A baby play mat, also called a baby gym, will be your child's first proper entertainment and education system so you'll definitely want to take a look at our list of the best baby play mats on the market right now. Baby play mats provide very important benefits for proper baby development. A baby playmat will encourage your baby to use his/her hands and feet to explore all the mat’s features.
These baby gyms have got quite elaborate over the years with some models having baby-safe mirrors, lights, music and a variety of textured materials. The bright colours and the music help with eyesight and hearing, and the teething toys are perfect for when they want to put everything in their mouth. Other simpler mats provide a quiet, safe space where your baby can lay, observe and play. Baby play mats are safe if used correctly and you can use them from day one, and most are suitable for older babies too.
It's important to keep your baby active from early on, as well as providing important tummy time and baby play mats are one of the best ways to do so.
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:
This baby playmat might be one of the more expensive mats out there, but it grows with your baby, making it worth the price tag. The gym can be folded into a seated activity centre that includes a fun ball game, and turns into 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.
One of the most popular baby gyms available, 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, while 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 a cute whale prop for tummy time, this nautical playmat will last all the way up 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.
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 toys 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, so you can get several years' use out of it. With jungle-themed toys and leaf-shaped teethers, this gym includes an electric toucan that plays over 20 minutes of melodies, a soft elephant, and a monkey bead chaser for hours of fun.
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 old, it will help your baby start to understand '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 performed 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. In a way, a baby playmat ‘forces’ babies to interact with dangling toys.
Developing your baby's vision
Your baby is born with pretty blurred vision, and they can only see a few inches in front of their face. As they grow, they'll start to take an interest in different shapes and colours. The best baby playmats are designed with various contrasting bright colours, and eye-catching toys for your baby to focus on.
A baby playmat stimulates a baby to crawl and use their legs, hands, and arms, which helps build muscles. More importantly, it encourages lying on the stomach which strengthens their 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 (a stronger neck better supports the jaw, essential for talking and eating).
When the baby playmat has a mirror, your baby can notice their reflection when they are around four months old, and you might notice them starting to reach up to grab it. As they grow, your baby will interact more with their reflection in the mirror, making faces and smiling at themselves.
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