Best Playmats of 2017

Best Playmats of 2017

Last Updated: January 1, 2017
Stimulating and safe, these activity gyms will keep your baby occupied while keeping you at ease.Best Playmats of 2017

Whether you call it a playmat, play gym, or an activity gym, the idea is the same - a brightly colored and interactive mat for your baby’s play time. They come in lots of different sizes, shapes and themes but they all have small toys like mirrors (don’t worry, they’re baby safe!), rattles, jingle and crinkle toys, music and lights to stimulate and delight your little one.

Do you need a playmat?

Need may be a strong word but an activity gym can come in handy. Let’s face it: even if we wanted to, we can’t hold our babies 24/7. Baby holders like activity mats, bouncers, and swings can sub for your arms when you need to answer the phone or the door, use the restroom (you have to at some point!) or make dinner. An playmat is a fun choice because it offers a variety of visuals, sounds and textures, whereas most swings and bouncers may only have one or two small plush toys. And they’re perfect for tummy time, which helps babies strengthen their heads, necks, and shoulder muscles. Tummy time also promotes motor skills and helps to prevent the flattening of the back of the head.

When do you need a playmat?

You can use a play gym from day one, but babies between three to six months old get the most enjoyment out of it. This stage is when your baby is developing hand-eye coordination and grasping for the dangling toys is good practice. Once your baby starts to crawl, she’ll move on to other toys (literally!).

Depending on your child’s weight and height, you could use a crib until he is four or five years old. However, parents usually move their children into toddler or twin beds around two to three years old. But, if your kiddo is a climber, you’ll likely make the change sooner because of safety concerns.

How we chose our best picks

We asked thousands of real BabyList families about the baby products they love the most, now that their little one has arrived. We took the top products they shared with us and added our own research and insight. Here are the top playmat picks we think you and your baby will love.

Babylist Best Picks

THE MUSICAL PICK

Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano Gym - $33.88
WHY WE LOVE IT

What really sets this play gym apart is the musical piano that plays notes when your baby kicks or pats the keys. Don’t be surprised to find your baby chortling when a tune plays - she feels so powerful! Five toys can dangle overhead, for when your little one is on her back, or you can attach them to the mat to make tummy time more entertaining. When your baby sits up, let her pound away on the piano keys. Kids love making noise!

KEEP IN MIND

This mat is pretty small, with room for baby to lay in one spot but not roll around that much.

WHAT BABYLIST PARENTS SAY

“I can throw my little man on the mat, and he starts kicking away to play the piano with his feet, and starts tugging at the mobile pieces immediately. No matter how fussy he’s being, this toy seems to calm him down! He also gets some great exercise in with all of the kicking, grabbing and scootching. It’s been four months now and this durable play gym remains his favorite spot to chillax and Mommy gets five minutes.”

“My six month old still loves this kick and play piano play mat. Not only does it have toys dangling for her to reach for, but it also challenges her to use her legs to kick and create music! Now she can sit up and hit the piano keys with her hands. It’s a very versatile playmat and the music is great stimulation for her as well!”

ADDITIONAL SPECS

Child Guidelines Birth and up

Additional batteries required? Yes, 3 AA batteries

THE EASY TRAVELER

Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe - $45.62
WHY WE LOVE IT

Amp up your baby’s play time with some music while she clutches at the gym’s crinkle toys, dangling plushies, and rattle. This activity gym has two music modes to choose from- Mozart and nursery tunes- that babies can activate with their own little kicks to the response pad. We’re sure your wee one will also love checking herself out in the big, attached mirror. But we think you’ll really appreciate that this gym folds flat and easily fits into the (included) sturdy travel bag. Perfect for traveling or stashing in the closet.

“My little one just loves it”

KEEP IN MIND

Some parents find themselves replacing the batteries quite often and have reported poorer sound and light quality with further use, even after replacing batteries.

WHAT BABYLIST PARENTS SAY

“Great for entertaining baby before they are mobile. We use it all the time.”

“My little one just loves it and can spend time on it. Nothing to add!”

ADDITIONAL SPECS

Child Guidelines Birth to 12 months old

Additional batteries required? Yes, 3 AA batteries

THE VERSATILE PICK

Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Activity Gym - $62.43
WHY WE LOVE IT

With over 15 developmental activities, the Skip Hop provides a soft, quilted mat for your baby to kick back on while he swats and tries to grab the five dangling plush toys overhead. When you want to turn him onto his tummy, use the accompanying curved bolster pillow to support his chest. You can also remove the arches to use the quilt as a diaper changing mat or, later, as a soft place for your baby to sit and play with toys on the ground. Many parents also love the subtle but sweet design and colors of this particular play gym.

KEEP IN MIND

The Skip Hop is the most expensive pick on this list and parents should know that the gym does not include toys that have mechanized lights or sounds.

WHAT BABYLIST PARENTS SAY

“Not sure what we would do without this play gym. We love the colors and characters, and the fact that the animals are interchangeable and can be removed. We often take the animals off and clip them to other things for an instant toy-on-the-go. She’s learned about textures, how to grasp, how to focus and follow toys, how to shake and crinkle.”

“It’s amazing to watch baby’s coordination improve by reaching for the dangling toys day by day.”

ADDITIONAL SPECS

Child Guidelines Birth and up

Additional batteries required? No

THE BUDGET BUY

IKEA Leka Baby Gym - $24.99
WHY WE LOVE IT

This pared down baby gym is great if you’re on a tight budget but still want a soft play place for your little one. This activity mat, with four plush toys, will still entertain your baby.

ADDITIONAL SPECS

Child Guidelines Birth and up

Additional batteries required? No

THE STYLISH MAT

Infantino Square Twist and Fold Activity Gym - $39.99
WHY WE LOVE IT

This gym has four dangling stuffies, a mirror and a tummy time pillow much like some of our top picks. What makes it unique is that it comes in different themes - like baby animals, vintage boy, and fashionista pink (called Lil Gems) - so you can pick the style and colors you like best.

ADDITIONAL SPECS

Child Guidelines Birth and up

Additional batteries required? No

THE PRECIOUS PICK

Land of Nod Be on the Sea Activity Floor Mat  - $119.00
WHY WE LOVE IT

This beautiful playmat immerses your baby in a delightful marine environment. The embroidered sea creatures and rouched fabric are not only lovely, but also help stimulate your little one’s senses. It’s definitely on the pricier end, but it could be a worthy splurge for parents looking for a photoshoot prop or a special addition to their baby gear.

ADDITIONAL SPECS

Child Guidelines Birth and up

Additional batteries required? No

Choosing what’s right for you

A playmat or an activity mat is a fun, useful way to keep your little one entertained. Your baby will most likely be intrigued and occupied by any of the choices you select. Think about the style and price range that’s important to you. Soon your baby will be here and exploring their new magical mat!

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