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Choosing the best form of stimulation for your little one can be an overwhelming task with an influx of baby products on a daily basis, each claiming to provide your baby with the best possible start in life!
How to Choose a Baby Play Mat
While some of these products turn out to be just toys, others such as play mats can really aid in the development of your little munchkin!
Even play mats do come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and finding one that is perfect for your baby can be challenging. To make life easier, we’ve scouted the market in search of only the best play mats out there but first, let’s look at what you should keep in mind when purchasing a play mat:
A Play Mat That Will Grow as Your Baby Does
Like most baby items, play mats can be expensive. That is why it is essential to keep an eye out for play mats that are strong, durable and that can grow as your little one does.
Fortunately, most baby play mats these days include lay and play, tummy time and sit and play features, allowing you to get maximum use out of your play mat.
Easy to Clean
Babies tend to spit-up and drool a lot during the first year so look for a play mat that can either be wiped down with ease or one that is machine-washable. Try to avoid toys where food and milk can easily get stuck in, because that is hard to clean.
Because play mats usually cater for babies 0 – 18 months, they often contain a wide range of toys and activities that will captivate baby during each stage.
When looking for a suitable play mat, scan the mat for any tiny items or loose ends that will not be suitable for either a baby or a toddler during the duration of use.
Structure and size
As your little one develops, he or she is likely to need more space as they start to roll-over so look for a play mat with a sufficient surface area. Don’t go too big though as that will make it difficult to move the play mat from one area to another.
We also suggest that you asses the structure of the play mat as a whole. While the overhead arches provide hours of fun, they do tend to be a little feeble with many parents complaining about collapses on their perfect little bundle of joy.
This is the most important aspect to keep in mind when purchasing a play mat.
We suggest you look for items that contain different textures and a wide variety of things for your little one to explore. Some parents also find a prop-up pillow very helpful and a simple item such as a mirror will keep babies occupied for hours on end.
During the first year, babies also tend to get excited when there’s a reaction if they pull or kick something and grasping is also a very thrilling skill for any new baby!
So without further ado and in no particular order, check out our list of the best baby play mats on the market:
1. VTech Baby Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym
The VTech Baby Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym is the perfect match if you have a little “kicker” on your hands! We love that this play gym can grow with your infant, providing sufficient stimulation during tummy time, lay and play and even sit and play as he or she progresses.
The overhead activity bar features four different toys, each containing unique sensory experiences. These include bright colors, a teether, a self-discovery mirror, and a wide array of textures. The favorite, of course, is the piano that plays music and sounds when your little one kicks it!
The VTech Baby Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym also provides a colorful display of lights through its tree feature which your baby will love to explore as he or she learns to sit up.
The only down-side to this baby gym is that the playmat and the gym are not attached to one another which means if you have a soccer star in the making, the playmat and the gym section will separate during play.
This can be frustrating for both mom and baby but that being said, it does make it significantly easier to wash the play mat, which is machine-washable.
The VTech Baby Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym measures 37.2 x 29.1 x 16.9 inches, requires 2 x AA batteries to operate and is suitable for ages birth and up.
2. Prince Lionheart Develop Mat Shapes
We love the simplicity that comes with the Develop Mat Shapes from Prince Lionheart. As you might know, an infant’s sight is not yet fully developed at birth which is why they tend to focus on high contrasting images and faces. The one side of the playmat features high contrasting colors (black, white, and red) with clear shapes that are bound to aid in your baby’s spatial and cognitive development.
The mat is manufactured from a plastic foam-type of material that will provide your little one with a soft landing as they learn to roll over. This material also makes it very easy to clean spit-up in those early days. When your baby grows older, flip over the playmat to create a whole new playground for them – a farm setting.
During the younger stage, they will love to point out all the different animals and imitate sounds while it becomes a lovely farm setting for your child to play on with animal figures as they get older. The play mat is about 0.5 inches thick and measures 36 x 60 inches. The Develop Mat Shapes is also a breeze to store and to travel with as it simply rolls up.
3. Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym
The Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym will keep your little one entertained for hours to come, featuring up to 10 different activities and linkable toys for your baby to explore either during lay and play or tummy time. This colorful mat includes a wide variety of toys, mostly in the form of colorful animals, including a soft monkey, a mini-mobile, a mirror, and a crinkly peek-a-boo link.
The bright yellow giraffe encourages your little ones to push themselves up by allowing you and link toys directly to the giraffe itself. All toys except for the butterflies are detachable. The Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym, as the name suggests, also plays live music and an array of soothing rainforest sounds, accompanied by eye-catching lights.
As the caregiver, you can also set the gym to one of three modes, depending on your baby’s mood or your desired outcome:
- Mode 1 – As your little one moves, lights and music will be activated for 8 – 12 second periods, teaching your baby about cause and effect.
- Mode 2 – Music mode, during which the music will continuously play for 20 minutes.
- Mode 3 – Rainforest mode during which relaxing rainforest sounds will be played for a duration of 20 minutes. You also have the option to control the volume during playtime.
The play gym measures 20(W) x 32.5(H) x 32.5(D) inches and uses 3 x AA batteries. The arches can be removed in order to wash the play mat, which is machine washable. The arches do, however, seem to collapse every now and again which seems to be a common complaint amongst parents where arches are concerned.
4. My Little Garden Deluxe Playmat and Arch by Mothercare
The Mothercare My Little Garden Deluxe Playmat and Arch by Mothercare will provide your little one with a soft, luxurious play area as he or she discovers the world from below. The overhead arches include four detachable toys that crinkle, rattle, and squeak to capture your baby’s attention as well as a baby-safe mirror.
The edges provide a pillow-like structure, enabling your baby also to turn tummy time into a pleasant experience.
The Mothercare My Little Garden Deluxe Playmat and Arch by Mothercare is incredibly soft and comfortable, but the toys are placed a little high up, making it difficult for baby reach in the early months. The arches can be removed should you wish to do so, which also makes it easier to clean. The playmat is machine washable and does not require batteries.
5. Fisher-Price Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym
The Fisher-Price Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym, similar to the Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym, is also an ideal playmat if you have a baby that loves to kick. The Fisher-Price Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym contains a play mat, overhead arch, and piano keys that play music when kicked, providing hours of giggles and laughter.
The overhead arch contains five different activity toys, including a hippo teether, roll ball frog, a self-discovery mirror, and elephant clackers to name but a few. Baby will learn to reach for these toys and explore different types of textures, and each link can be detached and replaced with other toys.
Unlike the Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym, the Fisher-Price Kick ‘n Play play mat attaches to the overhead arches, preventing the two from separating during play.
The piano keys plays melodies when kicked, capturing the imagination of your little one and mom or dad can control the volume using a simple setting.
You also have the option of choosing between short and long-play for the piano. The best feature though is that you can remove the piano from the gym and have your little one play with it separately as he or she grows older or to keep your baby entertained on trips.
The Fisher-Price Kick ‘n Play Piano Gym makes use of 3 x AA batteries and measures 19.9 x 27 x 3 inches. The play mat can easily be removed from the gym section and can be thrown in the washing machine.
6. Baby Einstein Play Gym, Nautical Friends
The Baby Einstein Play Gym, Nautical Friends promises to take your bundle of joy on an underwater exploration with its colorful creatures and musical delights, guaranteeing that your baby will have a whale of a time, anytime and every time!
Nautical Friends include an array of detachable developmental toys, including crabs, turtles and a prop-up pillow in the form of a whale to encourage tummy time.
Your little Einstein also can self-activate a musical and light delight through movement. The removable starfish plays music for up to 20 minutes at a time, and you can expect your baby always to be entertained with up to eight different classic melodies.
The Nautical Friends Play Gym requires 3 x AA batteries and measures 35 x 35 x 17 inches. Arches can easily be removed to machine-wash the play mat but take note that parents have reported the arches to appear to be a little flimsy.
7. Meadow Days Dynamic Gymini Activity Mat from Tiny Love
If you are looking for a playmat that provides ample space, look no further than the Tiny Love Dynamic Gymini Activity Mat. This spacious play mat provides substantial room for your baby to roll around on and it is also a winner amongst moms who have twins!
The Meadow Days Dynamic Gymini Activity Mat from Tiny Love contains two arches, positioned in such a way that makes it easy for mom and dad to join in the fun. The arches are filled with removable toys such as hanging butterflies, a fox, and a bumblebee chime that will capture your baby’s attention.
On the mat itself, you will find a bunny pillow with crinkly ears and a teether to encourage tummy time, along with a mirror that can also be transformed into a photo frame should you wish.
The star of the show is, of course, the little bird toy that lights up and allows you to record and playback messages for your little one! The bird is entirely portable, and as your little munchkin grows older, he or she can even record notes themselves.
The bird requires 3 x AAA batteries and the playmat measures in at 1.9 x 24.1 x 36 inches, making it larger than your average play mat on the market. The arches can be removed, making the play mat machine washable. A common complaint, however, arches that do not stay in place, causing it to collapse on your little one during rough play.
8. The Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Convertible Car Gym
The Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Convertible Car Gym will capture the imagination of your little one from birth well into toddlerhood! We love that this playmat not only provides stimulation during younger months but also promotes creativity long after!
The Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Convertible Car Gym keeps your baby entertained during the lay and play stage with an overhead toy bar that is filled with eight different removable toys. Toys include rattles, keys, teethers, and a baby-safe self-discovery mirror! Should you wish to provide your baby with a little tummy time, simply lower the toy bar to encourage exploration and grasping.
Time will fly by in this 3-in-1 Convertible car gym, and soon the baby will watch with great excitement as you transform the playmat into a car with its dashboard! The steering wheel lights up and allows for 30 minutes of continuous music and lights!
To operate, the steering wheel requires 3 x AA batteries and measures 3.5 x 26 x 17 inches. Unfortunately, there have been reported cases of the sides collapsing, putting a damper on your baby’s creative play.
9. Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit
The Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit promise to provide hours of play, giggles, and laughter with its abundant activity range suitable for ages 0 months and up!
The colorful play mat contains two arches that feature four linkable sea pals for your little one to explore, including a starfish, a crab, a fish, and an octopus. The playpen also features a BPA-free teether.
What grabbed our attention though is that the Infantino Grow-with-me activity gym can be transformed into a small ball pit with 40 colorful balls included! The turtle’s head acts as convenient storage space for these balls and pop-up mesh prevents the balls from rolling all over the place!
The Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit is not battery operated and measures in at 22.1 x 4.6 x 19.9 inches.
So there you have it – our list of top baby play mats currently available in the market. We’ve tried our best to include a wide variety so that everyone will be able to find something they love off our list!