A baby playmat, also called a baby gym, is probably the most versatile and practical baby product on the market. Not only it can be used in many ways, but it also provides a few very important benefits regarding proper baby development.
Some models come with baby-safe mirrors, lights, music and a variety of textured materials, others provide a simple, safe space where your baby can lay, observe and play. You can use a baby playmat from day one as they are safe, and you can find different models for all ages, following your baby’s growth.
A good advantage of a baby playmat is its contribution to your baby’s physical development. A baby playmat will encourage your baby to use his/her hands and feet to explore all the mat’s features.
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.
The 5 best baby playmats for your newborn baby and other ages
With plenty of different options available, finding the best baby playmat for you and your baby can be difficult, so we've done the research to help you choose:
Tiny Love Gymini 1 2 3 Here I Grow
This baby playmat might be one of the more expensive mats on the market, but it grows with your baby, making it worth it's price tag. The gym can be folded into a seated activity centre that includes a fun ball game, and a standing toy once your tot is old enough. With plenty of interactive toys hanging down, a wipe clean mat and a tummy time cushion, our panel of mum testers loved how soft this playmat was compared to others on the market.
Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Gym
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.
Baby Einstein Nautical Friends Play Gym
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 which 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.
Lamaze Freddie the Firefly Baby Gym Playmat
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.
Bright Starts 5 in 1 Activity Play Gym & Ball Pit
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.
Other advantages of baby playmat usage for your baby’s development
Learning about 'cause and effect'
Baby playmats can help your baby's cognitive development. When they are around 6 weeks, it 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. The mat stimulates ‘primary circular reactions’, meaning it encourages babies to repeat an action they did by chance (for example, hitting a toy by mistake). As babies grow, they pull on, grab or kick a toy intentionally (secondary circular reactions) and repeat them because they find them fun. A baby playmat in some sense ‘forces’ babies to interact with dangling toys.
Developing your baby's vision
Your baby is born with a pretty blurred vision, and he/she can only see a few inches in front of his/her face. As they grow, they'll start to take an interest in different shapes and colours. The best baby playmats are designed with various contrast bright colours, eye-catching toys for your baby to focus on.
A baby playmat stimulates a baby to crawl and use legs, hands, and arms, which helps build muscles. More importantly, it encourages lying on the stomach which strengthens neck, back, and arms and supports the development of gross motor skills (rolling, crawling, walking), hand skills, visual skills, and even speech and feeding skills (stronger neck better supports the jaw essential for talking and eating).
When the baby playmat brings a mirror, your baby can notice it when she/he is around four months old, and you might notice her/him starting to reach up at it. As she/he grows, your baby will interact more with her/his reflection in the mirror, making faces and smiling at herself/himself.
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