How to choose the best playpen or play den?


Ultimate Play Pen Guide: Creating a Safe Haven for Your Little Explorers

Discover the Best Play Pens and Playards for Babies and Toddlers


How to choose the best playpen or play den?

     A play den can prove to be one of the most useful baby safety items. These small enclosures are designed to keep babies and toddlers safe inside or outside of the home. They are ideal for popping your baby in at a moment's notice, when the doorbell rings, the cooker calls, or quite simply as a safe and secure play zone for your baby. Play dens are particularly great for mischievous toddlers that find it impossible to stay still for even one moment, or for a crawling baby who has just discovered there’s a much bigger world out there to explore!  

     If you're looking for a playpen or play den for your little one, you've no doubt realised that a wide range of options are available. As with any baby safety product, you want to make sure that the play den you're choosing is safe and reliable for total peace of mind. That's why we've put together our expert advice for choosing the best playpen for your baby. In this guide, we'll cover all your most pressing questions to help you decide which playpen to buy.


Do I need a play den?  

     Choosing whether or not to buy a play den for your baby or toddler is a completely personal choice. For some parents, safety gates and room dividers provide enough security for their child to play safely at home without the need for a play den. Other families like the flexibility and freedom a play den or playpen provides, particularly lightweight fabric play dens that can be transferred from room to room with ease. Simply set it up in your room of choice, add some toys, and let your baby play in safety.  

     Playpens can be a convenient option if you need to leave your child playing safely while you attend to other tasks in the room. We recommend still giving them quality time to play and explore the home without the boundaries of a play den. Our babyproofing essentials and babyproofing guide will help you keep your home safe for inquisitive toddlers.  


What age is a playpen for? 

     A playpen is suitable once your child is able to sit and play independently. It's designed to keep their playing confined to one space, so there's no risk of them exploring unattended and potentially getting into trouble.  

     A baby is too old for a playpen once they are tall enough to attempt to climb out. Safetots play dens are perfect for children up to 24 months old, or children that are up to 30 pounds and 34 inches tall.  


The differences between a playpen and play den: 

     It's easy to assume that 'playpen' and 'play den' are interchangeable terms, but the two are slightly different. Here, we'll outline the differences between playpens and play dens, plus the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which is best for your family. 

What is a playpen? 

A playpen is a small enclosure that includes a frame and a base. The base is usually padded to help reduce the impact of falls. They also tend to be machine washable for easy cleaning after a particularly messy playtime.  

The only downside is that playpens come in fixed sizes and cannot be adjusted to suit different spaces. They can, however, be folded down and packed away, making them perfect to take on holiday or to the grandparents' house. You can find our top picks of the best playpens below. 

What is a play den? 

A play den is a similar configuration to a playpen but doesn't come with an integral base. This is because play dens can be altered to form different shapes and sizes with the addition of extension panels. Their adaptability makes them much more multi-functional than a standard playpen, as each panel can be transformed into a stair gate, fire guard, or room divider with the help of an applicable wall mounting kit

Without an integral base, your child will also be able to experience more of the world around them, such as different floor textures and grass if you're using your play den outside. If this sounds like the best option for you, make sure to take a look at our favourite play dens further down. 


How to choose a playpen or play den? 

     Choosing the best play den for you and your child will depend on how and where you intend to use it. You'll want to consider factors like the material, size, function, and cost, along with strength and security, to make sure you're choosing the best playpen for your needs.  


Safety should be of the utmost priority when deciding which is the best playpen for your baby or toddler. Make sure to choose one with safe and secure fastenings and hinges, no small parts, and one that can withstand the demands of playtime. Always look for a safety mark to ensure you're choosing the best playpen. The safest playpens will have been tested according to British or European safety standards. At Safetots, our playpens comply with the European Standard EN 12227:2010. 

If you're buying a slatted play den, make sure to check the spacing of the slats. They should be less than 6cm apart to prevent your baby getting their head caught between them. For mesh playpens, the holes in the mesh should be less than 0.6cm to prevent your little one from sticking their fingers or toes in them.  


Play dens can be made from solid metal or wooden bars or a foldable lightweight fabric. Each option has its own pros and cons.  

Fabric play dens are the lightweight, minimal option, ideal for taking with you on holiday, to the grandparents', or using as a comfortable option in the home. These playpens are strong and durable, and many also come with suction cups at the base of the frame to keep it in place on solid floors. As they're softer than wooden or metal options, they're also well suited to very young children.  

On the other hand, wooden or metal play dens are generally sturdier and more durable than fabric options. If your child is likely to pull or try to climb the play den, it's a good idea to opt for a sturdy material that will stay up with this kind of force. Wooden and metal play dens are also particularly popular for families with pets, as dogs may chew and damage a fabric frame.  


Size is another factor to consider when choosing the best playpen or play den for your child. You'll want to ensure that your little one has enough space to play comfortably, but you'll also need to bear the size of your room in mind. The best solution is to measure the size of your space and decide how much of it you'd realistically like taken up by a playpen or play den.  

If you're looking for a versatile option that you can move around the house, play dens that are made up of individual panels that connect together are one of the best baby safety investments. These can be made into any shape and size, making them one of the most versatile play dens you can purchase. Having more than one function ensures your play den can be put to full use, saving you money and storage space.  


There are many play dens on the market that are suited to different needs. Many fabric playpens are lightweight and portable, making them ideal for travelling. If you'll be taking your playpen on holiday or with you on a visit to the grandparents' house, then these more lightweight options are for you. You can find out more about our best foldable and portable playpens below. 

Alternatively, if you'll be using your play den in different rooms throughout the home, then you may want to opt for one that can be adjusted to suit any space. Play dens that are made up of individual panels that connect together are one of the best baby safety investments, and ultimately one of the most versatile play dens you can purchase. The matching panels come in a range of sizes enabling you to add and remove sections as you need to. Having more than one function ensures your play den can be put to full use, saving you money and storage. When you no longer need to use the play den, these options can also be converted to a stair gate, room divider, fire guard, or a pet den.  


How much a playpen costs can vary depending on a number of factors. Size is a major consideration with bigger playpens costing more than smaller versions. The material the playpen is made from can also contribute. Fabric playpens tend to be the most cost-effective solutions but are generally less secure. Metal and wooden play dens cost more but offer greater security. As with any safety product, you get what you pay for with a playpen or play den.  

While a second-hand play den may cost less, it's difficult to check the safety equipment for any signs of damage that could compromise the security of the frame. It may also be possible that the play den does not conform to the most recent safety standards, or the model could have been recalled in the past. For this reason, we'd always recommend buying new if you can, to ensure you're getting the safest model.  


Where to buy a playpen or playden? 

     Play dens and playpens can be bought from many large retailers and specialist baby supply stores. We always recommend shopping with a baby safety specialist, as they'll have the knowledge and experience to recommend the best playpen for your needs. Here at Safetots, we're experts in baby safety products and only stock the best brands on the market.  


The best playpens 

     The Safetots Deluxe Fabric playpens are made from strong and durable fabric yet provide a soft, comfortable play zone for infants. Being the lighter weight option compared to wooden and metal designs, these fabric play dens feature suction cups at the base of the playpen, ensuring the ultimate stability and safety if used on solid wood or tiled floor. There are no sharp edges with these fabric play dens either, so they provide the most comfortable and safest play zone, particularly for very young children.  

     If you want a play den that is simple and sturdy, contemporary in design, lightweight and portable, and takes up minimal space once packaged up, then the Safetots Deluxe Fabric Round Playden or the Safetots Deluxe Fabric Hexagon Playden are perfect solutions.  

     These fabric playpens are soft for ultimate comfort and can be wiped clean or thrown in the washing machine once play time is over.  


The best play dens 

     If the versatility of a play den is what you're after, a Safetots Play Den is a great option. These play dens are available in a range of sizes, from 0.5m2 through to 2m2. Extension panels are also available to make the play den even bigger or alter the shape of the play area. With both wooden and metal finishes in stock, you can choose the play den that complements your home best. 

     Each panel is easy to install, making adding and removing a breeze, whether you want to extend your play den or transform it into a stair gate. The secure door opens with a simple slide and lift mechanism for total convenience.  

     Also top of the list is the Safetots Play Den Hexagon, which is just as versatile as the standard Safetots Play Den and comes with all the extras, including removable panels and an easy-access, secure door. Its shape also offers a little more room than a square model but is more space-saving than a large or extra-large rectangular play den. Likewise, our Safetots Play Den Pentagon offers a more compact alternative to the hexagon, while still having plenty of room for your little one to play comfortably. 


How long to leave a baby in a playpen? 

     Playpens are intended to be used as a temporary solution while you need to attend to another quick task such as mopping the floor or answering the phone. A child should never be left for long periods of time unsupervised in a play den. For your child’s safety it is recommended that you check them frequently to ensure their well-being.  

     Make sure any toys and books are safe and avoid putting items into the play den that a child could potentially climb onto and hurt themselves. Be sure to take a look at our blog post on playpen safety for even more essential advice.  


A playpen is the perfect babyproofing solution for keeping your little one safe and sound while you're busy with other tasks. Here at Safetots, we offer an extensive range of play dens and playpens that are tested to British Safety Standards. These tips should help you choose the best baby playpen for your needs, so take a look today.  

For even more baby safety tips and advice, be sure to check out at our blog and knowledge hub. Here, you'll find more buyer's guides, like our guides to choosing the best stair gate and bed guard, to help you make the right decision.