• Very quick to assemble and disassemble
• Larger play space than other yards
• Mesh sides make baby easy to see and provide airflow
• Easy to clean
• Bottom is thin/unpadded
• Has a hard metal frame (concern for bumps/injury)
This large, easy-to-transport playard is best for babies that need more room to play—but you may need to add extra padding on the bottom and on the frame.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Ready to register? Shop our catalog for the Summer Infant Pop 'n Play Portable Playard.
As your growing baby is increasingly more mobile, it quickly becomes very clear that he or she isn’t going to remain safely and happily in one spot while you take a few minutes to get something else done. As baby transitions out of a swing or bouncer, the next step is a portable playard, which provides ample space for baby to explore—but is contained enough that you can easily keep track of your busy little mover. While other multifeatured playards are excellent solutions for sleepover nights at the grandparents’ and containing pre-crawlers, you’ll likely find that your child needs a little extra room to stretch out and move as he or she gets older.
Enter the Summer Infant Pop 'n Play Portable Playard, which offers 14 square feet compared with the approximate 6 feet you get from a typical Pack n’ Play. The hexagonal shape of the Summer Infant playard actually has an essential purpose—the six sides, coupled with the lightweight metal frame, make the product sturdy and nearly impossible for your child to tip or topple over. The drawback of that sturdy frame, however, is a potential bumping hazard. Unsteady babies just learning to sit and stand up may fall against the support bars. We used this playard with careful, direct supervision only until our daughter was strong enough to easily sit up and eventually stand with minimal support.
The sides of the playard are made of a breathable nylon mesh, which, like the frame, has an important purpose: It enables air to easily flow through the product and for you to clearly see baby. The drawback to the design: If the mesh isn’t periodically tightened with the straps on the sides, the walls can get a bit looser and saggier over time, potentially making it easier for very agile babies to climb over them. At 10 months, our daughter Madelyn has never come close to climbing the sides of the product, but older children may figure a way to get over the walls (and potentially hurt themselves).
I was surprised to find that the bottom of the playard was only as thick as a single piece of nylon (imagine the fabric of a very basic tent), but we created some cushioning by placing the product on top of a set of foam floor tiles. ( Ed Note: Another Summer Infant offering, the Pop 'n Play Deluxe Ultimate Playard, does have more of a padded floor for those worried about cushioning.) While I didn’t find it necessary to pad the bars, I’ve read about other moms covering the bars with the same foam used to cover small pipes (available at places like Lowe’s).
We’ve yet to transport the playard from place to place (it weighs 12 pounds, has a water-resistant floor and is billed as a product you can take to the beach or the park), but closing and toting the product in the nylon bag it comes with would be a fairly easy—if somewhat bulky—undertaking. For the reasons mentioned above, I would strongly warn against trusting the product entirely to keep small children away from hazards like pools, roads, vehicles and so on. You’ll want to always use the product with adult supervision, especially outside of a childproofed home.
Setting up the product for the first time took just a few minutes. The playard expands to its full open position with a single swift motion (almost like an upside-down umbrella). We took a few minutes to tighten the sides at each of the six points at the base, which made the mesh walls taut and more supportive.
Despite the need to pad the floor of the product, I’ve found this playard to be an absolute essential in my household. I couldn’t get through my morning routine or through a load of laundry without putting my daughter inside of it. (Madelyn can crawl away and find the nearest hazardous item in record time.) There’s plenty of room for Madelyn and tons of toys inside the playard—plus plenty of space to spare for a friend or two to join her. The product is the ideal size for our apartment; large enough for her to use for at least a year or two, but small enough that it doesn’t overwhelm our space (it’s 48 inches wide and 26 inches high). It’s easy to clean and disinfect using a damp cloth and the cleaning product of your choice.
This playard is designed primarily for function, not aesthetics. That said, there are plenty of less attractive, bulky, plasticky-looking options on the market—this model is very streamlined, and the dark gray, black and green colors aren’t too “precious” the way some baby-oriented patterns can be. While the colors don’t exactly add to our current living room décor, its quick-close design means we can easily put the playard away when guests come over.
If your baby has outgrown a swing, bouncer and even their Pack ‘n Play, upgrade their square footage by setting up this large, portable playard. The larger footprint (14 square feet) gives babies ample room to move, stretch and play with their toys while parents and caregivers focus on other tasks nearby. Just keep in mind that you may want to wait until your child is a steady sitter to use the product, as the metal frame could cause bumps.
Amanda Pressner Kreuser is co-founder of Masthead Media Company. Previously she served as an editor at Shape, Self and Men's Fitness and co-authored the book The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Journey Around the World.