The Best Baby Play Mats and Play Gyms to Exercise Little Minds

The Skip Hop Baby Play Gym is a top pick for babies' growth and development

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Play mats are helpful pieces of gear for a new baby. These multi-functional mats can be used for tummy time, playtime, or creating a safe place for a baby to rest. (Note that babies should never be left alone on a play mat.) Alert and awake newborns and infants should play on their tummies two to three times a day for three to five minutes at a time. This position helps develop baby's strength in their neck, back, and arm muscles.

Reviewed & Approved

The Skip Hop Baby Play Gym features built-in sounds and textures, more than a dozen developmental activities, and fun toys. If you want to splurge, we recommend the Lovevery Play Gym Activity Gym and Play Mat.

"Invest in a large, padded, non-toxic floor mat, which will give you and baby enough space to play, experiment, and cuddle together," says Janet Weinberger, a pediatric physical therapist and neurodevelopmental early interventionist, based in Irvington, New York. "The large play mat will allow baby to roll from the tummy to the back, or to side-lying. It will also protect baby from falls as they learn to sit, or move up into higher developmental postures, such as crawling, kneeling and standing," says Weinberger.

Whether it is organic cotton or polyester material, opting for a baby-friendly material is essential so it should be easy to clean and durable. We carefully looked over material and other important features, including design, value, ease of cleaning, and size when reviewing products.

Here are our top picks for play mats and play gyms that work for your baby, your budget, and your lifestyle.

Best Overall: Skip Hop Baby Play Gym

5
Skip Hop Baby Play Gym

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • 17 developmental activities

  • Built-in sounds/textures

  • Mat and pillow are machine washable

Cons
  • Mat is thin

  • Toys are not machine washable

  • No music/lights

What do buyers say? 89% of 600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

The Skip Hop Baby Play Gym is our top pick thanks to its simply assembly and plenty of activities for little ones to enjoy. Made out of 100% cotton, this easy-to-assemble baby gym has 17 developmental activities, hanging toys, 13 loops to hang, and exciting textures like crinkling leaves and squeaking flowers for little hands to discover.

Appropriate for newborns on up, toys should be placed low to start to make grasping easier and then moved higher to encourage reaching. Plus, the tummy time pillow and built-in mirror help encourage strong baby muscles. 

Dimensions: 36 x 19 inches | Material: Polyester | Machine Washable: Yes

Best for Child Development: Lovevery Play Gym Activity Gym and Play Mat

Lovevery The Play Gym

Courtesy of The Tot

Pros
  • Montessori-inspired development zones

  • 14 unique learning cards

  • Easy setup

Cons
  • Costly

  • No music/lights/sounds

  • Takes up lots of space

A play mat with endless possibilities, this design is created by child development experts and claims to have everything parents and babies need for a full year of play. Crafted with five different developmental zones, each can be concealed or revealed to promote development and discourage overstimulation in children.

This play mat comes with interchangeable cards ranging from black and white images for newborns to faces and mirrors for older babies. Parents appreciate the two-minute setup and can use the included play guide for some age-appropriate activities. While expensive, many parents find it’s like no other play mat and well worth the cost for the longevity of use. 

Dimensions: 119.4 x 127 x 60.7 inches | Material: Polyester and cotton | Machine Washable: Yes

Best for Newborns: Pehr Quilted Play Mat

Pehr Quilted Playmat

Courtesy of Bloomingdale's

Pros
  • Machine washable

  • Soft material

  • Reversible design

Cons
  • No toys

  • No lights/sounds

  • Best for younger babies (newborns) than older infants

Newborn babies don’t need lots of lights, sounds, or decorations in a play mat. Simply having a safe and comfortable place to be is plenty, which is just where this ethically-made play mat comes in handy. Made out of cozy, 100%, machine washable, quilted cotton, the double-sided 40-inch mat is crafted with playful prints and beautiful patterns and is the perfect size for newborns.

Dimensions: 40 inches | Material: Cotton | Machine Washable: Yes

Best with Lights and Music: Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym

Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym

 Courtesy of Target

Pros
  • 5 detachable toys

  • Keyboard with lights

  • Multiple modes

Cons
  • English is only language option

  • Requires 4 AA batteries

  • Mat is short/small (not enough room for some babies)

Safe from birth on up, this versatile play mat grows with the baby so there are multiple modes of fun. Initially, a newborn baby can lay down on their back and kick the piano keys to hear music. As the baby gets older, they can push the piano keys during tummy time.

Once your newborn is able to sit up, the piano keys flip so they are flat and can be played by little baby hands. The keyboard has five light-up keys and up to 15 minutes of continuous music play. Five detachable toys get hooked on to multiple loops around the mat.  

Dimensions: 36.02 x 27.01 x 17.99 inches | Material: Not Listed | Machine Washable: Yes

Best for Travel: Tiny Love Tiny Princess Tale Super Mat

Tiny Love Tiny Princess Tale Super Mat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Travel-friendly

  • Removable mirror

  • Variety of textures and images

Cons
  • No lights/sounds

  • Mirror does not stay propped up

  • Only one toy included

An easy-to-fold mat that doesn’t skimp on size, this mat is perfect for life on-the-go or at home. The mat is 39 x 59 inches, so it’ll be a safe space for a baby at a park, vacation house, or anywhere else, since it folds up to a compact and portable size. While nothing hangs overhead, this mat has a variety of textures, images, and attached toys, including a mirror, to entertain babies who are newborn aged and up.

Dimensions: 28.25 x 18 x 3.5 inches | Material: Polyester | Machine Washable: Yes

Best Large: Skip Hop Interlocking Foam Floor Tiles Baby Play Mat

Skip Hop Interlocking Foam Floor Tiles Baby Play Mat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Create multiple designs/sizes

  • Fits in with home decor

  • Great for hardwood/tile flooring

Cons
  • No toys

  • No lights/ sounds

  • Takes up lots of space

Made to look great in your home, this set has over 50 foam tiles. You can easily create your own baby play mat to fit your designated play space, up to 70 by 56 inches big. Recommended for babies 10 months old and up, these plush mats are a perfect addition to a living room, playroom, or nursery. Parents love that they are easy to clean, have stress-free maintenance, and complement most home decor. 

Dimensions: 70 x 56 inches (assembled) | Material: Foam | Machine Washable: No

Best Active: Melissa & Doug Deluxe Multi-Vehicle Activity Rug

Melissa and Doug Deluxe Activity Rug

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • 19 vehicles included

  • Working crossing gates

  • Train tracks with bridge/tunnel

Cons
  • Rug may have some folds upon opening

  • Set not recommended for children under 3 years old

  • Rug is small for play

A fun play mat for kids 3 years old and up, this set has everything toddlers need for hours of fun. This jumbo illustrated rug measures 39.5 x 36.5 inches. Parents love the stain-resistant, machine washable fabric that has a skid-proof backing and reinforced border binding.

Kids love the wooden train tracks, 13 on-road vehicles, four train cars, helicopter, boat, and 12 traffic signs. The mat is big enough for a few kids to play at the same time and a perfect alternative if you don’t have extra space or don’t want to commit to a train table in your house. 

Dimensions: 39.5 x 36.5 inches | Material: Not Listed | Machine Washable: Yes

Best for Small Space: KUDOSALE 3-in-1 Baby Activity Gym with Ball Pit

 Infantino 3-in-1 Grow with Me Activity Gym and Ball Pit

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Foldable

  • Doubles as ball pit

  • Toys included

Cons
  • Must be assembled

  • Playmat is not machine washable

  • Too small for some babies

A one-of-a-kind infant gym mat, this cute turtle easily converts into a sensory-stimulating ball pit. As a play mat, it’s appropriate for newborns on up. With soft bars hanging overhead, babies are stimulated and encouraged to reach and grasp for toys.

As the baby gets older and can sit up, the pop-up mesh sides are effective at both containing the baby and their toys in one small spot. Finally, toddlers will love how with the sides up, the activity gym becomes a ball pit. There are 40 colorful balls that easily get stored in the turtle’s head when not in use.

Dimensions: 26.77 x 19.69 inches | Material: Cotton | Machine Washable: Not Listed

Best Natural: Wee Gallery Explore Organic Playmat

Wee Gallery Play Mat

Courtesy of Maisonette

Pros
  • Drawstring bag included

  • Reversible

  • Cushy and plush

Cons
  • No toys

  • No lights/sounds

  • Best suited for younger babies (newborns)

This machine-washable double-sided play mat made of organic voile and soft poly-fill is a monochromatic favorite. The play mat is 40 x 40 inches and comes with a drawstring bag for easy storage. Appropriate for newborns on up, this mat is cushy and plush enough to be used on a wood floor and still provide plenty of comfort for a baby. While it looks beautiful and is well-made, this is a non-traditional play mat that is best suited for a younger baby’s interest. 

Dimensions: 40 inches | Material: Organic voile | Machine Washable: Yes

Best for Tummy Time: Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play Mat

Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play Mat

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Detachable toys

  • Prop pillow included

  • Adorable designs

Cons
  • No lights/sounds

  • No attachment for independent toy arch

  • Mat may be too short for taller babies

If tummy time is the goal, this mat is made just for that activity. Recommended for newborns on up, the plush and padded bear mat comes with a prop pillow to help new babies master tummy time. The mat features satin Taggie loops, a mirror, crinkly fabric, and detachable rattle and toy attachments. Parents love that it is small and portable, making it an easy mat to move around the house.

Dimensions: 36 x 32.5 x 5 inches | Material: Not Listed | Machine Washable: Yes

Best for Crawlers: wander & roam One-Piece Reversible Foam Floor Baby Play Mat Baby Play Mat

Wander and Roam Reversible Play Mat

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Large enough for baby to move on

  • Made with eco-friendly foam

  • Easy to clean

Cons
  • Takes up lots of space

  • No toys

  • May rip easily

Providing babies on the move with a safe place to play, crawl, stumble, and even take some first steps, this attractive play mat is large and provides ample room for mobile babies. The rectangular size is 6.5 x 4.5 feet, made with non-toxic foam in many attractive and reversible designs, and the ½ inch thick foam easily rolls up when not in use. Since it’s one big piece of foam, nothing gets stuck in any cracks and easily wipes clean with a damp cloth or baby wipe. Parents rave how attractive, useful, and long-lasting these mats are. 

Dimensions: 6.5 x 4.5 feet | Material: Foam | Machine Washable: No

Final Verdict

With 17 activities on an adorable soft, cotton surface that's easy to set up, the Skip Hop Baby Play Gym (view at Amazon) ticks off all the right boxes. Another winner, especially when it comes to developmental milestones, is the Lovevery Play Gym (view at Amazon). Unlike other play mats, it’s easy to switch and swap parts of the mat based on age and stage, making it a long-lasting and interactive piece of baby gear.

How We Selected the Best Baby Play Mats

We chose the best baby play mats by researching reviews from customers and competitors, and we studied the features of more than 30 products on the market. We considered design, price, features, age recommendations, and material when deciding our picks. We also consulted with Janet Weinberger, a pediatric physical therapist and neurodevelopmental early interventionist in Irvington, New York, for any considerations or product recommendations.

What to Look for in a Play Mat or Play Gym

Materials

Just like with most baby products, you want to consider the type of material your little one's play mat is made of. Whether it is organic cotton or polyester material that can hold up to a busy toddler, opting for a baby-friendly material is essential.

Babies and toddlers are definitely messy and having a play mat that can be tossed in the wash for a quick refresh is a lifesaver. Look for a play mat that’s machine washable or can be easily wiped off with a cloth to make your life easier.

Developmental Milestones

As your baby moves from infancy into toddlerhood, the right play mat can help them reach many developmental milestones, from grasping toys to sitting up and more.

"Most baby gyms have easy-to-reach sensory toys, teethers, mirrors, and textures for baby to feel and focus on. This starts the learning process and will instill baby’s desire to pivot and weight shift while on the tummy. We want to encourage a lot of reaching, kicking, and pushing up to prepare baby for moving up to sitting and crawling," says Weinberger.

Size

Before you purchase a baby play mat, check the dimensions of the mat to ensure it will fit where you need it to. There are many different types of play mats and they come in a variety of sizes. 

For example, if you just want a tummy time mat for your newborn, those are typically smaller than a play mat that doubles as a rug. But if you have hardwood floors and are looking for a mat that’s soft for baby to crawl on, you'll need a larger mat that gives your baby more space to move.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are gym mats good for my baby?

    Babies need time out of their cribs, bouncy chairs, and even their parents' arms to move their bodies freely. Gently placing babies on their tummy (known as “tummy time”) allows them to explore their environment, strengthen their muscles, and learn to coordinate their movements.

    A gym mat is a great way to ensure that your baby gets as much tummy time as they need. Gym mats provide a comfortable surface and inviting space for your baby to play on. Many gym mats come in colors and patterns that your baby will find interesting and fun.

  • Does my baby need a play gym?

    Play time is important for babies. Infants as young as two months old benefit from engaging in activities such as focusing on and reaching for nearby toys. As your baby gets older, they will enjoy activities like grabbing onto toys and looking at colorful pictures.

    Play gyms provide opportunities for your baby to engage in age-appropriate play in a safe, designated space. Gyms designed for babies offer all the things they love: toys to pull on (and chew!), colorful patterns to gaze at, and plenty of room to practice scooting, rolling, and kicking. Some may even offer lights and music—a treat for all your baby’s senses.

  • Which play mat is good for my baby?

    The best play mat for your baby is one that fits your budget, your family’s lifestyle, and your aesthetics. For some families, choosing a play mat made of organic materials is of utmost importance. Other families need a play mat that will fit their tight budget or their small space.

    It’s best to pick a play mat that has several different uses, and can grow with your baby. For example, in the earliest months of your baby’s life, a play mat might simply be a soft, safe surface to put your baby down on so that they can kick their legs and look around. But as they develop more, they will likely enjoy having toys to pull on and grab, and may need a larger surface to scoot and roll on.

  • What age should my baby use a play gym?

    By 2 months, you can place your baby on their tummy and allow them to look around at fun toys and colorful images. Most babies enjoy play gyms most between 3 and 6 months or so, as they explore the way their bodies move and take in their surroundings.

    Once they start crawling (usually between 6 and 9 months), most babies outgrow their play gyms. Once they can move, they rarely want to stay in place! Still, even after this point, your baby may enjoy some of the toys that are part of the play mat.

Why Trust Verywell Family

Maya Polton is a former marketing manager and current freelance writer who covers food, home, and parenting. She’s also the mom of a 10-year-old son, 7-year-old son, and 3-year old daughter. Each of her kids has had a less and less elaborate play mat, with the third playing on a hand-me-down mat with a lot of mismatched toys. She still turned out OK. 

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Back to sleep, tummy to play.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Milestone moments.