4. Graco Pack n’ Play

This Pack n’ Play is worth its weight in gold! We use it as a playpen when we’re traveling or going outside. We also use it as a safe sleep space for our children for naps and when we aren’t at home. A Pack n’ Play is a must-have baby item! 

Although they no longer sell my specific model, I found this one with all the same features but a bonus travel dome.

Pack n' Play with toys being used as a playpen.
Pack n’ Play being used as a playpen. Toys were removed for sleeping.

Key Features:

  • Folding travel dome with carrying case and UV 50 sun shade to take on the go indoors or out
  • Provides a safe sleep space for children
  • Raised off the ground for protection outdoors
  • Breathable mesh sides
  • Sturdy mattress base
  • Bassinet attachment (when baby outgrows travel dome)
  • Changing table attachment with storage caddy
  • Folds down and packs away in a carrying case

Other Playpens We Considered

I considered other baby playpens and researched them heavily (or relied on recommendations from family and friends). Ultimately, we went with the above choices to best suit our needs, but I’ll highlight other top contenders. 

Smaller With Gate
Toddleroo 6 Panel Play Yard
$92.99 $86.99

Grab this smaller version of the Toddleroo original playpen and get the door as a bonus! This indoor/outdoor playpen features 6 made-in-the-USA panels that are 26" tall and create a play area that's 5.5" in diameter.

Looking for a larger surface? Buy the 8-panel original playpen and grab the expansion set with a door!

02/23/2024 03:27 pm GMT
All In One Design
Extra Large Kids Activity Center 79"x59"
$109.89 $93.41

This playpen was a top contender, but ultimately, we decided to go with the Toddleroo system, which was more customizable.

Features that I liked:

  • Extra large play area (26 square feet of play space)
  • Tall sides (26.5")
  • Mesh panels
  • Travel bag included
  • Folding anti-slip play mat included
  • Foam-covered stainless steel frame
  • Included hand-holds and toy bag
02/23/2024 03:37 pm GMT
Best for Outdoors and Travel
POP 'N GO Premium Indoor and Outdoor Baby Playpen
$169.99 $149.99

Developed by two parents on a mission to create a simple, portable playpen.

Top Features:

  • Carrying case
  • Multiple colors
  • Lightweight
  • Stakes (for outdoor safety)
  • UV 50 full canopy
  • Pop-up design (no assembly!)
  • Mesh panels and roof to protect from bugs
  • Big enough for an adult
02/23/2024 03:37 pm GMT
Best for Small Spaces
Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard Lite
$81.10

This cute little play yard made the list for its easy-to-use, compact design with unique features (that you usually only get with the big ones!).

What I love:

  • From corner to corner, it is 48" wide (spacious enough for a baby or toddler but doesn't take up the whole room).
  • 27" tall sides
  • Floor is padded
  • Quick-fold no assembly required design
  • It can be used indoors or outdoors
  • UV 50 sunshade
  • Touch-screen pouch for electronic devices
  • Travel bag
02/23/2024 03:42 pm GMT

Key Takeaways

  • If you want to close off a large area, consider an extra-wide baby gate that can also serve as a playpen.
  • If you want to set up a dedicated play area for your toddler with a large play area, consider a large playpen like the multi-panel playpen.
  • If you’re traveling with your playpen, a Pack n’ Play is my top choice, followed by the Pop N’ Go portable playpen.
  • The Evenflo P is an excellent choice for a smaller space.
  • Whichever baby playpen you go with, do thorough research to ensure it’s the perfect fit for your baby’s safety and your family’s needs. 
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Jacqui

Author

Hi, I'm Jacqui, founder of Mommy Maker Teacher and mom of two toddlers. With a degree in education, 12+ years of experience as a K-12 teacher and curriculum developer, and courses in childhood psychology and language acquisition, I share research-backed parenting tips and advice. I provide helpful content for moms on all stages of motherhood - from trying to conceive and pregnancy to postpartum, breastfeeding, and parenting.