The 11 Best Baby Play Mats and Play Gyms of 2021

A safe and fun space for little ones

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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, development, or creating a safe place for a new baby-to-be. It is advised that alert and awake newborns and infants can play on their tummies two to three times a day for three to five minutes each time. This position can help babies develop strength in their neck, back, and arm muscles. Babies should never be left alone on a play mat.

Here are the best play mats and play gyms for your baby, budget, and lifestyle.

Best Overall: SkipHop Treetop Friends Baby Play Mat

If you’re looking for a mat that offers a subtle set-up, this one is great. 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. The tummy time pillow and built-in mirror help encourage strong baby muscles. 

Best for Child Development: Lovevery The Play Gym

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.

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. 

Best for Newborns: Pehr Quilted Play Mat

Pehr Quilted Play Mat

Courtesy of Nordstrom 

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.

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

Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick and Play Piano Gym

 Courtesy of Buy Buy Baby

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.  

Best for Travel: Tiny Love Meadow Days Super Play Mat

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.

Best Large: Skip Hop Geo Foam Baby Play Mat

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. 

Best Active: Melissa & Doug Multi Vehicle Activity Rug Set

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. 

Best for Small Space: Infantino 3-in-1 Grow with Me Activity Gym and Ball Pit

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

Courtesy of Walmart

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.

The only complaint parents have is that the play mat is not machine washable, but can be cleaned with a wet wipe.

Best Natural: Wee Gallery Explore Organic Playmat

Wee Gallery Play Mat

Courtesy of Maisonette

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. 

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

Bright Starts Tummy Time Prop & Play Mat

 Courtesy of Buy Buy Baby

If tummy time is the goal, this mat is made just for that activity. Recommended for newborns on up, the plush and padded polar 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.

Best for Crawlers: Wander & Roam Baby Play Mat

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. 

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a play mat that will last a long time and foster your child's development, look no further than 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.

What to Look for When Buying Play Mats

Material

Just like with most baby products, you want to ensure that you are paying attention to 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 against your roughhousing sweetie, opting for a baby-friendly material is essential.

Developmental Milestones

As your baby moves from infancy into toddlerhood, they will have a laundry list of milestones that the right play mat can help them reach. From encouraging them to sit up to guiding them to grasp toys, the right play mat can support them through their milestones.

Machine Washable

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.

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 okay. 

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Article Sources
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Back to sleep, tummy to play. Updated January 1, 2017.