Play yards and play pens

Play yards or play pens are a safe place for your baby to play and nap. He can move about and you do not have to worry that he will get out.

Shopping tips


  • Buy a new play yard or play pen if at all possible. If you must buy a used one or are using one in a day care, make sure it was made in 2000 or later. Look for the manufacture date on the bottom of the play yard or on a tag.
  • Look for a sticker from JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association). The sticker tells you that the play yard or play pen at least meets voluntary safety standards.
  • Make sure the pad is no more than 1 inch thick. It should be firm and fit snugly. Do not use a pad that was designed for a different play yard.
  • Make sure the holes in the mesh sides are smaller than ¼ inch. Your baby’s fingers can get caught in larger holes.

Safety tips


  • Follow the directions for setting up the play yard or play pen. Check that all the latches and hinges are tight. Listen for them to click into place. Apply downward pressure to make sure they are truly locked.
  • Don’t throw the directions away. A baby-sitter or grandparent may not know how to open the play yard, and you want them to do it correctly.
  • Always keep the sides up when your baby is in the play yard or play pen.
  • Always keep your baby in view when she is in the play yard or play pen. Never leave her unattended.
  • Place the play yard or play pen out of reach of window-blind, curtain, or electrical cords.
  • Once your baby can stand up, remove toys that she could use to climb out.

More safety tips

  • Do not add blankets, soft bedding, padding, or extra mattresses. If it is cold, dress your baby warmly.
  • Do not place the play yard or play pen anywhere your baby will be exposed to heat or wind, such as near a stove, fireplace, campfire, or drafty window or door.
  • Do not put two babies in a play yard or play pen made for one baby.
  • Do not use a play yard or play pen that has broken latches, hinges, or rails, rivets that stick out, or tears in the mesh. Do not try to repair tears.

If you use the changing station

  • Always use the safety straps.
  • Keep your hand on your baby at all times.
  • Remove the station when your baby is in the play yard or play pen.

If you use the bassinet

  • Put your baby on his back to sleep.
  • Stop using the bassinet when your baby is 3 months, weighs 15 pounds, can roll over, or can pull herself up.

For more information, visit Babies & Kids on the Consumer Reports website.

June 2008

Copyright 2008, Consumers Union of United States, Inc. All rights reserved. No redistribution allowed.

Most common questions

What is the safest crib for my baby?

A full-size crib is best for your baby. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reviewing safety standards on cribs and urging parents to avoid drop-side cribs (cribs with sides that move up and down). Many of these kinds of cribs have been recalled. It's best to have a crib with sides that don't move. Other things to keep in mind:

  • Crib mattresses should be firm and tight-fitting. Otherwise, a baby may get trapped in the space between the mattress and the crib.
  • You shouldn't be able to put more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib frame.
  • Sheets should fit snugly.
  • Don’t use bumper guards on cribs because they pose a suffocation risk. Newborns and small infants aren't able to pull themselves free if they become stuck between the bumper pad and the side of the crib.
  • If you have a used crib, check the CPCS website to see if it's been recalled.
  • Make sure corner posts are less than 1/16 inch. Otherwise, clothing could get caught and your baby might strangle.
  • There shouldn't be more than 2 3/8 inches between crib slats so a baby's body cannot fit through.

What kind of car seat is safest for my baby?

If possible, buy a new car seat. That way, you're sure that it's never been in a car crash. If you're using a used car seat, be certain it is not more than 6 years old, has never been in a crash and hasn't been recalled (check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls).

Look for a model with a five-point harness (two shoulder straps, two leg straps and one crotch strap). It's the safest for baby. You can choose an infant-only seat, which is always used rear-facing. You can also choose a convertible seat. These start out rear-facing but can change to a front-facing seat when your baby gets bigger. Other tips:

  • Recline a rear-facing car safety seat at about 45 degrees or as directed by the instructions that came with the seat.
  • Get a free inspection to make sure the seat is installed right.
  • If you have a baby who is premature or has a low birthweight, look for a car safety seat with the shortest distance between the crotch strap and the seat back. Ideally, pick one with a crotch-to-seat back distance of 5 1/2 inches.
  • Pay close attention to the lower weight limit of the car seat. The typical car seat is only suited for newborns that weigh more than 5 pounds. Look for infant seats that can accommodate a baby who weighs 4 pounds or less. Some manufactures sell inserts to attach to a regular infant car seat for preemies or low-birthweight babies.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).