You couldn’t wait to hold your baby in your arms...until that’s all she wanted you to do, all day and night. Here’s the deal on playmats: Not only are they a great way for mom to get a much-needed break (or um, go to the bathroom) but they’re also important tools for tummy time. And as an extra bonus, all the different textures, images and sounds will help boost your kid’s development too. Whether dubbed a playmat, activity gym or freakin’ lifesaver, these spots are specifically designed for kids to play and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. Here are seven of the best baby playmats, according to real moms.
The 7 Best Baby Play Mats, According to Real Moms
1. Best Activity Gym: Tiny Love Lights And Music Gymini Activity Gym
“This was such a godsend during my son’s first few months,” one mom tells us. “He absolutely hated tummy time, but the colorful pictures and flashing lights distracted him enough so that he could almost stand it. More importantly, I was able to lay him down on his back, which entertained him long enough for mama to make a cup of coffee.” This mat boasts five dangling toys, one moveable mirror, an interactive electronic touch pad for baby to play two different tunes and set off lights, plus crinkly and felt textures to explore. It also wins rave reviews for how convenient it is to travel with. “This mat was so easy to fold up and put away, plus I could remove the toys to hang in his stroller or bring with me if we were going to the park or a friend’s house.”
2. Best Value Play Mat: Hey! Play! Foam Floor Animal Puzzle Learning Mat
“This is the only way that I can get anything done,” mom Megan raves. “Initially it was just a soft space to put my baby down for a minute, but now that she’s mobile, she can take the pieces apart in the mat like a puzzle.” Each tile in this wallet-friendly mat features a removable animal—fun for baby and an educational tool for parents to teach their kids how to identify different colors and animals, all while working on that important hand-eye coordination. Made from 100 percent non-toxic foam, each tile has four interlocking edges to create a cushioned floor space or three-dimensional building blocks. “We use it with our playpen, and she just loves sitting in there with all her toys.”
Buy It ($21)
3. Best Foam Play Mat: Skip*hop Playspot Geo Foam Floor Tiles
Playmats are great for babies to practice their tummy time but arguably even more essential when kids start to sit up or crawl. “With this foam mat, I wasn’t as worried when my daughter tumbled over because it was soft enough to cushion her fall,” one mom tells us. “I also liked how easy these tiles were to clean,” she adds, noting that because the mat didn’t have an intricate pattern, she could wash it without worrying that something would rub off. With 40 triangles and 32 edge pieces, you can create multiple designs and sizes to fit your space. Moms also appreciate that the simple geometric pattern isn’t a total eyesore—whether in your nursery or living room.
4. Best Foldable Option: Han-mm Wooden Play Gym
This chic baby gym frame is made of unfinished beech wood that’s been sanded down so it’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom. “It blends into our living room decor and folds easily,” one mom tells us. “My daughter used to love lying under it, kicking it and reaching for the rings when she was 2 and 3 months old, and now that she's 9 months and can sit unassisted, she loves hanging out in front of it, spinning the rings around and teething on them.” Parents also appreciate how easy this gym is to put together (with no tools required) and even easier to put away. “You can also add your own toys to it, so it never gets old.”
5. Best ‘looks Like An Actual Carpet’ Play Mat: The House Of Noa Roam Free Play Mat
With soft tones of grey in a discreet design, this playmat could double as an heirloom rug. Don’t take it from us, take it from this happy customer: “Before becoming a mom, I promised myself that I would never be one of those parents that had toys strewn all over the living room and Cheerios wedged between the sofa cushions. Fast forward to the present and of course I am that parent. But when I had to get rid of our living room carpet (too slippery, too expensive and too painful on my knees), I wanted to keep at least some element of grown-up in our space. This carpet is definitely that—we’ve had guests over who didn’t even know it was a puzzle-piece playmat!”
6. Best For Tummy Time Play Mat: Fisher-price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym
Tummy time might just be a little less painful with this fun pick that features five light-up piano keys, a repositionable toy arch and four musical settings. “My son would lie on his belly and try to reach for the crinkly toys and teethers and then when he kicked his legs, it would trigger the music to play!” And when baby’s older, you can detach the piano for more rocking out.
7. Best Splurge Play Mat: Lovevery Play Gym
“I'm a huge fan of the Lovevery play gym—and honestly everything about that company,” says mom Rachel. “There are so many different ways to play with it, from black and white flashcards that slot into one of the sides to crinkly sections, mirrors, even colors to attract and engage your baby as they start to slowly experience their new world.” And that’s not all—this parent favorite also features a Montessori-approved cotton ball, a batting ring, teethers and face card sets to help you build baby’s vocabulary. “I still sometimes bust it out with my toddler because it comes with a covering to convert it into a fort. It was a little pricey at the time, but we’ve gotten so much use out of it that I think it’s a really great investment!”