Keep Baby Entertained With The Best Baby Play Mat (2018 Guide)
When I was registering for items for my baby registry, my girlfriends swore that I needed to add a baby play mat to my list. So, naturally I started searching for some and was surprised to see that these play gyms go by a number of names—play mat, activity gym, learning blanket.
Yikes! Which one should I go for?
I later learned after conducting some research that they all stimulate and elate your baby and are good to have in your baby play areas. Some are much better than others though, based on their features, colors, and textures.
So, read on to learn why you need a play gym, some features that make one awesome, and a few of the best baby play mats that I recommend.
Why Your Baby Really Needs a Play Mat
I told myself I’d only register for the necessity items like a car seat, stroller, crib, and high chair. But, after conducting all of my research, I strongly believe that a play gym should be on your necessity list as well.
As much as you’d like to, you can’t hold your baby all day long. You’re going to need to take a bathroom break, hop in the shower, answer the phone or door, and you definitely have to make something to eat and prepare bottles throughout the day.
You need a place to put your baby that is not only safe (I mean, what is safer than the floor?) but is inviting, comfortable, and stimulating to your little one.
You can move it with ease from room to room, travel with it, take it indoors and out, and fold it up when you need to clean or have company over.
Play gyms are also great developmental tools.
How Play Mats Help Development
Your baby learns and grows at a young age through touch, sight, and sound.
These activity mats come loaded with bright colors, welcoming and interesting graphics, cool sounds, and lots of stuff to grab, shake, and teethe on. They also help promote tummy time, where it’s healthy and necessary for your baby to be away from you and explore their environment while strengthening their muscles.
They get stronger in their neck and shoulder muscles, eventually becoming able to push themselves up and forward in order to get ready to scoot and then crawl.
When Do You Need a Play Mat?
You can use a play gym from the get go. But, I’ve found that my son got the most enjoyment from it when he was around three months old.
He was really able to explore the mat and I noticed that his hand and eye coordination improved drastically when he started grasping for toys.
He mastered his motor milestones super early, and even became an early walker.
Important Features to Look For
There are a lot of good play gyms on the market, but there are some great ones too. Here are a few features that make a play gym great:
Washable. Sometimes spot cleaning isn’t enough. You want to be able to pick up the entire mat and pop it in the washer for a deep clean.
Safe. Your baby is going to be tugging on toys and putting them in their mouth. There should be nothing on your play mat that should be able to pop off and serve as a choking or even a smothering hazard.
Lots of sounds. There is such a thing as overstimulating your baby. So, many parents prefer mats that allow them to turn on sound occasionally, and not have it playing all the time.
Textures. One of the simplest ways to stimulate your baby is through texture. Look for play gyms that have crinkled toys, fuzzy fabrics, soft surfaces, and even hard nubby shapes that will help satisfy their teething stage.
Mirrors. A great way to encourage a baby to turn from front to back, or even crawl from one side of the mat to another is through the use of mirrors. Many great play gyms boast this feature and are detachable so you can place them anywhere to engage your baby.
Best Baby Play Mats
#1. Fisher Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym
A favorite among parents, this Fisher Price Rainforest Melodies Gym (click here to check the price on Amazon) is great for both boys and girls.
It’s filled with lights, music, nature sounds, textures, and lots of opportunities to allow your baby to develop their various motor skills and muscles!
Most toys on the gym mat are moveable and are safe to be around your baby. Toys also spin, rattle, and crinkle, and a mirror allows your baby to become aware of themselves as they grow.
It’s ok to use from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital and comes with a few different modes that will entertain your baby when you aren’t able to.
The mat is also easy to set up, move, and wash.
#2. Skip Hop Friends Treetop Activity Gym
Another baby friendly mat, Skip Hop’s Activity Gym (click here to check the price on Amazon) is uniquely designed in a circular shape.
It boasts hanging animals and has crinkled leaves and squeaker flowers, which are sure to bring a smile to their face. It is plush and comfortable for tummy time and it also has a mirror with built in sounds.
The cushy pillow can be used to prop your baby up or elevate their neck off the floor when lying on their back. The mat is thin, small, and takes merely seconds to fold up. It can be used solo or the criss cross bars can be put in place with ease.
This treetop activity mat is also easy to wipe down or can be placed in the washer any time.
#3. Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym
The Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym (click here to check the price on Amazon) is designed in lots of bright and unique colors and patterns.
Parents love how they can hang engaging toys from the top of the bar, encouraging their baby to look up and reach up. Hanging toys also strengthen various muscles, especially in their hands when they do grasp them and tug on them.
It folds up compactly and takes up little room at all if you wish to travel with it in your car or even on an airplane. The mat also boasts a tummy time bolster, which will help prop your baby up during the time they spend on the floor until they are able to hold themselves up on their own.
All play pals are plush and safe to be around a baby, which makes them awesome teethers.
It can be cleaned with ease and doesn’t attract pet hair, dust, or dander.
Play gyms are important—they are great not only for your baby’s development in various areas, but they are also a great and safe place to put your baby when they can’t be in your arms.
Be sure to add a play gym to your registry, and check out some of the brands I described above!