One of the first things most moms register for is a pack and play (also referred to by many as play yards!) But what is a Pack and Play used for? There are tons of benefits to having a Pack and Play and I’ll be going through them today!
Parents typically equate a pack and play with sleep.
And it’s AWESOME to use for that purpose!
It is a perfect place for your baby to sleep if you’re wanting your
It can serve as an “all in one” spot for baby to sleep as a bassinet, many include an infant insert to easily have baby in reach for those late night nursing sessions.
It’s also great to use in those early days as a changing table spot too as many play yard models come with a changing station feature.
It’s amazingly useful when traveling with your baby and for maintaining the sleep schedule when visiting with friends or other relatives.
And it’s even awesome to use at the beach when needing a safe (relatively sand-free) spot for your baby to nap or rest.
Most people don’t consider the what a Pack and Play is used for beyond a spot to sleep.
Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links.
What Is Independent Playtime?
Independent playtime is exactly what the name suggests: it’s a time where your baby plays independently.
Meaning on their own.
Without any entertainment provided from mom, or dad, or siblings.
A time where baby learns to entertain themselves!
Want to learn more about independent playtime and how to get started? Be sure to read these posts:
When to Start Using a Pack and Play for Independent Playtime
I start practicing independent playtime with my babies when they are just a couple weeks old.
I will use an activity play mat in their room.
While they lay on the mat I will sit just beyond their line of sight.
I’m there, but they don’t see me.
This allows the beginning of independently playing!
I always set a timer and just start with a few minutes for play time (working my way to longer stretches of time as they age).
Once they get a little older, usually by three months old, I will move the activity mat inside the pack and play.
This way they are still laying on the mat where they are comfortable, able to gaze at their toys in the same way they were in their rooms, and it starts getting them adjusted to being in the pack and play.
As their attention span goes longer I will add in additional toys and books for this time!
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Why Use a Pack and Play and Not a Crib?
A commonly asked question is why I choose to use a pack and play instead of a crib for independent playtime.
I know many people who choose to use the crib for the baby to play during independent play time and that’s fine too, it’s a personal choice as to where to have this activity take place.
Personally? I want to minimize any confusion for my child.
I want them to associate their crib with sleeping and sleeping only.
As a Babywise mom, sleep is a top priority to me and something I value highly for my children.
I never use the crib for any sort of punishment nor do I use it for any sort of playtime either.
It’s a spot to sleep. Period.
As infants I want to make sure my babies PLAY and don’t SLEEP during their playtime.
If they fall asleep during that time period it will mess-up their sleep schedule that I’ve worked hard to establish!
Wanting to Know More About Sleep Scheduling? Read These Posts:
Pack and Play for Independent Playtime: Location is Everything
A huge benefit of using the pack n play for independent playtime is that the pack and play is easily portable.
It’s easy to have independent playtime in one location one day and then simply move the playpen and have independent playtime in a different place the next day.
For independent playtime to be successful it’s crucial that baby cannot see or hear anyone during that time period.
Hearing noises of the family cause the baby to feel like they are missing out and will lead to unsuccessful playtime.
Rather than playing happily, the baby will cry wanting to be part of the action!
Same goes for being able to see you. Even if you’re silently sitting on the couch reading…if you’re in the line of sight of your child they simply will want to get out and be with you rather than play!
While you want the play yard where your child can’t see or hear you, you also want it set up somewhere that you can check on your child too.
I keep ours in a corner of our dining room where I can sneak a peak around the corner to check on our kids without them seeing me – they just keep happily playing independently!
Truly any room can work for this set up – the kitchen, living room, anywhere that makes the most sense and allows for that seclusion!
I also educate my older children that when their younger sibling is playing in the playpen that they need to be quiet and have something to do.
Typically I have my older kids do their room time when younger siblings are in independent playtime – that way everyone is spending the same time playing on their own and Mama can do all the things without interruption!
The Pack and Play is a Safe Space
Pack and plays are safe for infants and children.
Not only are they safe by design but they are also safe by being able to be easily set up in safe areas.
When establishing your pack n play at the place baby will play on their own, it’s important to make sure it’s not located near any dangers.
Not near a window with blind cords or under shelving which could be climbed.
This is especially true as babies get older and start getting more adventurous, curious, and brave!
The playpen is also safer than using a bedroom as a place to play independently.
We have all seen the stories on social media about children pulling dressers down on themselves.
Bedrooms pose many hazards – electrical outlets, door stops, furniture, electronics, shelving, window treatments, etc.
By limiting your child’s play area to a confined space you’re also limiting potential safety issues.
This not only ensures your child’s safety but also your own peace of mind to be able to use independent playtime to your full advantage in getting things DONE!
Pack and Play Benefit: Mesh Sides
I love that a play playard has mesh siding.
The mesh sides of the pack n play allow moms to not only keep an eye on their little one with ease, but also allow for the child to see the world around them.
As infants visual stimulation alone is a wonderful playtime activity.
As children get older they feel content in the small confined space because they are able to see out.
No one likes feeling trapped and the mesh siding allows the smaller space to feel larger, and less restricting, for the child.
I prefer the mesh siding of the pack and play to the slats in portable playard type designs.
Slats allow space for kids to put things through and cause them to be upset when their favorite play toy is now outside of their reach.
Slats also are more likely to encourage climbing whereas the mesh siding of a pack and play makes it difficult for a one or two year old child to climb out and escape!
Pack and Plays are Spacious But Not Too Big Either
The size of a pack and play is so perfect for independent playtime.
Not only is it small enough to be easily transported and set up in a variety of locations, but it’s also a great size for playtime.
The mattress area where the child plays is large enough to fit a tub of toys without being so large that the child loses interest either.
I keep a couple of plastic containers with age appropriate, at safe (no choking hazards!), toys in them.
I cycle through offering different containers on different days and these items are ONLY used for independent playtime.
This keeps the toys fun, enticing and exciting while also not having any boredom!
With swapping out the tubs it keeps the interest going.
Another great place to establish a confined area for independent playtime is on a blanket, referred to by Babywise as blanket time.
Pack and Plays Make Clean up EASY
I love the convenience of the pack and play!
One of the benefits of establishing independent playtime with children is that it helps encourage them to clean up when they are finished.
When the timer goes off ending their independent playtime I always go in and cheer for them and start singing the clean up song.
Often the timer will go off and my kids will start cleaning up on their own before I even come in the room!
Using toy bins keep it easy to clean up and having the smaller size of the pack and play means less room to make a big mess.
I love that it also keeps those toys contained and means their bedrooms or playroom stay CLEAN and avoid being destroyed!
When to Stop Using Pack and Play for Independent Playtime
I use the pack n play for as long as possible with my kids for their independent playtime.
It can also be called “playpen time” even to shorten the phrase because my kids associate the playpen with their independent time!
In fact, I use it until my kids figure out how to climb out of it.
Once they escape, we transition independent playtime from the pack and play into their bedroom or our playroom.
I really, really avoid that transition for as long as I can because I worry about safety more in their bedrooms and also worry more about the rooms getting destroyed!
A toddler with free rein in a bedroom? Yeah it’ll be straight up chaos in there when that timer goes off!
By delaying room time for independent playtime it allows my children to get through that destructive toddler stage and be better able to rationalize and understand how to sit and play rather than just pull everything out and destroy!
All of my kids were between two and a half and three years old when they figured out how to climb out of the pack and play and had to transition to room time.
Pack and Play Purchasing Tips
When having a baby there are some items that are worth spending money on, a reliable video baby monitor? Worth every penny. A breast pump that gets the job done quickly and effectively? Spend that dough.
But a pack and play? It can be simple like this one.
Yes, many come with fancy bells and whistles but, in my opinion, it’s a baby item that is a must-have but no frills are needed.
I personally use a pack and play not only for independent playtime but also as a way to save costs on buying other baby items.
I don’t buy a Moses basket, a basinet or any other sleep spot for my babies – I use the pack and play anytime they aren’t sleeping in their crib.
I personally have never used the changing table attachment on the pack n plays that I’ve owned so it’s not a feature I highly value.
The weight limits for the newborn attachments that many pack and plays have is very limited with weight restrictions so I also don’t mess with that feature either.
When it comes to using the pack and play for sleep – you don’t want a bunch of distractions like attached mobiles or musical features.
And when it comes to using the playard for independent playtime? You can provide the “distractions” yourself.
As any mom can tell you – people love buying baby toys so your little one will have a plethora to choose from when it’s time to start independent playtime in the pack and play!