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10 Best Baby Play Mats of 2023

Baby needs to be entertained—but that can be tough when you’re running on 15 minutes of sleep and your arms desperately need a break. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best baby play mats, ranging from simple to action-packed, as an easy way to engage with baby while stimulating their mind. With features like hanging toys to bat, soft and crinkly textures for tactile exploration and high-contrast images to captivate their attention, these multifunctional baby gyms engage several senses at once. Better yet, play mats support the development of important milestones like grasping, rolling over and tracking movement. A play gym serves as a safe spot for your little one to practice tummy time with your close supervision or a designated place to enjoy a little independent play (yes, you sit down nearby and maybe even enjoy your morning coffee!). Sold on the idea of a standout baby gym? Below, shop our favorite styles for every need and budget—plus, read expert advice on how to safely use a baby gym.

When Can Your Child Use a Baby Play Mat?

“You can use a play mat from day one as tummy time can be done immediately after birth with supervision,” says Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas. Once baby reaches the three-month mark, they’ll enjoy using an infant activity mat even more. This is because their neck muscles will be stronger, so they’ll be able to better support their head and chest while on their stomach, explains Phillips-Walker. As your child begins crawling and becomes more mobile, they probably won’t use their play mat as much. A baby gym also serves as a designated place to place baby on their back for some visual and tactile stimulation. Baby play gyms generally feature a variety of toys, textures and developmental activities that’ll continue to stimulate your little one as they grow. Some infant activity mats can even be transformed into play forts or tents once your child reaches toddlerhood—meaning they’ll be a staple in your playroom for years to come.

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How to Safely Use a Baby Play Mat

Safety is a top priority when it comes to using any baby gear, and play mats are no different. To ensure your little love is safe as they play and learn about the world around them, keep the following advice top of mind:

  • Time limit. Start off with five-minute sessions up to three times a day, suggests Phillips-Walker. As baby gets older, the time limit can be increased; 5 to 10 minutes is recommended for newborns under the three-month mark, and 10 to 30 minutes is recommended for infants between 3 and 6 months.

  • Supervision. Parents and caregivers should never leave baby unattended on a baby activity mat; this is especially true for infants who aren’t yet able to push up on their hands and knees independently. If your child rolls onto their face, Phillips-Walker suggests quickly intervening to prevent the risk of suffocation. Moreover, if you have to leave the room for a moment, look for another safe place for baby, instead of leaving them their play mat.

What To Look For in a Baby Play Mat

When shopping for a baby play mat, think about what features are most important to you. Looking for a stimulating space to entertain your child? Then a baby activity gym with bars overhead and lots of bells and whistles might just do the trick. Better yet, adds Phillips-Walker, dangling toys can encourage your little one to roll over, reach and grasp for objects. If tummy time is a priority, opt for a comfy baby activity mat covered with different textures, flaps and unbreakable mirrors. These features will promote tactile interactions, discovery and self-awareness. If bright colors aren’t your thing, there are even options in muted tones and natural materials that’ll blend right in with your decor. No matter what style baby gym you have in mind, Phillips-Walker recommends choosing an option made from non-toxic, infant-friendly material that’s durable and easy to clean.

Best Baby Play Mats and Activity Gyms to Shop

Whether you’re looking for a play mat for newborns, an affordable option or a minimalist design, we’ve got you covered. Below, shop our curated roundup of the best baby gyms and activity mats on the market.

Overall best baby play mat

Lovevery The Play Gym

Image: Lovevery

Trying to decide on the best baby play mat for the little one in your life? You can’t go wrong with Lovevery’s signature play gym. This Best of Baby award-winner has some serious science behind it. Designed by child development experts, it’s the best baby activity gym to last through your child’s first year. The colorful mat consists of five developmental zones for hours of play and tummy time, plus four detachable toys that can be switched out based on baby’s age and stage. Bonus: Its stylish design will look right at home in your living space.

  • Five developmental zones and several attachable toys for customized play
  • Can be used from birth
  • Transitions into a play fort for toddlers

Best play mat for newborns

Manhattan Toy Wimmer Ferguson Crawl And Discover Mat

Image: Amazon

Newborn vision isn’t quite strong enough to pick up on subtle color differences. Until around the three-month mark, high-contrast images—like the black and white graphics on this baby play mat—are the best way to grab your little love’s attention. A great spot to enjoy tummy time, this baby mat has fun features for newborns to explore, like a detachable mirror, teething rings, flaps and crinkle paper.

  • Features high-contrast images to captivate newborns
  • Several sensory elements for baby to explore
  • Machine-washable
  • Doesn’t come with an overhead baby gym

Best baby play mat with a removable activity gym

B. toys Wooden Baby Play Gym

Image: Amazon

A great neutral option for a small space, this minimalist baby gym consists of a wooden activity frame and a plush tummy time mat. They can be used together or separately, making this design travel-friendly and easy to move around your home. Baby will love grasping at the floating sensory toys above—and you’ll love how it fosters their motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

  • Activity gym and play mat can be used together or separately
  • Travel-friendly
  • Affordable price point
  • Toy length isn’t adjustable, so younger infants may not be able to reach them at first

Best tummy time mat

Skip Hop Garden Oasis Activity Gym

Image: Skip Hop

Your little one may not have a green thumb, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy this botanical-themed baby play gym. The sweet setup includes a soft, quilted baby activity mat with garden-inspired toys hanging above. What’s more, this pick is perfect for getting baby used to tummy time, thanks to its supportive cactus pillow.

  • Supportive, cactus-shaped tummy time pillow
  • Hanging toys inspired by gardening
  • More than 17 developmental activities for baby to discover
  • Some elements of this play gym are spot clean only

Best musical baby play mat

Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin' Tunes Play Gym

Image: Amazon

Have a baby Mozart at home? Stoke your infant’s creativity with this fun baby jungle gym that lets them learn through play. Your child can kick the piano toy to trigger music as a reward for wiggling around, while the overhead frame encourages them to reach for the colorful toys above. Playtime will never be boring thanks to the crinkly, mirrored and musical elements on this infant activity mat—plus, there’s even a supportive pillow for tummy time.

  • Colorful, music-inspired toys
  • Piano toy detaches for on-the-go fun
  • Supportive tummy time pillow
  • Four language options available
  • Powered by batteries (not included)

Best affordable baby play mat

Bright Starts Tiki Bar Baby Activity Gym & Tummy Time Mat

Image: Amazon

Keeping your little love entertained doesn’t have to cost a whole lot—take this baby activity mat and play gym, for example. Keep the overhead toy bar on to entertain your child while on their back or sitting, or detach it to use this pick as a tummy time mat. Best of all, it’s under $20!

  • Compact size is travel- and storage-friendly
  • Activity gym and play mat can be used together or separately
  • Affordable price point
  • Some reviewers say they wish the play mat was more padded

Best minimalist baby play mat

LALO The Play Gym

Image: LALO

If you’re on the hunt for a baby gym that isn’t an eyesore, this minimalist design is sure to check all of the boxes on your list. The chic play gym consists of a super-soft mat and a wooden toy frame all made of natural materials. Baby will love experimenting with the sensory ball, teether and mirror all included with this infant activity mat. Better yet, the neutral color scheme is sure to blend in with your home’s aesthetic so you can keep it out even after playtime is over.

  • Activity gym and play mat can be used together or separately
  • Minimalist design available in four modern color options
  • Can be converted into a play tent with the purchase of a conversion kit
  • High price point
  • Toys included may be better suited to younger infants

Best high-end baby play mat

Skip Hop x pbk Dreamy Skies Activity Gym

Image: Pottery Barn Kids

Made from plush sherpa and chamois fabric, this dreamy baby mat is perfect for cozy playtime moments throughout your child’s first year. The baby activity gym includes plenty of sensory features—like a rainbow-shaped rattle and a soft squeaky bunny—for your infant to explore as their gross and fine motor skills develop. Better yet, the arches can be removed if you’re taking this activity mat on the go.

  • Features adorable sensory toys
  • Made with high-quality, cozy fabrics
  • Arches can be removed for tummy time, storage or travel
  • High price point
  • Toys and arches are spot clean only

Best multi-use baby play mat

Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Crawl & Play Activity Gym

Image: Amazon

Searching for a baby gym that your little one can continue to play with as they grow? Look no further than this versatile option. The 3-in-1 design starts off as a play gym and then can be used as a tummy time mat or a mini play tent as your child gets older. Five stimulating toys are included, like a wobbly, musical water can and a frog rattle.

  • Versatile design grows with baby
  • Includes five garden-inspired toys
  • Machine-washable mat
  • Not as travel-friendly as other options

Best baby play mat for travel

Dakota Woodland Muslin Travel Play Mat

Image: Pottery Barn Kids

Last on our list of the best baby play mats is this adorable option from Pottery Barn Kids. The circular baby mat is decorated with pastel woodland creatures and is made from 100 percent organic cotton. When you need to take it out and about, simply roll it up and use the attached handles to carry it with ease. The portable design is perfect for picnic playdates, trips to a loved one’s house or tummy time at home.

  • Travel-friendly design includes handles
  • Boho-inspired illustrations
  • Machine-washable and made from organic cotton
  • Doesn’t come with an activity bar or toys

Alexis Phillips-Walker, DO, is a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Pediatrics in Atascocita, Texas. She earned her medical degree from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens.

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