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The best indoor playpens: safeguarding playtime

Indoor playpen

If this is your first time thinking about buying an indoor playpen, you might feel a bit shifty, but you shouldn’t. While the word ‘pen’ might admittedly bring up unshakeable images of the livestock market, our babies tend to have no such qualms about being boxed in for a bit at home. After all, it keeps them safe and contained when you need a moment to do those essential things that can’t be achieved with a babe in arms, and gives them a sense of having a place that’s just theirs in which to play and snooze, or a vantage point from which to watch you attentively.

That said, for all the babies who love nothing more than a box to play in, there’s probably an equal number who will be quite outraged by the concept. The key to avoiding having a tiny Hulk on your hands may be to introduce a playpen to your baby early, before they get a handle on how fun it is to rampage all over the house. Either way, you should go for as large a playpen as your space allows for to maintain that sense of freedom. Then, when they have outgrown this minature play area, make sure you safeguard your house with the help of our guide to the best stair gates.

(Don’t) forget about the price tag

As with so many things, the larger the playpen, typically, the larger the outlay. If you’re on a tight budget or find yourself really pressed for space, you could use a travel cot as a makeshift indoor playpen (see the list of the best travel cots over on our sister publication T3 for inspiration), however you can find budget-friendly playpens for around £30, middling ones for about £20 more, and elaborate fortresses for somewhere around the £100 mark. The price will also largely depend on the material, with wooden indoor playpens usually costing the most and plastic or fabric-sided playpens tending more towards the cost-effective.

Types of playpen  

We think wooden playpens are far and away the prettiest options out there, and thanks to their sturdy natural material they tend to be built to last, however it goes without saying that attractive design is completely subjective, and that grown-up design is usually the first thing to go out the window when it comes to baby products. Enter the plastic playpen, which usually comes in bright colours appealing to babies (although who can say whether they’ll notice or not), is light enough to be moved at will, and can occasionally be moved around into different configurations for flexibility. Metal playpens sound a bit jail-y, but that usually means a sturdy metal frame with soft fabric sides, and they, too, are really built to last, ideal if you’re looking to hand them down.

Safety first

While it’s obviously far safer to corral them in a secure box for a bit than it is to give them free rein over the house, there are some things to keep in mind when it comes to using a playpen safely. Never leave them completely unattended unless it’s absolutely necessary and extremely quick, don’t leave anything in there that they could use as a step to climb out (cue The Great Escape theme), and make sure the playpen you choose has the BS EN 12227:1997 safety mark. 

Indoor playpen

1. MJmark Wooden PLAYPEN ATLAS UNO

A sturdily, beautifully built playpen that gives them room to roam

Specifications
Best for: Sturdiness and comfort
Material: Wood
Size: 120 x 70cm
Weight: 15kg
Reasons to buy
+High build quality+Sturdy, safe and spacious
Reasons to avoid
-Quite heavy 

This traditional wooden playpen might be devilishly handsome, with its simple design, natural wood finish and circular shape, but it’s got more to offer than just its looks. Made from solid birch, it’s engineered to be long-lasting and hard-wearing, and reviewers have attested to its sturdiness and build quality. One user commented that it was big enough to fit a set of twins and lots of toys to keep them occupied, others that the padded fabric base was lovely and comfy, and yet more that it was really simple to set up. And all-round winner in more ways that one. 

Indoor playpen

2. Summer Infant Pop 'N Play Playpen

This easy breezy playpen pops up in an instant and packs down small

Specifications
Best for: Portability
Material: Mesh
Size: 120 x 118 x 67cm
Weight: 5kg
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and easy up/down+Can be used indoors and outdoors
Reasons to avoid
-Base isn’t padded

This futuristic-looking playpen is extremely lightweight thanks to its plastic and mesh construction, folds down to an ultra-compact size into something resembling a yoga bag, and is incredibly easy to put up – all this goes into making it arguably the most hassle-free playpen on our list, and easily the most portable. Reviewers especially loved its near-instant pop up construction, and the mesh sides that allowed them to keep an eye on little ones while keeping them safely enclosed. The ultimate model also comes with a UV protective sun roof, so you might want to consider upgrading if you’re after a playpen to take outdoors when the weather improves, however this performs admirably as an indoor option. 

Indoor playpen

3. MCC Plastic Baby Playpen

This plastic playpen provides a stimulating, colourful environment

Specifications
Best for: Keeping them entertained
Material: Plastic
Size: 115 x 115 x 63cm
Weight: 9kg
Reasons to buy
+Stimulating play panel+Cheerful colour scheme
Reasons to avoid
-No mat included 

This adorable Technicolor playpen is covered in those primary colours that always catch baby’s eye, but the excitement doesn’t stop there. This is a playpen and activity centre in one, with an interactive play panel comprising balls for rolling, a slidey scene for spying, and a toy telephone for practicing those prank calls ahead of adolescence. While the plastic frame is lightweight, each panel and door comes with two rubbery, non-slip suction cups to keep everything where it should be, and there’s a dual-locking safety gate to outwit wily wee ‘uns. The only caveat is that there’s no play mat included, so you might want to invest in a separate one for extra padding.

Indoor playpen

4. Hauck Babypark 6 Sided Playpen

Flexible baby-proofing is a cinch with this transforming playpen

Specifications
Best for: Large area
Material: Plastic and metal
Size: 38 x 38 x 70cm
Weight:
Reasons to buy
+Use panels as playpen, divider and more+Large area to play in
Reasons to avoid
-Takes a while to set up 

The Huack Babypark is masterful at baby-proofing your house, and in more ways than the usual playpens can offer. As a playpen, it offers unlimited detachable sides (although the package itself comes with five, you’re welcome to add more) plus one door element so that you can tailor the size of the pen depending on where you are or how many tots are using it. The very clever bit is that, Transformer-like, it can also offer up its parts to be used as fireguards or stairgates, while the included soft mat can be used in or out of the pen. The only issue some reported was that it can take a little while to set up.

Indoor playpen

5. Babymoov Babyni Pop-Up 3-in-1 UV tent

Ideal for sunny days by the window or in the garden

Specifications
Best for: Indoor-outdoor use
Material: Mesh
Size: 38 x 38 x 70cm
Weight: 1.44kg
Reasons to buy
+Extremely lightweight+Easy to set up
Reasons to avoid
-Not quite as easy to pack down 

This lightweight igloo-like playpen comes with an anti-UV mesh covering for extra suitability in the great outdoors, but this can come in handy on an indoor playpen too, especially if your main room is a bit of a suntrap on warm days. The canopy can be pulled back for an open-top playpen, although this is better suited to smaller babies who haven’t quite figured out how to clamber, as the sides aren’t particularly high. When it’s more overcast, turn to the included tropical-themed soft toys for a little bit of sunshine and to keep them entertained. Reviewers loved its pop up design, although some did warn that it doesn’t go into the handy carry bag without a bit of muscle. 

Indoor playpen

6. BabyDan Large Wooden Playpen

The adjustable wooden playpen that’ll take your little one to new heights

Specifications
Best for: Longevity
Material: Wooden
Size: 100 x 100 x 74cm
Weight: 19kg
Reasons to buy
+Lockable wheels for easy movement+Adjustable height
Reasons to avoid
-Play mat sold separately 

The problem with this large wooden playpen, as with others like it, is that it’s on the heavier side compared with aluminium or plastic-framed playpens – but that’s where BabyDan have been very clever indeed and added lockable wheels, making it easy to move when it needs to and keeping it locked down when it counts. It doesn’t come with a soft play mat, so you may want to invest in one separately, but the sturdy wooden base is adjustable to three different heights, meaning it can be used by a larger range of ages, and adding longevity into the bargain.

Check out our other baby & child guides:

The best plastic & fabric moses baskets

The best baby bath tubs, toys, seats and accessories