We were once exactly where you are now: soon-to-be-parents questioning our sanity for considering buying a mat that you lay on the floor, on which your baby plays.
Can’t we just place a few toys on our perfectly clean living room carpet and then lay our baby down? Are we crazy for spending money on something that could quite possibly do the job of a blanket or rug?
But then we caved and bought the baby play mat. And boy, were we glad we did!
A baby gym has so many benefits, possibly the biggest being keeping your needy little angel entertained. First, we’ll go over a few key features of baby play mats before introducing you to our favorite lifesavers for keeping your little one safe and happily stimulated.
About Baby Play Gyms & Mats
How could something that looks so unassuming have so many benefits? It’s a mystery to us as to why babies are so entertained by colorful mats and suspended toys. All we know is that it works!
What do we mean by “works”? Well, the best baby play gyms and mats help with physical and cognitive development in many different ways.
Staring and eventually batting at all those toys helps to improve their eyesight and strengthen their coordination. The colors and patterns stimulate their visual and cognitive development. As babies grow, most play gyms grow with them, encouraging motor skills, muscle development required for stability while sitting, and much more.
Exposure to different textures, sensory experiences, and physical activities with a play mat or gym can help your little one hit appropriate developmental milestones, too.
We love that play mats can truly span your kids’ babyhood. They can be used from birth as a clean and safe surface (under supervision) on which to lay your child. They’ll enjoy looking at all the colors, shapes, and toys and listening to the sounds or music. They’re excellent for babies in the sitting stage and make a great crawling incentive too.
To get the most out of your baby mat, here are a few things to look out for:
- Easy to clean and care for. Babies are messy for a variety of reasons, which is why it’s important to look for an easy-clean mat. Some are machine washable while others can effortlessly be wiped down with a wet cloth.
- Safe and supportive. Mats that are made of non-toxic EVA foam can offer a supportive surface for your child’s developing core muscles. They can also make a soft landing pad should your baby fall. Some play gyms have a thin, plush core. This is generally fine but isn’t as protective or supportive as foam mats.
- Portable. You won’t just be using your play mat in the nursery – you’ll want to haul that thing all over the house with you. Possibly even outside or to grandma’s, too! Therefore, find one that is easy to pack up and move. Some might come with their own tote for smooth transport.
- Entertaining and versatile. The best play gyms have a lot to offer your little one during every stage of development. They may or may not have sounds and music, but colors, patterns, and interactive features are essential. Babies tend to also love suspended toys, mirrors, and sensory items. We particularly love the mats that can eventually be stripped down of these things and used as a safe foam surface in a toddler’s playroom.
The Best Baby Play Gyms
Newborn to Six Months
1. Animal Friends Classic Activity Gym
by Skip Hop
A cozy little Skip Hop activity gym is the perfect place for your baby to explore.
Its soft fabric base and crisscrossing bars are the perfect foundation for an array of suspended plush toys. Your child will love gazing at the cute animals and eventually batting at them and as their muscles grow. Each one has a different sensory feature, such as a mirror or rattle, to keep baby entertained.
This play gym folds up easily for portability. We also adore the muted, modern colors that won’t look out of place in your living room or den.
2. Cozy Spot Reversible Activity Gym
This padded baby play gym is oh so comfortable – and reversible!
The pillowy base is machine washable. Two natural wooden bars hold a bevy of beautiful hanging toys that can be removed for play or travel. The bars fold down, while the pillow includes handles and doubles as a bag. As your child grows, remove the toys and transfer them to the attachment points on the mat for tummy time!
Six Months And Older
3. Natural Wood Baby Gym
by West Elm
If you already have a comfortable surface for your baby to sit or lay on and are looking for a pared-down play gym, this is the one!
Made entirely of natural wood, it’s both visually stunning and safe for play. The modern frame seamlessly folds and unfolds for storage, transport, and play. Suspended from the top bar are smooth, sanded wooden toys with interactive features and fun characters.
It also includes a drawstring bag so you can easily pack it up and take it anywhere.
4. 4-in-1 Kickin’ Tunes
Colorful and full of sound, older babies will delight in this immersive play gym!
An upright piano invites them to kick, touch, and play, strengthening a variety of muscles and skills. There’s also plenty more to do, like gaze in the mirror, bat at the rattles, or lounge on the included mini-boppy pillow.
It grows with your baby from a play gym and mat to a seated piano and finally a take-along toy they can carry by themselves.
5. Deluxe Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym
This play gym by Fisher-Price is quite popular among parents. We especially love its slim design.
Compact but full of entertainment, it’s easy to take this play gym anywhere and set it up. It includes a soft foam toy suspension bar, a plush mat printed with cute jungle friends, and an interactive piano. Music and lights invite your child to learn with three changeable Smart Stages levels.
The Best Baby Play Mats
1. Reversible Happy Cloud Playmat
by BABY CARE
From day one, your little one can use this playmat to safely explore.
Made of non-toxic polyvinyl resin, it’s a great cushion for hard surfaces. Additionally, it can be wiped clean to keep it germ-free. You can roll or fold it up when not in use, or for transport. Each side has a super-cute print.
We also appreciate the fact that it helps to insulate your baby from cool surfaces and helps to muffle sound, meaning you can use it as a rug in your toddler’s room after they’ve grown out of the playmat stage.
2. Foam Tile Play Mat
by West Elm
Foam tile activity mats are a great option because they’re portable, versatile, and come in so many colors and designs.
All you need to do is interlock these safe, EVA foam tiles to form the shape and size you need. This creates a cozy, padded surface for your baby to practice tummy-time, rolling, sitting, or walking. The charming contrasted print will attract little ones who love patterns while looking right at home with your modern decor. The non-slip backing is a much-appreciated feature.
3. Go Gaga! Foldable Soft Foam Mat
What’s not to love about this super cool folding mat?
Contain your little one, their toys, or maybe an awesome ball pit! Made of non-toxic foam printed with a vibrant patchwork pattern on one side and a neutral design on the other, this mat lays flat or folds up to create border walls.
Wipe it clean, compactly fold it down to transport or store, and use it from birth through childhood!
4. Little Nomad Play Mat
We guarantee this absolutely stunning playmat will remain in your home long after your child grows out of using it.
With its lovely, contemporary design and soft surface, babies, siblings, and parents alike will want to use it. At nearly a half-inch thick, it’s cozy and ideal for sensitive little ones. Non-toxic, water-resistant EVA foam is printed with non-toxic dyes and inks to resemble an heirloom rug. The removable interlocking edges allow for size adjustments, so you can use the mat in any room of your home.
We bet most of your guests won’t even realize it’s a baby play mat!
5. Be on the Sea Baby Activity Mat
We are obsessed with this enchanting little under the sea play mat.
Created from textured fabrics and materials, the underwater design will draw your baby in. Rattles and squeaker toys are appliqued and embroidered right in the mat, making it super portable. Its petite size and circular shape fit even the smallest of spaces. When it needs cleaning, simply toss it in the washing machine.
The Perfect Play Space
Playmats and play gyms offer your baby a safe yet entertaining space no matter where they are, from the living room to the backyard. With features like fun toys, color patterns, and interactive components, there is always something to do.
After your child outgrows the infant toys, most mats and gyms transition to a padded place where your child can learn to sit, crawl, walk, and eventually just have fun. They are a must-have in your baby gear repertoire!
Did you find this post useful? Would you like to get back to it later? Save THIS PIN below to your Baby board!