Playard Vs. Crib: One or Both?

Debating between a playard vs. crib? Welcome! As a mom with a lively 3-year-old and an adorable 1-year-old boy, I understand the excitement and challenges that come with welcoming a new baby into the family.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to explore different baby gear, and today, I want to share my personal experience with you regarding one of the common questions new parents often have: Should you choose a playard or a crib, or perhaps both?

Having used both a Pack ‘n Play and cribs myself, I’ve come to appreciate the unique benefits each of these sleep and play spaces offers. So, let’s dive into the main differences between Pack ‘n Play vs. Crib and find out which baby crib option might be the best fit for your little one’s safe and comfortable sleep and play environment.

Graco Pack N Play
My Graco Pack N Play (Temporary Crib While We Waited For The New One!)

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Differences Between Playards Vs. Cribs

Playards (Pack ‘n Plays)

Graco playard changing table attachment
We Used Our Graco Playard Changing Table Every Day

A playard is most commonly referred to as a Pack ‘n Play. Despite the name, a playard is a portable crib that offers a safe place for your baby to sleep on the go.

While it was originally designed as a travel crib, playards have become increasingly popular crib options for a lot of parents due to their extra features. Playards are considered safe sleep spaces according to the AAP.

Note: A playard is different from a playpen. A playpen is a fenced-in play space using gates and is not meant for sleep.

Playards have a collapsible metal frame, breathable mesh sides, and a foldable mattress that doubles as a carrying case. Some playards also come with a travel bag to provide convenience while on the move.

baby standing in a playard (pack n' play). should you get or crib? just one both?
Should You Get A Playard Or Crib? Just One, Or Both?

Play Yard Features

Playards are becoming more and more well-known for their extra features. Here are a few things that you can look for when buying a playard:

  • Changing table and care station for added functionality.
  • Extra storage space to keep baby essentials organized.
  • A separate sleeping area for your little one’s comfort.
  • Options for a removable bassinet attachment or a fixed bassinet feature.
  • Sleeper/recliner attachment to keep your baby cozy and secure.
  • Bouncer attachment for some fun playtime.
  • Sound, vibration, and mobile lights to soothe your little one to sleep.

Pro-Tip: If you’re interested in a separate bassinet for room sharing with your newborn, I’ve got a full guide on finding the right bassinet for you. I also go in-depth in another article on Pack N’ Plays vs. Bassinets if you’re debating between the two.

Graco Pack N’ Play Dome Playard

Graco Pack N’ Play Newborn Seat With Vibration

This is the Pack N’ Play that I own. I LOVED it for the vibration feature. It soothed both of my children instantly when they were newborns. It also put them to sleep without fussing.

Cribs (Full-size and Mini Cribs)

Unlike portable playards, cribs are permanent structures. There are two types of cribs on the market: full-size cribs and mini cribs. If you want a closer look at which one might be better for you, check out my mini crib vs. crib article.

The difference between a Pack ‘n Play vs. a crib comes down to size and portability. Traditional standard cribs are not meant to be a portable option.

Regular Crib

Picture of Delta Children's crib in nursery with adjustable position height mattress
Full-Sized Crib in the Nursery

Full-sized cribs are a safe space for a newborn baby all the way through toddlerhood. In fact, my 3-year-old still loves his crib, and despite (mainly outside pressures) doesn’t want to transition to a bed yet!

A regular crib and crib mattress have standard sizes and are federally regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which ensures they meet safety standards. It also makes them a great option for convenience and choice. It’s easy to find a variety of mattresses, mattress protectors, and fitted sheets for full cribs.

Although full-size cribs are typically more expensive than a portable play yard, the good news is that many full-size cribs are convertible. Meaning they will grow with your child from the first year of life all the way through adulthood.

A convertible crib might also be called a combo crib, a 4-in-1 convertible crib, a 3-in-1 convertible crib, and even a 5 or 6-in-1 convertible crib. Keep in mind that standard cribs will require you to purchase a separate mattress (playards come with one included), and convertible cribs will require you to buy a conversion kit (usually a bed frame and rails). This makes the standard crib more of a long-term investment in a piece of furniture.

Delta Children Cribs

I have Delta Children cribs for both of my boys. They have held up well with no signs of wear and tear (despite my 3-year-old jumping in it every day!).

Sealy Toddler and Crib Mattresses

We have Sealy coil mattresses in both of our cribs. We tried their memory foam and found it too stiff.

Mini Cribs

Toddler sitting in Dream On Me portable mini crib
My Son on Vacation in Our Portable Mini Crib

Mini cribs are smaller than full-size cribs. Their dimensions are similar to a playard but not exactly the same. They are a better option if you are limited in space due to their compact size. Some mini cribs have extra features like being portable or convertible to twin beds.

Pro-Tip: Torn between a full-sized crib and mini crib? Be sure to read my article comparing the two: Mini Crib Vs. Crib: Differences and Sizes.

Dream On Me Portable Mini Crib

This is the portable mini crib that I own.

Dream On Me Portable Crib Breathable Mattress

Baby lying in a crib and baby standing in a pack n' play (playard). Pack 'N play vs crib. Should you get one or both?
Pack ‘N Play Vs. Crib: Should You get One Or Both?

Safety Considerations for Babies and Children

Safety is the most important thing when it comes to the right choice for a crib. Cribs and bassinets are heavily regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides guidelines for safe infant sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Be sure to check with the CPSC and AAP for updates on safety standards before purchasing your crib, mini crib, bassinet, playard, or anywhere else where your baby will sleep.

Safety Standards and Guidelines

The safety standards and guidelines for safe sleep places and practices continue to improve and evolve. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics before making any sleep purchases for your baby for the most up-to-date information.

The AAP recommends that your baby sleep alone, on their back, on a flat surface, with no positioners, covers, or bedding.

Once you’ve purchased your crib or playard, make sure to register your product with the manufacturer so they can alert you to potential recalls and hazards.

Features that Enhance Safety

Playards and cribs have safety measures and features.

Playards have breathable mesh slides for improved airflow and visibility.

Both playards and cribs will come with maximum weight (and sometimes height) requirements in the user manuals.

Some cribs also come with an adjustable mattress height to make it easier to get young babies in and out of the crib. Once your baby starts to show signs of moving (rolling, sitting up, standing, pushing onto hands and knees, etc.), it is time to stop swaddling and either put the bassinet away or lower the crib mattress.

Pros and Cons of Playards and Cribs

Playards (Pack ‘n Plays)

 Some of the advantages of playards are:

  • Portability makes them ideal for travel and smaller spaces.
  • Travel-friendly, allowing you to take them on trips.
  • Multifunctional with a changing station and storage areas for convenience.
  • Take up less space than a crib, suitable for smaller rooms.
  • Typically less expensive than a crib, making them a budget-friendly option.
  • A good option for a temporary sleep and play space for newborns and young babies.

Some of the disadvantages of playards are:

  • May not be suitable for long-term use due to thin mattresses/lightweight materials.
  • Lower weight limit compared to cribs, limiting usage as your baby grows.

Cribs (Full-size and Mini Cribs)

Some of the advantages of cribs are:

  • Comfortable mattress providing a cozy sleep environment.
  • Sturdy and durable construction for long-lasting use.
  • Potential for conversion into a toddler bed, extending usability.
  • Higher maximum limit for height and weight, accommodating older babies.
  • Come in different sizes to fit various nursery spaces.

Some of the disadvantages of cribs are:

  • May require more space, especially full-size cribs.
  • Not portable, limiting their use outside the nursery.

Flexibility and Multifunctionality

Another essential aspect to consider is the flexibility and multifunctionality of each option. Playards, as the name suggests, are not limited to just sleeping; they are versatile baby gear that can be used for play, diaper changes, and even as a temporary napping space during the day. Man

On the other hand, cribs primarily serve as safe sleep spaces. While they offer the potential for conversion into toddler beds or even full-sized beds, their main purpose is to provide a comfortable and secure sleep environment. Cribs can be complemented with separate changing tables or dressers for storage, but they lack the built-in functionality of playards.

Budget Considerations

Budget constraints often play a significant role in the decision-making process. Playards tend to be more affordable than cribs, making them an attractive choice for families on a tight budget. If you’re looking for a cost-effective sleep solution that offers portability and additional features, a playard might be the best choice for you temporarily.

However, if you have the budget for a higher initial investment, cribs can offer long-term value and potentially serve your child for many years to come. Additionally, convertible cribs that transform into toddler beds or full-sized beds eliminate the need for purchasing additional sleeping furniture as your child grows.

There are a few budget cribs and playards on the market. Their combined price (with mattress) is less than some of the fancier cribs or deluxe playards.

Dream On Me Convertible Crib

Dream On Me Breathable Mattress

Dream On Me Playard

Personal Preference and Lifestyle

Ultimately, the right choice between a playard and a crib will heavily depend on your personal preference and lifestyle.

Some parents may prefer the convenience and versatility of a playard, while others prioritize having a traditional crib in the nursery.

Your lifestyle and daily routines will also impact the decision; families who frequently travel or have limited nursery space may find a playard more suitable, while those who prioritize a dedicated sleep space in the nursery may opt for a crib.

Playard vs. Crib: Which One to Buy or Both?

If you are creating a baby registry (create a baby registry with Amazon and get some awesome freebies in the welcome box!), the short answer is that you should register for both. I personally own a Pack ‘n Play and cribs.

We kept the playard in the living room (downstairs). It served mostly as a changing table and storage solution but came in really handy during the newborn phase when my babies would nap anywhere. They could be in the bassinet in the playard while I was eating, cleaning, watching TV, etc.

A playard makes a great portable playpen when your baby starts to become more mobile.

As our kids are getting older, we use the playard all the time for travel. I would consider a playard a must-have for new moms, but a good crib is the best option long-term for the baby’s nursery.

Playard as a Great Option for New Parents

  1. Ideal solution for a safe play area and travel.
  2. Suitable for temporary use and flexibility in different ways.

Crib as the Best Choice for a Safe Sleep Space

  1. Ensuring a safe sleep environment for newborns and older babies.
  2. Long-term investment for young children, convertible cribs as they grow.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the decision between a playard and a crib ultimately depends on your specific needs and personal preference as a parent.

As a mom with firsthand experience, I’ve found that each option offers unique advantages. Playards, like the Graco Pack ‘n Play I own, have been invaluable for their portability and multifunctional features, making them ideal for travel and creating a safe play area in smaller spaces.

On the other hand, cribs, both full-size and mini cribs, provide a comfortable and sturdy sleep space that can grow with your child through various life stages.

While I highly recommend having both a playard and a crib for their respective benefits, if space or budget constraints come into play, prioritize investing in a good crib for your baby’s nursery.

Whichever path you choose, always prioritize safety by adhering to the latest guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure a safe environment for your little one. Happy parenting!

Jacqui headshot



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.