Playmats or baby gyms are amazing tools to stimulate your baby's senses, entertain them during playtime and develop those all-important cognitive functions like logic, coordination, and self-awareness.
In this article:
- Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Gym
- Tiny Love Dynamic Gymini
- East Coast Nursery Baby Sensory Say Hello Activity Mat
- Skip Hop Activity Gym
- Baby Einstein Nautical Friends Play Mat & Gym Toy
- LAMAZE Freddie The Firefly Baby Activity Play Mat
- Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play, Mat & Activity Gym
- Galt Toys Playnest and Gym Farm
- LAMAZE Spin & Explore Garden Baby Gym Play Mat
- Infantino 4-in-1 Milestones & Memories Twist & Fold Gym
- Taf Toys Musical Newborn Cosy Gym
- Little Green Sheep Curved Wooden Baby Play Gym Safari
- Infantino Go Gaga Deluxe Twist & Fold Activity Gym & Play Mat
Why are playmats good for babies?
- Learning about 'cause and effect' - Activity mats can help your baby from when they are first born. At around six weeks, they will help your baby start to develop 'cause and effect' as they realise if they push the toys on the hanging mobile, they will move.
- Developing your baby's vision - Your baby is born with pretty blurred vision, meaning they can only see a few inches in front of their faces. As they grow, they'll start to take an interest in different shapes and colours, which means most playmats are designed with a variety of bright, eye-catching toys for your baby to focus on.
- Developing grasping skills - You'll already have noticed your baby's grasping skills - reflexively grabbing on to anything in their palms. As your baby grows up, you'll notice your little one reaching and grasping at the toys hanging on the mobile, even if they aren't interested in them when you first introduce the mat.
- Developing self-awareness - Another feature you'll spot on a lot of play gyms on this list is a small mirror. Your baby probably won't notice herself in the mirror until shes around four months old, when you might notice her starting to reach up at it. As she grows, your baby will interact more with her reflection in the mirror, making faces and smiling at herself.
- Developing motor skills - Stimulating toys from activity gyms are great for your baby's development, but also for use during tummy time. You should always use a playmat or blanket for tummy time, not a sofa or raised surface. Tummy time is important for helping your baby develop those all-important fine motor skills. Lie with your baby and encourage her to look up at you, or the toys hanging over the mat.
How to choose a baby playmat
You need to choose a baby playmat that is very easy to use, to clean, is portable and can also be customized by hanging extra toys on it. Make sure your chosen baby playmat is colourful and bright to stimulate your baby even more.
There are many types of baby playmats, but choose a flat one as its better for your baby’s back. Also, you need to look for one that gives you space to hang many types of toys, with different textures, sounds, colours and shapes not only above your baby’s head but in all his/her surroundings.
Which is the best baby playmat?
With plenty of different options available, finding the best baby playmat for you and your baby can be difficult, so we've done some research to help you choose.
By far one of the most popular baby gyms on the market, this musical mat helps your baby through several developmental milestones including lay and play, tummy time and sitting up. The dangling toys help develop self-awareness and hand-eye coordination, whilst the mat also helps develop motor skills by kicking and reaching for the piano keys. The musical effects also help your baby understand cause and effect.
With adjustable, moving arches, this playmat will keep your little one entertained from day one. It encourages fine and gross motor skills, with a bird toy, lights, and music. You can record your own messages for your little one on it!
The Dynamic Gymini was the bronze winner in the M&B Awards 2019 Best Baby Toy category.
Our real-mum tester Nicola said: "I would definitely recommend this product. I loved how it folds away easily and how the little parts can be taken off and taken with you when going out. You can use it at home, in the car or take it out in the changing bag. The mat is washable which is a must with little babies and it is a quick-drying material which means you can wash it and be ready to use it the next day."
A simple, double-sided mat that is great for little ones - plus, it's really easy to fold up and store, or to take with you on-the-go. One side features black and white designs, with hints of red - perfect newborns - while the other side has a colourful print with characters and sounds to explore.
Our real-mum tester Lisa Merrikin said: "I would definitely recommend this to all my friends and family. The design is brilliant, I love that you can turn it over. It folds up really well. It's small enough that it can easily be placed in my washing machine. It also doesn't take to long to dry. The material is very soft , and my little one loves laying on it."
This sensory mat won the 2017 Bronze Best Baby Toy category in the M&B Awards.
This adorable activity mat might be on the expensive side, but it sure has the reviews to prove its worth. Parents love how creative the gym is, with fireflies that light up upon touching and an adorable wigwam design that you won't mind leaving out in the nursery. It will aid your babies through all their major milestones from lay and play to sitting up with more than 17 developmental activities. Easily assembled and taken down for cleaning, it's a great gift to add to your baby wishlist.
With a cute whale prop for tummy time, this nautical playmat will last you through till your baby is ready to sit up. The overhead arch includes rattles, teethers, flashcards and a bead chaser. It also includes a 3-in-1 starfish toy that plays classic melodies and lights up for 20 minutes. The starfish can even be attached to your crib or carrier to keep your little one entertained on-the-go.
A cute baby gym from a brand you can trust - Freddie the Firefly from Lamaze featured on our best baby toy list, and this mat is just as great. Packed with different features to aid your baby's development, the 3-in-1 gym is not only great for tummy time, it comes with three different toys that can easily be clipped off for on-the-go fun. We're huge fans of this bright baby gym, and our panel of mum testers loved the large discovery mirror.
Adjustable walls act as a barrier during playtime - a great option if you're worried about those balls flying all around the living room, or your baby moving too much during tummy time. It could even be used as a ball pit for a toddler, lasting you through many developmental years. This gym includes an electric toucan that plays over 20 minutes of melodies, a soft elephant and a monkey bead chaser. With jungle-themed toys and leaf-shaped teethers, this play gym has more than you can ever ask for.
If you're looking for a playmat for on-the-go, this is a great choice, as it deflates for easy transportation. Your baby will look so cute and snuggly inside this multi-sensory play gym. Giving them a relaxing place to lie or sit this soft, inflatable ring includes four toys and eight activities around the nest for your baby to interact with. Focusing on improving hand-eye coordination and manipulative skills, it will help cognitive and physical development.
Suitable from birth, your little one will love this activity mat. Designed to facilitate tummy time, the gently rotating octopus strengthens your baby's core while stimulating them with squeaky, crinkly toys. The spinner is removable, so the gym can be used once they can sit up too. This gym promotes more exercise than other play mats, making it a great help for physical development.
This new playmat from Infantino is not just a fan place for your baby to hang out and discover toys, but can also be used for gorgeous keepsake photos. Lay your baby down and use the circle toy included to mark the date on the numbers; perfect for showing off your baby's milestones in a photo album, to send to your family and friends, or to upload to your Facebook page. The mat easily twists and folds up, so you can move it between rooms, or even take it with you when you visit family; you can remove the arches when you want to take a photo with the backdrop. It comes with four removable toys.
This super cosy musical gym is great for parents who are looking for a playmat that will grow with their newborn and is great for tummy time as your tot gets bigger. The drawstring sides mean that you can have the mat fully laid out flat or drawn in for a more cosy feel. The arches are moveable and detachable and come with a Rattling Prince the Penguin (with high contrast side and coloured side), Chime Bell Star the Seal with added teether (with high contrast side and coloured side), Rainbow Baby-Safe Mirror (with high contrast side and coloured side), Musical pull-ring toy with 3 melodies, colourful lights and Velcro strap.
This new play gym from Little Green Sheep is made from natural Birch wood and hand-finished with oil. If you want a sustainable, natural wooden playmat for your baby then this is a wonderful choice. The toys are detachable and made from organic cotton and wood, safe for your little one to bat away and chew. The baby gym pictured is the curved safari theme, but you can also get it with straight legs, and other themes include Ocean Whale, Bunny Love and Bear Love. You can hand wash the cotton charm toys and wipe clean the wooden ones.
We love the leaf design of this playmat. Its bright colours will engage your baby and creates a fun activity gym for them to practise tummy time. With lots of toys to develop their motor skills, and to bat away with their hands and legs, there's also a mirror for them to discover. It twists and folds easily so you can move it between rooms or take it with you to visit Grandma's house. You can pull the little monkey toy down and watch him climb back up to the music.
Mother&Baby product recommendations are independent and based on a combination of real-world testing from our army of mum testers, and the expertise of our experienced editorial team and product specialists. Whilst we may receive commission for purchases made through our links, we never allow this to influence product selections. Any revenue earned helps us to fund more great content like this. Want to know more about how we work? Click here to read about our process, and why you can trust our product picks.
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