Play yards are funny things. Like most baby gear, you don’t need one until you really need one … and I had reached the point when I really needed to corral my baby. Picking one isn’t easy, though. It seems like you always have to sacrifice something: portability, weight, size, complexity, comfort or dollars—we were surprised by how pricey these baby containment devices can be.
That’s why I’m so thrilled with the Summer Infant Pop ‘N Play Portable Play yard. It’s big and sturdy when it’s up, and it’s light and compact when it’s down—and swapping between the two is a breeze. Best of all, at just $80, it’s a great deal!
The Pop ‘N Play is ready to use right out of the box—no tools, parts or pieces, just one easy-to-open play yard and a carrying bag. It comes with a manual that has pictures and written instructions for setup and takedown, but honestly, getting it up and running is pretty self-explanatory. You simply take it out of its travel bag, pull it open, and clip each of the six legs into place. It took about two minutes straight out of the box, although now I have it down to 45 seconds flat.
Putting it away is just as easy; just unclip the strap holding each leg, push the play yard inward, and slide it into its bag. Voila! If you want to double-check your work, the instructions stay in a built-in pouch on the side of the play yard so they’re always easy to grab for a refresher. (Also, I should note that all this opening and closing does take two hands, but it’s so fast and easy I don’t mind in the least!)
One of my favorite aspects of the Pop ‘N Play is its portability. Our house is tall and narrow—there’s really no place for a permanent play yard or baby fences. Storage space is at a minimum, too. Plus, when we travel, I need something I can drag along without much hassle (or massive biceps). At just 12 pounds, the Pop ‘N Play is perfect! When it’s in its carrying case, it sort-of looks like an oversized yoga mat—surprisingly small for something that’s so large when it’s set up. When it’s open, the play yard is 14 square feet, 48 inches wide, and the walls are 26 inches tall. It’ll easily accommodate two or three boisterous babies. When playtime is over, the folded-up and bagged Pop ‘N Play slips away into a closet or my trunk with plenty of room to spare.
How does the Pop ‘N Play stack up in the looks department? Well, what you see is what you get: The walls are grey and black and the floor is lime green. The carrying bag is also grey with a black strap. There aren’t any other options, which is fine with me—I think it looks gender neutral, clean and modern.
It’s as practical as it is visually appealing. The Pop ‘N Play is made for indoor and outdoor use. The sides are mesh, which is great for visibility and to let a nice summer breeze through. The frame is metal and really sturdy, and the floor is a weather-resistant canvas. This is a nice feature for playtime outdoors, especially in the mornings when the grass is dewy. I imagine it’d be perfect for the beach! If the Pop ‘n Play gets wet or dirty, it’s entirely wipeable—the instructions say to use a mild detergent and warm water to wipe clean.
Here’s the scoop on comfort: I think it’s fine for play. If you’re letting your little one catch a quick nap in the Pop ‘N Play, it’s akin to sleeping on a tarp stretched across the floor—so whatever surface is underneath will provide the padding (or lack thereof). For indoor play on our wood floors, I have a foam baby mat I place in the bottom. No matter where we are, I usually lay down a quilt for good measure. But with or without the mommy-added padding, my little one happily stays put, which I think is the real measuring-stick of a good play yard.
The only thing I think the Pop ‘n Play is missing is sun protection for times when my wee one is playing outdoors. Summer Infant does offer a partial or full coverage sun canopy for the Pop ‘n Play; however, they both have to be purchased separately. They offer protection from UVA and UVB rays. Just attach one to the top edge of the play yard, and it folds to fit into the storage bag when you’re not using it.
We’ve only had the Pop ‘N Play a few short weeks, but it’s gotten a workout. It’s already seen a cross-country road trip, play dates, and plenty of use inside and out. Since it’s rated for kiddos 6 to 24 months, or 35 inches tall, I’m glad we’ll get to take advantage of its awesomeness long into the future. If you’re looking for a sturdy, portable play yard, then the Pop ‘N Play is a great buy!
To buy: summerinfant.com