The 8 Very Best Play Mats for Babies, Tested by PureWow Parents

Conquer tummy time in style

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best play mats for kids universal editoris picks

Play mats don’t often make the baby registry list, which is odd considering that if you do invest in one, it will most likely be used on a daily (hourly, even!) basis. Why? Well, first, there’s the all-important tummy time, which per the American Academy of Pediatrics should be done soon after hospital discharge, “increasing incrementally to at least 15 to 30 minutes total daily by 7 weeks of age.” And I won’t lie to you—babies aren’t big fans of tummy time (both of my kids despised it). But it’s important business, and it helps to have someplace soft and cushioned for them to do it.

Another reason why I recommend new parents invest in a play mat is because as much as you love cuddling your little nugget, you need someplace safe to put the baby down while you fold laundry, make lunch or, you know, go to the bathroom. And lastly, babies like ‘em! Whether you opt for something that comes with lots of bells and whistles or just a soft foam mat, having a designated spot where baby can play and explore, all while strengthening abdominal muscles and overall balance, is a good idea. As such, I spoke with other PureWow editors and parents (as well as relied on my experience as a mom of two active little people) to round up eight of the best play mats below.

Best Activity Mats at a Glance


Best Overall

Skip Hop Celestial Dreams Activity Gym

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Most Interactive Play Mat

Fisher Price Piano Gym

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Best for Travel

Taggies Baby Mat, Buddy Dog

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Best Play Mat for Longevity

Lovevery Play Mat

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Best Non-Toxic Play Mat

Toki Padded Faux Leather Play Mat

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How I Chose the Best Play Mats

For our list, I used my own personal experience with play mats as a mom-of-two, and tapped other PureWow moms for their recommendations. After noting parents’ favorite picks, I took a close look at customer reviews and considered the materials, size, design and any extra features that added to its functionality (like, for example, dangling toys or detachable accessories). In order to meet the needs of every budget, I also picked pieces at a range of price points.

One thing to note: Technically, play mats are just cushioned surfaces for babies to lie or sit on. Activity gyms, on the other hand, are similar to play mats but typically feature some sort of hanging structure with dangling toys. Considering that both play mats and activity gyms serve the same purpose—to give parents a safe place to plop their baby down and practice important motor skills—I decided to not distinguish between the two, and have included both play mats and activity gyms in my list.

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Skip Hop

Featuring more than 17 development activities, babies love playing on this soft mat and parents love that it’s not a total eyesore. Accessories include tactile ribbons, soft lovies, and teether toys, plus a tummy time pillow and a mirror. And while the pillow won't necessarily make your infant excited about tummy time, in my experience it does make the experience more tolerable. Many of the detachable toys make fun sounds like chimes and crinkling to engage baby’s senses and keep him entertained long enough for mom to shower (maybe). “It’s super soft and has lots of cool guys that make various enticing crinkling/jingling sounds to play with. And although it's not wipeable, it's machine washable,” says senior food editor and mom-of-one Katherine Gillen. Extra bonus: This one folds up easily and can be stored away when you need more floor space.

Fast Facts:

  • Material: polyester, PU foam, fiberglass, PP, ABS
  • Size: 38 x 38 x 38 inches
best play mat for babies fisher price
Fisher Price

Most Interactive Play Mat

2. Fisher Price Piano Gym

Fisher Price

This colorful play mat features a repositionable toy bar with five activity toys, plus take-along maracas and a removable light-up piano. What parents really like about this one though is how it offers plenty of entertainment for baby throughout the entire first year. Infants can use the mat for tummy time, making sure to give those legs some exercise by kicking against the piano. Then as baby grows, she can interact with all the elements in a seated position. Finally, the toys are detachable so you can play as you go. And for the removable piano, there are multiple options for songs, sounds and phrases, depending on which stage your child is at.

“This has been such a hit in our house,” says PureWow’s former director of branded content and mom-of-two Cristina Polchinski. “It's perfect for entertaining baby through stages, but the mat is small so it's not great as they grow. But when they outgrow that part, they still love jamming on the piano and listening to the songs (that are now stuck in my head for eternity, but it's fine because I like the songs—they’re cute!).”

Fast Facts:

  • Material: plastic
  • Size: 36 x 18 x  27.01 inches

Best for Travel

3. Taggies Baby Mat, Buddy Dog


This soft and cuddly mat weighs just two ounces and folds up easily, making it a great on-the-go option, whether you’re going away for a vacation or just heading to grandma’s house around the corner. It may not feature as many bells and whistles as some of the other options on our list, but its ultra-soft padding and 18 Taggies to tug and pull make it plenty fun for tummy time. Another bonus? It’s machine washable (because, drool).

“My aunt sent us a Taggies baby mat for our second baby, and it has quickly become one of my favorite underrated baby products! At first glance, it’s super cute and soft, but I didn’t think it would become a staple of these hectic early days. Now, since it’s lightweight, I basically bring it along with me around the house, plopping it into any room I’m in with the baby so he can comfortably and safely lay while I shower, work, etc. I also love that you can throw it in the wash (hi, blowouts) and it comes out looking and feeling—not an exaggeration—exactly the same.

Fast Facts:

  • Material: silicone
  • Size: 31 x 23 inches

Best Play Mat for Longevity

4. Lovevery Play Mat


We’re big fans of Lovevery’s play kits, so it comes as no surprise that the brand delivers a stellar play mat for babies. The mat is padded and comes with a removable overheard gym with dangling toys (like an organic cotton Montessori ball and wooden batting ring), learning cards and a play guide written by child development specialists, all of which are designed to promote cognitive, visual and motor development.

“I'm a huge fan of the Lovevery play gym—and honestly everything about that company,” says PureWow’s senior director of special projects and mom-of-one Rachel Bowie. “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 mat is unique in its ability to grow with your child: “I even continued to use it 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!” adds Bowie.

Bonus? All fabric parts are machine washable, and you can easily wipe down the wooden and plastic parts.

Fast Facts:

  • Material: FSC-certified wood, polyester, silicone and organic cotton
  • Size: 23.9 x 50 x 47 inches

Best Non-Toxic Play Mat

5. Toki Padded Faux Leather Play Mat


Toys and accessories are nice, but you know that joke about kids preferring the box to the plaything that came in it? Sometimes, simple is best. And this padded play mat is exactly that—no frills, just a cushioned surface for your babe to lay, sit, play and relax. It features a removable faux-leather cover over a two-piece natural-latex insert and can be folded up for easy transportation.

“Was I scammed into spending this much on a playmat?” asks Gillen. “Probably, but when I compared it to others, I liked that it was definitely made of a nontoxic material (latex),” she adds. She also loves that it’s super cushioned for her daughter “so that she can roll around and bonk her head as much as she wants without injury.” Another major selling point? How easy this one is to clean (drool, spit-up, poop… play mats have seen it all). Simply use a wet wipe or paper towel to wipe up any mess and you’re done. Conveniently, it’s also available in three sizes so you can pick an option that best suits your living space.

Fast Facts:

  • Material: polyurethane, natural rubber latex
  • Size: 40 inches (Small); 55 inches (Medium); 60 x 84 inches (Large)

Best for Infants

6. Pehr Baby Play Mat


The Pehr mat was a favorite with multiple parents that I spoke with, thanks to its soft material, sweet print options and ease of use. It likely won’t keep an almost-toddler entertained, but it’s a great option for babies who aren’t crawling yet. The cotton exterior and polyester fiberfill give it a quilt or blanket-like quality, and the fact that it’s reversible means you’ll get twice the usage out of it. Oh, and did we mention that it’s machine washable?

“I absolutely love this,” Polchinski shares. “The circle is a good size and it's soft and quilted. It’s also easy to stash and wash; I use it on the rug in our living room and toss it in a nearby basket if I want it put away.” Another major selling point is that the mat isn’t an eyesore—quite the opposite in fact. The mat pictured above is in the Rocketman design (adorable, right?), and there are nine other dreamy designs to choose from (I’m personally swooning over the Life Aquatic design).

Fast Facts:

  • Material: cotton, polyester fiberfill
  • Size: 40 inches
House of Noa

Chicest Play Mat

7. House of Noa Little Nomad Play Mat

House of Noa

No screen time, no food pouches and no hideous baby items on display in the home… these were just a few of the things you swore you’d never do with your child before, you know, you actually had one. And that’s OK! Parenthood changes and challenges you in wonderful ways. But thanks to this clever brand, you don’t have to give up all semblance of home style just because you have a baby. House of Noa makes chic play mats that—and I swear that this is true—don’t actually look like play mats. I had one in my living room for years that many guests assumed was a regular (and rather stylish) rug.

It’s very basic in terms of functionality in that it’s just a padded surface, there are no accessories or toys included, but you can’t beat this mat when it comes to style and convenience, thanks to the multiple tile designs that look like rugs and come in a variety of sizes. It was great for baby to practice those motor skills and even better for my knees when I bent down to play too. We also ended up keeping a changing pad nearby so we could do quick diaper changes on the mat—trust this seasoned parent when I say you’re going to want a diaper station on every floor in your home for those first few months! Polchinski is also a fan: “I love this one for cushioning a hard surface, but I’m actually using it for an easily wipeable play surface on carpet right now. I wish I had bought a bigger one to begin with (I have the 4- x 6-feet) because I want more floor coverage, but it's expensive.”

I will say that the price isn’t the only drawback—after over two years of use, the printed top film layer of my mat started to peel off the surface. Fortunately, House of Noa customer service was fantastic and sent me some replacement tiles. But when it happened again a while later, I decided it was time to let the mat go.

Fast Facts:

  • Material: EVA foam and printed top film layer
  • Size: multiple sixes, ranging from 4 x 6 to 10 x 12 feet

Best New Launch

8. DockATot MiniMat


It’s so exciting when your baby masters a new milestone… until you realize that you now have to pad the walls/cover the outlets/baby proof the house. Rolling over is one of those milestones. Finally, your kid isn’t turtling on the floor anymore but oops, now they can just keep going and going and going! This newly launched mini mat may help ease some of mom’s fears thanks to the slightly raised edges designed so baby can safely practice reaching, rolling and head lifting. It also features a detachable toy arch with dangling toys plus tactile tabs around the mat.

Commerce editor and new mom Olivia Dubyak tested the mat out with her infant and raves: “I love the cushion of this play mat because my floors are all hardwood, so when I want to put it in the living room or the laundry room while I'm folding clothes, I don't need to add an extra layer of cushion underneath it. My little man is four-and-a-half months old and is absolutely enamored with the little hanging animals (especially the zebra), but now he's able to pull them off so we spend a lot of time without the arch and the animals just on the base for him to grab during tummy time,” she says. “He's a pretty tall baby and he's pretty close to the edges of it so it's not super spacious for him at this point for rolling practice. He's also got bad reflux so it's always covered in spit up stains so I love that I can throw it in the wash (which is like once a week at this point).” That said, she did note that she feels “it's a little too expensive for its design,” but still recommends it for its overall comfort and cushioning.

Fast Facts:

  • Material: cotton, satin
  • Size: 30 x 26 x 2.5

What to Consider When Buying a Play Mat

  • Material: Whether you’re planning on putting your newborn down for a few minutes while you do the dishes or need a place for your 8-month-old to sit up, you’re going to want your play mat to be soft. Beyond that, the type of materials you opt for will depend on personal preferences. For classic playmats, the most popular options are cotton and foam. For activity gyms, you have more materials to choose from including plastic, silicone and wood. Do you want something you can throw in the washing machine? Something that you can wipe down easily with a wet wipe? Or maybe you want a mat made from non-toxic materials?
  • Size: Considering that they’re so small, babies sure do need a lot of stuff. So the last thing you want is an eyesore taking up your entire living room. Consider where you will use the play mat in your home and measure the size of your play mat accordingly. Also think about if you need the play mat to be transported—while some are easy enough to pack up and put away when you have guests over, others are more cumbersome.
  • Extra features: Newborns don’t really need much in the way of entertainment—a soft space for them to lay on their back and practice tummy time is sufficient. However, tummy time isn’t always their favorite pastime, so some encouragement in the form of toys and sounds may go a long way.
  • Budget: Even the most decked-out play mat is only going to last your kid for a few months—once your kid learns how to crawl or walk then the mat is no longer their favorite play space. Having said that, some play mats come with detachable accessories that you can continue to use in the stroller and on-the-go for years to come. Either way, it’s worth considering how much you’re willing to spend on a product that you’ll likely get less than a year’s use out of.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best material for a baby play mat?

This largely comes down to personal preference. Cotton is a popular choice because it’s soft and more natural, while many parents like foam because it’s easy to clean. Whichever material you choose, check the manufacturer’s label to make sure that it’s free from harmful chemicals like BPA, phthalates, lead, latex, PVC and formaldehyde.

When should babies start using a play mat?

Play mats can be used from infancy to toddlerhood. Per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Parents are encouraged to place the infant in tummy time while awake and supervised for short periods of time beginning soon after hospital discharge, increasing incrementally to at least 15 to 30 minutes total daily by 7 weeks of age.” And while you don’t have to do tummy time on a play mat (you can even do it on your own tummy if baby prefers it!), it’s a great spot to practice those motor skills.

Are play mats safe for newborns?

Play mats are safe for newborns, just make sure to never leave your baby unattended on a play mat. And remember that the AAP says babies should only sleep in a crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard (and not on a play mat).

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...

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