Playmats, or activity gyms, are designed to engage your little one. With bold colors; a soft surface; rattles, mirrors, and a smattering of other toys, these sensory centersmotivate, stimulate and inspire. They are baby’s first interactive toy. Plus, children spend a lot of time on the floor. From wiggling and rolling to crawling and sitting up, the mat is where it’s at. But the market is also saturated. A quick Amazon search for “baby gyms and playmats” yields more than 800 results. So how do you know which one is best for your child’s needs — and your own?
This roundup includes some of the softest, safest, most portable and affordable mats on the market. But the best part? These designs are super cute so you can store them in your baby’s nursery or keep them in your living room (which, if we’re being completely honest, is where they will live).
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Best Musical Playmat: Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick ‘n Play Piano
Babies love interactive toys, and those which make noise are particularly appealing. After all, these colorful contraptions keep your kiddo entertained while teaching them cause and effect. And if you are in the market for a melodic mat, look no further than the Fisher-Price “Kick n’ Play” piano. With five overhead toys and a light-up keyboard, your baby will love laying (or lounging) here.
Fisher-Price “Kick n’ Play” piano, $39 at Amazon
Best Developmental Playmat: The Playmat by Lovevery
The playmat by Lovery is unlike any other. This center has five “zones” designed to provide the proper amount of stimulation for your baby’s age. (You can hide any number of zones at any given time.) It comes with a wooden arch and several dangling toys, and the Lovevery mat includes a parental activity guide, which contains suggestions for how to play with and engage your baby. That said, this playmat is pricey, and at $140, it isn’t for everyone.
The Playmat by Lovevery, $140 at Amazon
Best Travel Playmat: Infantino’s Twist n’ Fold Activity Gym
With four repositionable toys, a peek-a-boo mirror, tummy time pillow and musical monkey, the Infantino activity mat is perfect for playtime. But the best part? You can take the fun with you! The Infantino twist and fold collapses down to the size of a yoga mat. Genius!
Infantino’s twist n’ fold activity gym, $49.99 at Amazon
Best All-in-One Playmat: Baby Einstein 5-in-1 Journey of Discovery Activity Gym
If you’re looking for an activity mat for the baby years and beyond, look no further than Baby Einstein’s 5-in-1 “Journey of Discovery” gym. The multifunction mat has various setups, for newborns, mobile kids and those engaging in tummy time, and it can be converted to a ball pit. Oh, and did I mention it comes with stuff — lots of stuff?! From a music box and rattles to a mirror, plush toys, and 10 colorful plastic balls, this mat encourages exploration, creativity and play.
Baby Einstein’s 5-in-1 “Journey of Discovery” gym, $49.49 at Amazon
Best Budget-Friendly Playmat: IKEA Leka Baby Gym
While this activity center doesn’t come with a mat, the pared-down gym is a great toy and deal. Plus, it is super small. You can set it up on a towel or blanket during the day and then tuck it away. Easy peasy!
IKEA Leka baby gym, $34.99 at IKEA
Best Food-Inspired Playmat: Carter’s Sweet Surprise Play Gym
If you happen to be a foodie or just stan cupcakes, popsicles and the color pink, you’ll love this dessert-inspired playmat from Carter’s. With sweet, sorbet colors; a soft, sprinkle-covered mat; and five dessert-shaped toys this gym is hard to resist. Seriously. It is too cute for words.
Carter’s “Sweet Surprise” play gym, $60 at Amazon
Best Convertible Playmat: Yookidoo Baby Gym
What makes the Yookidoo unique isn’t its high contrast patterns and colors — though, admittedly, they are super cool — it is the fact that the Yookidoo can convert from a mat to a seat. (Yes, really.) The activity center comes with several toys, a teething rattle and a tummy time pillow, and it can be folded for easy storage or travel.
Yookidoo baby gym and play mat, $89.99 at Amazon
Best Playmat for Small Spaces: Funny Supply Wood Play Gym
If you are looking for a “set it and forget it” style gym, look no further than Funny Supply. With wooden beads, toys and a sturdy, collapsible frame, this activity center lets you convert any flat surface into a playspace.
Funny Supply wood play gym, $54.99 at Amazon
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