Review: Graco Pack 'N Play Playard with Reversible Napper and Changer
Perfect for grandparents, fabulous for parents on the go
I'm a granny nanny, which means I have the joy and privilege of caring for my youngest grandchild a few days a week. We live in a one-bedroom apartment. There is no room for a nursery.
When I knew our little one would be spending a lot of time at our house, I dug in like crazy and researched the portable cribs on the market. The one I picked is the Graco Pack 'N Play you see above, with my sweet granddaughter sleeping peacefully.
Today you can buy one that has even more features and costs less than i paid for mine. I'll include a little information about that one too, so you can see why I'd love to be buying one today.
Ready? Here's my review, starting with the features I looked for and found in this portable crib/play yard.
Organic cotton is best for comfort when choosing sleep sacks to keep a little one warm. This sleep sack is all she needs most days, napping. Of course, I keep a long-sleeved shirt on her on cool days. The armholes on the sleep sack are generous and comfy with the shirt.
Most important feature: Baby's comfort
I wasn't sure a portable crib with a folding mattress could be comfortable enough for a wee one. But Graco has us covered. My sweetheart sleeps soundly, despite all the traffic noise outside our city apartment, for an hour and a half, up to three hours.
Before nap time, I tuck her into a warm, organic cotton sleep sack so she's all cozy and we don't have to worry about her little self getting tangled in blankets. She loves our quiet, cuddling time before naps. When we change into the sleep sack, she coos and smiles happily. We rock and read books and sing songs. Before you know it, she's sound asleep in my arms.
Sometimes I have to check on her because she hasn't moved for ages, but she's always breathing peacefully, almost always with a smile on her face.
With many models to choose from, which features interest you most in the Pack 'N Play?
During the colder months, I put two of these soft, organic cotton sheets on the crib mattress, for added softness and warmth. They are made for the Pack 'N Play, so fit perfectly, and you never have to worry about your baby being exposed to residual pesticides.
Second most important feature: Flexibility/Versatility
Not only does this crib grow with the baby, it comes with a changing table.
We don't have room for a separate changing table, and my arthritis makes it difficult to to get up and down from the floor or bend over the bed every time I change a nappy, so I was thrilled to find a Pack-N-Play that came with a changing table built in. No worries if your needs change. It's easy to remove and pack away.
Then there's the grow-with-baby feature. In the beginning, our grandbaby was tiny, and we needed a bassinet. When I bought mine, the mattress, raised to its highest level, served as the bassinet. Now you can get a Pack 'N Play for less than I paid that works a little differently.
In this newer model, the bassinet and changing table are reversible with the flick of a button and a wrist. I LOVE that! The bassinet side is all soft and cuddly. The changing side is smooth and easy to wipe clean. Boy, could I have used that. Sometimes I wished I had two available levels, one lower down, especially as she learned to sit up fairly early.
As our baby grew, we lowered the mattress to the second level, just as you can do with this one--low enough she couldn't possibly sit up and roll out, but high enough we could easily lay her down without waking her. That's especially important for a granny nanny like me, with a tricky back.
We bought organic cotton sheets that fit the mattress perfectly. It's quite easy to lift the mattress and change the sheets.
Freddie the Firefly has black and white patterns on one side, which researchers say help newborn brain development. The other side is more interactive and colorful, as you see here.
Third important feature: Safe play time in the play yard
In the photograph at the top of the page, you see the mattress lowered all the way to play-yard level. Boy is that handy when I need to answer the doorbell or start dinner!
We've added some toys for her to play with, like cloth-covered books that squeak and crinkle and Freddie the Firefly from Lamaze Play and Grow.
You might just be able to tell, in the photograph above, that we have this cute multi-tactile toy hanging in the crib. We're glad they spelled Freddie with an "ie" instead of a "y" so our little one can relate to the toy as feminine. She especially likes looking at herself in the mirror these days.
Another version of the multi-use play yard
In the video below, a mom-to-be sets up her just-purchased Graco Pack 'N Play Playyard with changing table and bassinet.
Her version comes with a separate small bassinet that sits beside the changing table. It also has a pocket for nappies and wipes, a small mobile and a music box with night light.
Watch a mom unpack a Graco play yard and set it up for the first time
Fourth most important feature: Portability
Now here is another place Graco shines with the new model. I think they heard some of us loud and clear when we complained in online reviews that the cribs we bought weren't as portable as we expected. I cannot easily pick up my model and haul it out the door.
This new model, though is simplicity in motion. You can see it in action in a short video--just click on the picture of the crib at the top of the page.
The mattress on this newer crib folds with the bed, so you can fold the entire unit up, drop it in its carrying case and stow it away, or be on your way, in minutes--exactly what busy parents on the go need.
With this new feature, you truly can pack and go as easily as snap, sack, go. What fun to take it to the park for a lazy afternoon of safe, fun play and a good place for a nap in the shade. And wouldn't it be great on vacation? No worries about bed bugs in hotels when you have your own crib.
Baby sign language makes communicating with baby so much easier. Quickly learn the signs for eat, more, play, ouch and how to signal where it hurts.
More features: Giggles galore with the musical mobile
Last but not least, there's all the fun our little one has in the crib. She LOVES the musical mobile! From the very beginning, that simple mobile with its three plain stars has mesmerized and entertained her, never failing to get her giggling infectiously.
Like many parents and grandparents, we employ Baby Sign Language to help our little one communicate. Staring intently at the mobile, she gives me the "more" sign every time I change her diaper or set her in the crib to play for a few minutes.
She loves the sweet music-box tune (Rock-a-bye Baby on ours), and she still loves watching the stars. Now that she's bigger, she reaches for them and catches them, laughing uproariously at her success. Of course, I watch her carefully, to assure she's safe.
The mobile on the new crib goes across from side to side, rather than leaning over it as mine does, and I like that much better because it is so much more secure.
Bonus feature I wish my version had
When I bought my Graco play-yard, I had to choose between a model that came with the bassinet and changing table or one that came with side pockets for diapers, wipes and such.
Graco heard us on that score too, because the newer models come with a pocket for all those goodies as well as the changing table and bassinet.
I heartily recommend the Graco Play-Yard with Bassinet and Changing Table. We've put ours through its paces, and I am still glad I chose it.
Do I wish it had all the features the new one has, especially since the new version costs less than I paid? You bet. If I were doing it all over again, this is the one I would pick.
What do you think? How would a Graco Play-Yard fit in your life or the life of someone you know with a wee one?
© 2013 Kathryn Grace