Baby play mats are one of the most highly recommended baby products by both parents and professionals. Physical therapists and occupational therapists often refer to the wide range of developmental benefits that play mats can offer. Not only do babies grow cognitively through the use of play mats, but there are tremendous benefits in visual perception, reaching and grasping skills, gross motor benefits, and self-awareness, as well as sensory stimulation and awareness.
In addition, baby play mats can be incredibly versatile! They are typically easy to clean and portable for travel or weekly trips to grandma’s house, while providing a natural boundary for your little one’s play space. Many baby play gyms allow for customization by hanging extra links or other toys from the arches.
Overall, they are fun for babies from the newborn stage through sitting and crawling. Even toddlers often find baby gyms to be entertaining! Due to this, you want to ensure that whichever play mat you choose will benefit your family for years to come. Here are some of our favorite play mats, for each stage of your baby’s development!
When your baby is a newborn, most of their actions are dominated by reflexes, which means they automatically react in a certain way when stimulated without having much control over their actions. For example, newborns reflexively grasp anything that is pressed into their palm. Baby gyms help strengthen grasping and reaching reflexes by encouraging newborns to grasp rattles or rings hanging in a baby gym,x as they learn to hold objects, develop a visual understanding of what they are holding, and build an understanding of cause and effect as they wiggle and shake toys.
In addition to these reflexive skills, baby gyms can also facilitate babies’ development of the ability to bring two hands together at the midline of the body while laying on their back. Baby gyms also encourage the earliest form of hand-eye coordination, as well as building your little one’s core muscles through reaching and grabbing. The Explore & Store Activity Gym™ Monkeys as well as the Great Leaps Infant Gym & Ball Roller Coaster™ are two great options for the newborn stage!
Tummy Time is supervised, intentional playtime your baby spends on his or her tummy while awake, and it is so important for your little one’s development! According to Occupational Therapists, Tummy Time not only strengthens your baby’s neck, back, and arms, but it also supports the development of higher level gross motor skills (like rolling, crawling, walking), hand skills (developing the muscles in the arches of the hands as baby bears weight on them), visual skills (teaching the eyes to work together), and even speech and feeding skills (strengthening the neck which supports the jaw for talking and eating).
Additionally, when babies spend time on their tummies, it takes weight off the back of their heads and is important for prevention of flat spots. While some babies have trouble warming up to the idea of tummy time at first, an engaging play mat can help! The Deluxe Twist & Fold Activity Gym & Play Mat™, the Peek & Play Tummy Time Activity Mat™, and the Take & Play Safari Activity Gym & Play Mat™ are fun options for Tummy Time play!
Once your baby learns how to sit up, the arch of the Great Leaps Infant Gym & Ball Roller Coaster™ can be tilted so that they can enjoy ball drop play with a handy track to keep balls close at hand. Later, put it back in an upright position for toddlers to send balls down a roller coaster ball drop. The blue frog arms can be closed to store the five colorful balls inside the arch, keeping your room neat and tidy.
Also, the Grow-With-Me Activity Gym & Ball Pit™ is a one-of-a-kind baby play mat that converts into a fun, sensory-stimulating ball pit that’s perfect for little sitters and busy toddlers. It includes forty colorful balls with convenient storage inside the turtle’s head. Also, four adorable sea pals delight little ones with a peek-a-boo mirror, grasping ring, textured teether, and rattle. This versatile playtime favorite will grow with your family to offer years of priceless entertainment!
Playtime Teepees are becoming more and more popular for toddlers and young kids! Our Grow-With-Me Playtime Teepee™ and Infant to Toddler Play Gym & Fun Teepee™ serve as multi-functional gyms that are not only play mats for your baby, but will grow with your little one into a fun teepee for pretend play as they grow older. Four hanging toys and a large-mirrored mobile engage newborns and infants with overhead discovery, encouraging the development of their reaching and grasping skills. The musical elephant's ear is a fun addition for little ones during tummy time!
As your baby begins to crawl, one side of the gym can be closed to create a crawl-through tunnel. For toddlers and young kids, unfold the gym's sides to create a fun, playtime teepee! This play mat is sure to provide years of fun and playtime for your family. Also, our Soft Foam Puzzle Mat™ can help lay the perfect foundation for your toddler’s first steps!