Most play yards are made with soft mesh sides and are primarily designed for indoor use. While they can certainly be used outdoors on a nice dry day, some play yards are constructed of metal or hard plastic to provide a safe, enclosed play area indoors or out. This style holds up better to the rough play of older toddlers, and it can give caregivers peace of mind during outdoor play time with young children. Parents don't need to worry about getting caught in the rain or the inevitable dirt that is bound to find its way onto the play yard; the plastic or metal materials used for outdoor play yards is easily cleaned.
While these indoor/outdoor play yards don't include bassinets, changing-table attachments, mobiles or other features typical of traditional playpens, they do offer an added bonus: Many indoor/outdoor play yards can be mounted to the wall using hardware, used to block off a portion of a room that isn't safe for a baby or toddler, or used to enclose a Christmas tree to keep ornaments safe from investigative toddlers, similar to some baby safety gates. (If you're looking for gates that can be used to block off doorways or entrances to a room, check out our report on baby safety gates.) In addition, indoor/outdoor play yards have higher recommended age limits, so they can be used with older toddlers as well.
One product, the North States Industries Super Yard XT (*Est. $70) features six interlocking plastic panels that connect in a hexagonal shape to create 18.5 square feet of safe play area. An optional extension kit (*Est. $35) is available that expands the play area to 34 square feet. Made of weather-resistant plastic, it features a convenient carrying strap for portability and folds flat for easy storage. At 26 inches tall, parents can choose to step over it or use one panel as a door by unlatching it and swinging it open.
Over 1,100 reviewers on Walmart.com give the Super Yard XT an average rating of 4.5 stars out of five. Most owners love the convenience of being able to put a child in a safe play area; some consider the amount of space offered by standard play yards to be too small. Many mention using this play yard for pets, which could allow this play yard to get use even after all your children are grown. Several reviewers note that they've used it to block off certain areas, such as a fireplace. Reviewers say this play yard is very sturdy, and they love the fact that it comes assembled in the box, making setup extremely easy. Many others feel its price is very affordable for the convenience it offers.
Several reviewers also caution that toddlers can slide the yard across a smooth floor. If you have hardwood or laminate flooring, you may want to place a play mat, carpet segment or sheet under the area to make it harder for your child to move the playpen.
North States Industries also makes a metal version of the Super Yard: The The 3-in-1 Metal Super Yard (*Est. $170). This product features a swinging walk-through panel and it has rubber pads on the bottom, so it won't scratch floors. This play yard, like the Super Yard XT, has six panels, but it sits 30 inches tall and encloses only 10 square feet of play area. A two-panel extension kit (*Est. $65) is available for this model as well, which extends the play area to 19 square feet. Unlike the Super Yard XT, this playpen includes hardware to allow panels to be mounted to the wall for creating a barrier or use like a baby safety gate. Several panels can also be used together to create an extra-wide barrier; it can even be mounted with an angle to partition off a corner of a room. While there aren't as many reviews available for this model, the feedback that does exist is equally as positive as the Super Yard XT's; it has a perfect five-star rating on both ToysRUs.com and Walmart.com, based on about 50 reviews on each site.
While the 3-in-1 is considerably more expensive than the plastic version, reviewers say it's worth the higher price. Most owners feel it's sturdier than the plastic model, although it creates a smaller play area -- most say they found it worthwhile to purchase the extension kit, and some say they actually purchased two gates for use together.
Summer Infant also makes an outdoor play yard, the SecureSurround Playsafe Play Yard (*Est. $70), which is constructed of plastic and includes six panels that can be configured into a free-standing play area or used as one extra long or oddly shaped baby safety gate. It folds flat for storage and includes a handle for travel. This play yard sits 30 inches tall and has a walk-through door to make it easy for parents to enter and exit the play area, which measures 18.5 square feet. A two-panel extension kit is also available (*Est. $35) which extends the play area to about 34 square feet.
Ninety consumers on Amazon.com rate the Summer Infant Play Yard with an average of four out of five stars, but few owner-written reviews are available elsewhere. Reviewers frequently say that this play yard is flimsy; the most stable configuration is the hexagon shape. Many owners say the SecureSurround works great for younger babies, but they report that older children can move this playpen across the floor.