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Today’s Kids Play Yard Alternatives For 2024

When my oldest was a baby, everyone used play yards. Play yards were usually and still are, referred to as playpens. They didn’t just give them away as a safe sleeping option, parents invested in them to give their child a little area to play in. Today, that has all changed.

While some parents are opting for playpens, there are plenty of parents, my daughter included, that rarely use them, if ever. She says there’s just not enough room for a baby in there that loves to move around.

Upon researching this trend, I realized that today’s moms are using playpens less and less. That has resulted in quite a few alternatives that are actually better for kids. 

The Cons Of Using A Playpen

While there are plenty of forum comments and blogs stating that playpens are bad for children, there are not a lot of studies that specifically point to playpens being bad for children.

However, there are plenty of studies and research that can lead you to the conclusion that using a playpen too much can result in delays, especially when it comes to walking. There are a few other benefits to putting away the playpen. 

Children Don’t Move Around As Much

I was speaking with my daughter about this trend, and she told me of a child that was delayed in walking. No one taught him to stand up, so he didn’t develop the muscles in his legs like most other children his age do.

Instead, he simply sat in his playpen to play with toys. While this was convenient for the parents, it resulted in the child not learning how to walk when he should have. 

This might not be a problem with sporadic playpen use, but it can be if you use a playpen more than you let your little one enjoy the environment around them. 

Exploring Their Environment Is Good For Them

It’s great for children to explore the environment around them! They learn how things taste and smell. Children learn about different textures, and how to do things.

This helps aid in both their physical and cognitive development. It can even help with their emotional development. 


Children Aren’t Around Things They Aren’t Allowed To Have

When a child never has the opportunity to get into things, they never learn that they can’t have them. I’ve hardly child proofed with any of my children, with the exception of the kitchen.

Children are never allowed to play in the kitchen due to chemicals, people cooking, etc. They learned from an early age what they were, and were not, allowed to have.

When parents use a playpen consistently, children don’t have that same experience, which can cause significant problems later.

Because kids become accustomed to always being able to play with everything around them, they tend to get reckless when they aren’t in the playpen. They still think they can safely play with everything around them, and that isn’t the case. 

Are Playpens Always Bad For Kids?

While the above examples, such as delayed walking, can instantly make you wonder if you’re a bad mom for using a playpen, most parents shouldn’t worry too much. These are extreme examples.

Children should not be left in a playpen all day. Nor should they be left in a crib all day.

However, it can be nice to have somewhere safe to put the baby to run into the other room for a moment or jump in the shower real quick. If playpens seem a bit too cagey for you, there are some great alternatives on the market. 

The Best Playpen Alternatives

Some parents still don’t prefer them because space is limited. If your little one knows how to walk and crawl, they aren’t going to be doing a lot of that in a standard-sized playpen.

There simply isn’t enough room for them to do that. If you don’t want to purchase a play yard for your little one, these are some great alternatives. 

Baby Proof Their Room

Some people opt to create a Montessori room for their children. Others simply babyproof the entire room so that children can roam freely in their room. Either way, you can’t lose with this idea. 

Make sure that you pick up some baby gates that are designed to accommodate the doorways in their bedroom.

If you are using a room that isn’t designed to be a bedroom, like a living room, you might have larger doorways to deal with. Make sure that you measure the doorway to ensure that the baby gate will fit. 

You’ll also need to remove anything from the room that they aren’t allowed to play with, or that could harm them. For example, if you have a baby changing station in their room with diaper rash cream, you may want to consider moving it into the living room. 

Next, you’ll need to baby-proof the room completely. Pick up some outlet covers so your baby can’t stick anything in them. Remove potential hazards, such as a humidifier.

Make sure that dressers are securely bolted to the wall so that they cannot tip over. Once the room is hazard-free, you can simply sit your baby in their room to play!

If you’re planning on making a Montessori room, you’ll also need a floor bed. This is a technical name for a mattress on the floor. You can check out this blog for more details on how to create a Montessori room for your little one. 

Foam Bumper Set


Over at the forum on what to expect, one parent had a brilliant idea so that her baby had enough room to crawl, but was still a tad bit confined. This foam bumper set might not work well for older children that can push it over, but it will definitely work for babies. 

Large Baby Gate Style Enclosure

They have large plastic enclosures that offer the same confinement as a play yard but are significantly larger so your little one has plenty of room to run and play. Most of these also have attachments so you can make them as big as you would like!

We’re in the middle of trying to find one for the grandson now, and there are a lot of options out there. Unfortunately, they don’t sell them at our local stores, but we did find one on Amazon that we like so far. 

Use What You Have

If you need somewhere safe to put your baby in, consider using what you have. When you go to the bathroom, sit him in the bathtub. If you’re in the kitchen, put the baby in their high chair with a few baby snacks.

As you fold laundry, sit younger babies that can sit up in a clothing basket. This works wonderfully if you’re using an attachment parenting style! You can talk to your baby and have them with you the entire time no matter what you’re doing! 

Baby Gates That Screw Into The Wall

If you have an active baby and feel that the large plastic enclosures are caging them in, babyproofing a room and picking up a couple of baby gates is a great idea. Babies that can climb will eventually climb through the holes on some baby gates, so it’s best to go for ones that have vertical bars.

You also want to make sure that they screw into the wall. It doesn’t matter how much they hang on them, they won’t fall over. (My nephew was very active, and knew how to climb.)

They sell them in a variety of sizes and heights so you can find one that will work for your house. 

In Conclusion

While most moms that I have talked to don’t care for playpens due to the lack of space, there are some that simply don’t like the appearance. Whatever your reasons are for not wanting a play yard, there is a playpen alternative that is right for your family and parenting style.