Babies grow rapidly through the first year of life. Over that time, babies reach new growth stages and develop new skills. You need to create a safe place for your child to play and grow. The best baby play mats give you a place where you can put your baby that is comfortable and clean, whether it is for tummy time or toy time.
You might want to spend all day snuggling your baby; that is totally understandable. However, time on the floor is important as well. Your child needs time to stretch out. Being on the floor allows your child the opportunity to discover new areas in their world. It also lets your child learn how to strengthen his neck and how to roll from one side to the other.
Parents have to remember to rotate their baby! If you allow your child too much time on his back, he will develop a flat spot on the back of his skull. Tightness can develop in their arms and legs when unable to stretch out completely.
What Are Baby Play Mats?
Often, parents use the names play mats and play gyms interchange, but they are different. Play mats are available in two types: foam and fabric.
Foam play mats offer more cushioning to protect your child while learning how to reach new milestones. Instead of toppling over and hitting her head on the floor, a foam play mat will prevent injury when your child takes a fall because it always happens!
Most foam mats come in a variety of colors and patterns, so your child will be entertained and attracted. However, you do have to remember that foam play mats aren’t as portable nor travel well. Taking it from room to room can pose a problem. If that is a concern for you, but you still want a foam mat, consider interlocking foam mats because they come apart. Interlocking mats make it easy to travel or to take from room to room. Some foam mats also have a strange odor, so you have to give them a chance to air out first.
Fabric play mats are soft but don’t add as much thickness or cushioning as a foam mat. Fabric mats are easily rolled up for storage or transportation. However, fabric mats tend to bunch up, which can annoy you or the baby. You might spend too much time fixing the mat, which drives some people crazy.
What You Should Look for in a Play Mat
You might have a specific type of baby play mat in mind, or you could be open to designs and colors. There are some things you should look for when making a decision.
- Colors and Textures: Babies love to look at contrasting and varying colors. It ignites their curiosity and imagination. Play mats often have different sensory items attached to encourage exploration. These items typically are things like crinkly spots or silky ribbons. Some spots may rattle or squeak as well. You want your child to have things to look at that are close to their eyes since their eyesight doesn’t improve for a few months.
- Non-Skid Bottoms: I don’t know about you, but sliding mats drive me crazy. Look for play mats that have non-skid backing, especially if you plan to use them on a non-carpeted floor.
- Appropriate Sizing: Your baby play mat should be at least twice the size of your baby’s body. 40” x 40” seems to be a normal size; you don’t want to go smaller than this ideally. If the mat is too small, your baby will topple right off of it, defeating the purpose of having it all together. At the same time, a huge play mat will take up too much space in your room. The size should be large enough for your baby to roll or crawl around freely.
- Cleaning: Most parents know that kids are messy; it is a simple fact of life. If your child is a newborn, he might spit-up milk everywhere. Toddlers spill things all over the house. Toddlers are similar to waking tornadoes. A huge factor to consider is how you can clean your baby plat mat. Can you toss it in the washing machine? Are you able to wipe it down with soap and water? This factor is important!
- Extras: The last thing to consider is any extras that come with the play mat. Some that are designed for babies come with teethers, light-up toys and more. If your child is close to a toddler’s age, these toys might not make a huge difference to you! Some parents enjoy a play mat that gives them more bang for their buck.
Using a Baby Play Mat Appropriately
Using a baby play mat isn’t difficult, but you should know a few things. For example, never put your play mat on top of a table, even if your baby has yet to learn how to move. It is just dangerous; you never know what could happen. This rule also applies to bed. Play mats belong on the floor, nowhere else.
Don’t assume that just because your baby is on the mat that he or she is safe. You need to keep your eyes on him. Babies can quickly learn how to roll from one side of the room to the next side. Doing light chores is fine while your baby is on the mat, but quick every few moments or keep him within eyesight. Also, babies require a lot of cuddling and holding. Don’t allow your baby to spend too much time on the play mat!
The last thing to remember is that you need to clean your play mat fairly regularly. If it is fabric, chances are you can toss it in the washing machine with other towels or blankets. If it is foam, you have to make sure you can use soap and water to clean it. You should check foam mats regularly to ensure there are no missing or torn pieces. Babies typically find all of those places and rip off chunks of foam. That is a choking hazard!
The Best Baby Play Mats
Pingko Friends Baby Care Play Mat
Pingko created a colorful, reversible play mat that gives your child a safe and clean place to play. Your preschooler will even enjoy using the play mat! The cushioned mat protects your child as he learns how to crawl, roll and to fall over when he learns how to sit or stand. You can also take the Pingko Mat from room to room. Parents can roll it up for easy storage, but make sure to roll it up inside out, so it flattens out on its own!
The mat can be wiped off easily when your child has a diaper explosion or when a drink spills. Keeping your child’s play area clean is important. The mat is also waterproof so spills or accidents won’t ruin the mat, which isn’t a cheap investment!
- Covered with vibrant colors, images, and numbers that attract your child’s attention.
- Free of harsh chemicals such as BPA, EVA, phthalate, lead, latex, mercury, and formaldehyde.
- Tested to be hypoallergenic.
Children Play Mat and Toy Storage Bag from Bow-Tiger
Do you travel with your child frequently? If so, you need a unique type of baby play mat. Bow-Tiger made one of the best play mats that will give your baby a safe place to play and keeps their toys contained at the same time. That is something every parent wants! When it is time to clean up, the play mat folds into a toy storage bag, with all of the toys inside still! Parents just have to pull the drawstring. Clean-up takes less than a minute; it is a miracle.
- The sealed bag has two shoulder straps that make transportation easy!
- Perfect for older kids who play with smaller toys, such as Legos.
- Cleaning the mat is very easy. You can either wipe it clean or put it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle.
- Comes in two different colors: turquoise and Bordeaux.
- You can pick from three different sizes: 20”, 40” or 60.”
- Offers a full money-back guarantee if you aren’t pleased with your purchase.
Hape Baby Play Mat
Hape is the maker of natural toys that parents and kids love. They use bright colors and high quality to attract both parents and babies. Their play mat is huge! It is large enough for your baby and a friend to play on it, measuring 70” x 59.” Hape created the play mat to be reversible so that you can turn it over for different designs and themes. On one side of the mat, you will find a vibrant landscape. On the other side, you will find educational letters and a number grid, encouraging early learning.
- Made from safe materials that are free of BPA.
- Mat is 1” thick foam, so your child has a soft and comfortable surface.
- It is lightweight, so traveling with the play mat is easy!
- One downside is that there is no floor grip, so it is better on carpet or another rug to stop from sliding.
- Parents love that it is easy to clean. You can run a vacuum on it, shake it or wipe it down with a washcloth.
- For storage, the play mat rolls up and comes with reusable Velcro straps, perfect for traveling.
ProSource Kids Puzzle Alphabet and Numbers
When you think about the classic foam play mats, the ProSource Kids Puzzle Mat is what pops into your head. It comes with 36 foam pieces with removable letters and numbers, along with 24 border pieces. Each square equals 1 square foot, so the entire mat covers 36 square feet! That can cover a good portion of your playroom or living room. Best of all, ProSource used bright, primary colors to encourage early child development and learning.
- Not recommended for use on carpets.
- It is easy to put together and easy to clean. All you have to do is wipe it down with warm water and soap.
- It is meant for toddlers who want to learn colors and numbers.
- The materials are safe for your child and pose no health risk.
Bright Starts Sunny Safari
Bright Starts is a common brand for baby items. Their Sunny Safari Play mat is unique because it features fold-up walls that surround your little infant. The walls give your child a cozy and safe place to play, keeping other kids or animals away from your baby. Once your child is older, you can fold down the walls for more play space. It also comes with a little pillow for tummy time play. It is a versatile, 5-in-1 design.
- Includes toys for your child to grasp or to look at on the overhead, toy bar. Some of the toys include a light-up bird, bead sliders, teethers, a mirror, crinkle fabric and more.
- Once you fold down the walls, the mat is an oversized size, at 47” x 47.” There is plenty of space to play!
- The birdie toy delivers 20 minutes of fun tunes and melodies.
- The fabric is easy to wipe down with a washcloth.
Baby play mats give your child a place they can call their own. It is a space where a child can explore and enjoy learning. From an early age, you can lay your child on his play mat to look at toys or to enjoy tummy time. Play mats create a safe, comfortable, clean spot to lay your baby when awake and not in your arms.
These five choices for the best baby play mats are all different. Some are fabric, while some are foam. Some can be cleaned with soap and water, while others go right into the washing machine. You have to find the one with the right features that matter to your family.