All hail the baby play mat, which along with an activity center, is a parenting essential. One of the few toys that will grow along with your infant during their first year, the mat — also known as baby play gym or activity mat — not only offers a variety of sensory activities to encourage development and curiosity in babies, but it is also an excellent arena for the neck-strengthening, core-shaping of tummy time.
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Another bonus: When your infant is on the mat, it buys parents a bit of time to, you know, run to the bathroom, wipe down a cabinet, or just space out and shake out their arms for a minute. As there are 1,000s of play mats available, we looked to Amazon to find some of the most well-reviewed models available. All factors considered, here are the best baby play mats.
This best-in-class play mat and baby gym has removable accessories for stage-based learning and five development zones for your baby, to keep him or her curious and engaged.
This play mat and baby gym turns into a fort when your child outgrows it. But first, it was specifically designed and created to promote cognitive, visual, and motor development in newborns and older babies.
“Our 3-month old loves her morning play sessions on the Lovevery play gym. I am amazed by how long she can stay focused and attentive while lying on the gym. She is barely mobile (3 months), and from the middle of the mat, her focus usually goes to the high-contrast ball (in the picture), then to the high-contrast cards. This week, she has been enjoying the cards with baby face pictures. She actually coos at some of them, which is adorable.”
This cushioned play met does what it's meant to do: Protect baby explorers. It's cushioned and portable. Babies can crawl and tumble on it, and learn to sit and stand.
Think of this as your baby’s personal Equinox. The vibrant colors and numbers are a bonus in terms of keeping them engaged. This play-mate is, of course, BPA-free and phthalate-free. This mat encourages children to move around and start to crawl. It’s waterproof and easy to clean, because you just wipe it down with a damp cloth. And it insulates against noise. It’s ideal for older babies who are ready to explore.
“Seriously one of the best purchases I have made for our baby and living room. I’ve had this for a few months now and am SO GLAD I replaced the area rug with this. Do not miss having a rug at all in the living room. We use it every day! This is so comfortable to sit on and more hygienic. Today I took a soapy mop to this and hosed it off. Good as new, after food and other much grosser stuff has hit this mat.”
Save yourself a trip to Walt Disney World and get this play mat instead. It's filled with lights, music, puppet play and six detachable toys.
This machine-washable play mat is full of lights and sounds. We’re talking 20 minutes of ocean-themed melodies, to be exact. There’s even a Dory finger puppet and a baby discovery clamshell mirror. It’s great for newborns up to kids three years of age.
“I purchased this play gym for my two month old to begin to stimulate him and play with him even though he still can’t do much but reach out and touch the toys. He absolutely loved it!!! The gym is made out of high quality materials and well constructed. This gym plays music and also has an option for relaxing ocean sounds. It also lights up and comes with one puppet (Dory). All dangling toys are made out of hard plastic except Dory. The color on the toys is very pigmented and good quality.”
With this play mat, you get a tricked-out newborn gym with 10 toys and activities and a removable, take-along toucan with music and dancing lights.
Any baby will have a blast with this play mat, which has 10 toys, and even more activities. Babies can make the zebra clack, spin the snail’s rollerball, or bat at the monkey and lion. It even plays music and nature sounds. It’s great for newborns and up.
“Got this for my niece when she was almost 3 months old, and she loved it! Her favorite was the little flower mirror. This gym was the very first thing that really got her interested and engaged, and we loved watching her play with all the different interactive toys. She learned to swat at the hanging butterfly and grab the toy lion between her fingers and make the music play by kicking her legs. Absolutely love this gym, worth every penny.”
It's like Coachella for babies. The Tiny Love play mat features 30 songs and 18 activities for your infant.
This two-way mat has 18 different activities and developmental toys to keep your baby busy. The play mat has adjustable arches that let you customize this multi-mode activity mat to match your baby’s developmental stages and keep him or her engaged and entertained. Plus, it can be used as a changing pad and is machine washable.
“I love this play gym. I researched tons of different ones when I was pregnant with my first and I decided to go with this one. I was not disappointed. It has lots of play area, animals are engaging with their colors, the parrot has wings that crinkle when pressed, the elephant’s trunk can be pushed out and it jiggles back into place, and the loops on the arches are sturdy and you can attach your own hanging toys if you’d like. I also love that the music has two switches, one that plays continuously and the other setting only plays when baby kicks its feet over the sensor.”
This baby play mat, created by Baby Einstein, is loaded with sensory activities to encourage your baby to explore and learn.
The large, machine-washable mat is padded and awash in bright colors, while overhead there is a mélange of interactive elements to capture your child. The large star centerpiece is motion activated and has lights and eight classic melodies, plus it can be attached to cribs and car seats. There are also another six toys that you can place at will wherever you want on the structure.
“I bought this for my two-month-old granddaughter and she absolutely loves it,” wrote one reviewer. “The first time I put her on it she was watching the lights and smiling. Her mother has a different one at her house and so far the baby has not shown any interest in it so we are going to buy the music star to add on to hers. She can turn to her side so she was looking at the lights then turning on her side to look at herself in the mirror. You can hear her trying to talk and a tiny giggle. “
Cool: The four sides of the mat fold up to create a cozy, walled in space. Even cooler: it comes with a set of balls for you to create a mini ball pit for junior.
The center of this mat is padded and decorated with a fun jungle theme, while overhead the four cross bars come with a light-up elephant, moveable mirror, rattles, and other interactive toys. It is machine washable, but does not pack easily for travel.
Writes one reviewer: “This is my third baby and I wasn’t sure about the price but I wanted to get something with a little bit of everything and something she could grow with! She is 3 months old today and I can tell she loves it! There is plenty for her to look at! And she has been smiling a lot!! The elephant is great but even when I get tired of hearing it and turn it off there is always something else to entertain her! Well worth the price!”
Affordably priced, this pond-themed mat features frog, turtle, duck, and fish toys that hang overhead and rattle, click, and jingle.
The multi-patterned padded mat is machine washable and comes with a matching bolster to help prop up your child when they want to look in the large mirror during tummy time. Many reviewers have written about how easy this mat is to set up and take down, adding that it’s ideal for travel.
“It’s really easy to snap together and to take apart. I LOVE the fact you can break it down with one hand,” wrote one reviewer. “Just push twist and bam it’s compact to take to another room. I do place something underneath for a little more cushion (we have wood flooring).”
This extra large well-padded mat offers your child, or children, space to move around and interact.
The main focus here is not hanging toys but tummy time, with numerous items built into the quilted surface underneath them. Those include different textures to grasp — including a mesmerizing, crinkly foxtail —a built in-ring on which you can attach toys, and a hook-on mirror. Maybe one of the best things it offers is simplicity: If you’re traveling with it, you just fold and go.
“I wanted a soft, padded play mat (something thicker than just a blanket) so my newly-crawling baby could practice his skills without bonking his head on the floor. This is perfect,” wrote one reviewer. “It has nice soft padding, and is large enough to give him a lot of room to crawl and roll around…The mirror & crinkle toys were a big hit with my son. I would recommend this to anyone with a crawling baby.”
This circular nature-themed padded mat assembles in less than two minutes and is loaded with activities to keep your child occupied.
It comes with five woodland-themed play toys to hang overhead, but you are not limited to those only. There are 13 loops that you can fill with any and all toys they adore as well as four more loops on the mat on which you can attach toys. Plus, there is an included bolster pillow to help them keep their head up during tummy time and a small mirror embedded into the tree trunk in the mat.
“This little gym is amazing. Baby enjoys it several times a day since birth, she is 5 months old now and loves grabbing toys and shaking them around. Her favorite is bird rattle and she also loves the wooden teething ring on another bird and crinkle wings.”
This baby play mat gives your infant four ways to play: Via tummy time, lay and play, sit and play, and take along with you. The content adapts with your baby as she grows up, going from 20 minutes of continuous music, and short songs about animals, to the introduction of colors, shapes, and phrases.
But that’s not all. This baby mat is pretty much all-around great, rave parents. There’s a large keyboard with light-up keys. And you can move five toys around: the mirror, the teether, a crinkle panda, a lion rattle and monkey cymbal clackers.
“My 3 month-old daughter has grown to LOVE this piano mat! She was only 2 months when we first tried it out and she was stimulated by the hanging toys, but now she can lay there for 20-30 minutes just kicking away! She is teething so she tries to bring the toys to her mouth. I like that I can hang lots of different toys to mix it up, and the songs are ADORABLE!”
If you need a travel play mat, we recommend this one from Skip Hop. It's great for babies starting to crawl. It's a single sheet foam play mat that rolls up for storage and travel. And it's made of PVC-free, phthalate-free foam.
Sized at 86 X 52 inches, this Skip Hop play mat is easy on the eyes, and easy to take on the road. Granted, it has no rattle bells or whistles. But if you need a safe place for your baby to roll around, this is it.
“Just got this today and we love it! Comfy enough to cushion my 6mo when he topples over, but not so thick that you would trip over it. It also had plenty of space for me to sit or even lie on the mat with my son. It also has a bit of texture making it nonslip, and it feels like it will be very easy to clean. There was absolutely no smell, and I chose this company because they test for so many toxic chemicals, so I feel safe using this with my son.”
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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