On most days, we mums can’t get anything done by ourselves, so an activity centre is a great way to entertain your little one and give you a bit of time to do whatever you need to – whether that’s making lunch, doing the ninth load of washing of the day, or sitting down and breathing.
Activity centres are aimed at babies who are developing physically and mentally, usually between four to six months and upwards. Placing your baby in an activity centre not only gives them exciting toys that can aid in development but also keep them safely in one place while you get on with other things.
A lot of activity centres also double up as walkers or jumpers, giving babies that first sense of freedom of movement.
What age do babies use activity centres?
Four months is usually the minimum age stated on most activity centres, but we recommend waiting until your baby can sit up unassisted in order to prevent poor posture.
Are activity centres bad for babies?
Activity centres are a great opportunity for your baby to learn through play, understand cause and effect and develop key skills. Having said that, too much time spent in an activity centre can delay motor milestones by restraining them to one seat, and also negatively impact posture.
For this reason, we suggest a maximum of 15 minutes of play within an activity centre per day, to give your little one the opportunity to explore the world around them independently.
The best baby activity centres 2021
Doubling as an activity centre and a jumperoo, it’s no wonder this Fisher-Price is so popular (new versions of the model come out frequently). The seat spins 360-degrees so your baby can discover everything around them, with hanging toys, a spinner, and a drum. It’s adjustable so can grow as your baby does. It’s great for physical development and mental stimulation.
Age: From four months
Product dimensions: 94 x 81.3 x 81.3 cm
Maximum weight recommendation: 12kg
Features include: 360 degrees seat, adjustable height, activities include peek-a-boo tiger, bat-at monkey, rattle lizard, bobble elephant, spinner drum & more
"This is such a fabulous item. My baby is just under 5 months old and seemed like he wanted to be on his feet all the time so thought this might be good. It was delivered quickly, very easy to install (parts just needed clicking in together) and he was in it smiling and jumping and exploring all the attached toys. He absolutely loved it and I can now see why 2,000 plus customers have given this product such good reviews. It serves as great active time, and is quite steady and designed to keep the baby safe in its enclosure. I recommend this any day of the week for babies ready to stay on their feet and this is much safer than those that hang off door frames."
Nothing beats a classic. This wooden activity centre provides all the old-school classic games that we love, including zigzag beads, a spinning animal alphabet and more. The farm theme will have your little one playing with their favourite animals including cows and sheep, and the rounded edges ensure no accidents - no matter how exciting play gets!
Age: from 10 months
Product dimensions: 34cm x 30cm x 45cm
Features include: Five sides of fun activity cube with multiple farm-themed panels
"This is a great toy. Bought for my 9 month old son. He is already very entertained by it and I can tell that he will continue to find it entertaining in different ways as he grows. It is also lovely looking - looks almost antique because of the very traditional design, like the kind of toy that might have been passed down through a family."
An interactive toy that will facilitate yours baby's education, introducing them to all the colours, numbers, animals, letters and sounds. Your tot will enjoy listening to the different melodies and singing along to the familiar and cheerful piano songs, all the while understanding the principle of cause and effect and engaging in sensory play. The removable legs allows for easy storage for when not in use - always a plus!
Age: From six months
Product dimensions: 13.5cm x 49cm x 41cm
2AA batteries included
Features include: Role-play phone, interactive clock, eight melodies, piano keys, five sing-along songs, removable legs
"Brilliant activity table, my 8 month baby loves it and can easily pull himself up and stand there for ages. It’s just what I wanted and has lots of activities to keep them amused. It has 2 volumes so you can turn it down and also you can turn it off! Easy to assemble. Would highly recommend."
This jumper-meets-activity centre by Fisher-Price will keep your bubba entertained thanks to the lights, sounds and a variety of activities that will promote curiosity and learning. With 12 different toys to switch between including a lion roller, alligator click, butterfly teether and more, your little one is sure to keep happy and smiling. The frame is safe and sturdy and can be easily folded away for trips or to place in storage.
Age: From four months
Product dimensions: 19cm x 61cm x 59.5cm
Three AA batteries required
Features include: music, lights and sounds, 12 different toys
"This is my daughters favourite toy ever! She loves it so much, lots of toys to explore and well she loves being able to jump! She’s been in since 3 and half months, picked up the jumping fast and now at 5 months loves it even more."
Another activity centre combined with a jumper, this option by Fisher-Price will keep your baby bouncing, playing, all the while developing important motor and sensory skills. With different buttons activating sounds and music, your little one's curiosity will pique, as will their understanding of cause and effect. The range of sounds and textures will stimulate their visual, auditory, and tactile senses – and with so much activity? They’ll be ready for a nap in no time.
Age: From four months
For babies up to 12kg
Product dimensions: 87cm x 87cm x 84cm
Features include: Music, sounds, lights, and toys, including teether, clicker, and light-up 'command center'
"This is really cute with a lot of different shapes and colours to catch baby's eye. The items are pretty much at eye and hand level so lots of fun to touch and feel. It holds up to 25 pounds so should be usable for quite a while. I really like both that the seat is washable, and that the whole unit collapses down. I'm glad our sofa has a high space underneath and this slides right under. It's nice to be able to tuck it out of the way when not in use."
Another value-for-money choice that changes from a baby gym, into an activity centre panel, then into a walker when your little one starts taking those first exciting steps. It has three modes: Music, Play & Learn, and Get Active. You can also change the settings on the wheels to adapt to how fast your little one moves.
Age: From six months
Product dimensions: 54.3cm x 41.3cm x40cm
Features include: Songs, music and sound effects that introduce colours, shapes, letters and numbers. 14 fun manipulatives develop fine motor skills, transforms from a baby gym into a walker
"Bought for my baby a few months ago, he is now 5 months and really engages with it now, still using the lying down mode but will change as he grows. He smiles and gets happy as soon as he hears scout now!! Highly recommend for those times when you need a moment to yourself!"
We love the cute, fun designs of Skip Hop and this activity centre is cheery and full of entertaining elements for your baby. It grows as your little one develops; starting with a seated bouncer with 360-degree rotation, then a table for cruising, then – thanks to adjustable legs – a table they can sit at. So this is great value considering how long it will last your child. There are piano keys your baby can kick with their feet, and a peek-a-boo owl who pops out and hoots.
Age: From four months
Product dimensions: 79cm x 79cm x 47cm
Features include: 360-degree rotation, adjustable legs, table to sit, piano keys, clip on toys,
"Bought this for my 4 month old daughter who is quite an active little one and she absolutely loves it. It's very well made and thought out, really nice to look at, not at all garish like some of these type of things can be. The toys are lovely and very securely fit to the table and it's got 4 settings for the wobble board and on the highest my daughter can just about reach it but there's plenty of room for growth. I'm absolutely delighted with it!"