Shopping
Advertiser Disclosure

Best Baby Play Mats and Gyms for Tummy Time and Sensory Exploration

Baby Play Mats and Gyms
iStock

Our evaluations and opinions are not influenced by our advertising relationships, but we may earn a commission from our partners’ links. This content is created independently from TIME’s editorial staff. Learn more about it.

updated: March 25, 2024

Creating a stimulating and safe environment for your baby to explore helps foster their development. The ultimate playtime powerhouse for babies? Baby play mats and gyms! These engaging spaces provide a comfy place for tummy time, playtime, and sensory exploration during those precious first months. 

Learning specialist Rebecca Mannis, PhD, says that “play mats and activity mats are examples of handy tools that engage kids and let parents bond with their children using safe, colorful, and sensory-rich items.” They help kids feel comfortable moving and starting to develop a sense of cause-effect. “Building language and strong relationships with their parents starts with infancy and enriching experiences with the world and people around them,” she adds. But with a vast array of options available, choosing the perfect one can feel overwhelming. 

Our guide to the best baby mats and gyms shares expert insights, navigates the features and benefits, and offers things to consider when selecting the best play mat and gym for your little one. Let’s get into what’s great about these playtime powerhouses. 

What to consider

The main considerations when shopping for a play mat or gym are quality and safety of materials, size, and ease of cleaning. 

Quality and safety of materials

Board-certified pediatrician David Berger, MD, founder of Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care and health education company Dr. David MD™, says that it’s good to ensure the surface and other elements themselves are free from toxic ingredients. “Many are made from PVC, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), or polyurethane foams that contain toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and microplastics,” he explains. “Look for products made from natural rubber or organic cotton.”

Elina Furman, baby product expert and founder of baby massager Kahlmi says, “Preferably, the cover should be organic cotton and the insert must have EVA non-toxic foam, but I would be careful and make sure to ask for certifications to see if the foam was tested for other chemicals.”

Size 

Size is an important factor when it comes to shopping for a play mat or play gym. “Do you want a big size to keep on the floor and that can be wiped down or something smaller that you can take with you while traveling?” Furman says to ask yourself. 

Ease of cleaning

Large foam mats can only be spot cleaned, but Furman likes mats that have removable covers for easy laundering.

Our top picks for best baby play mats and gyms

Lalo Play Gym 2-in-1 Gym and Tent Combo 

Lalo Play Gym 2-in-1 Gym and Tent Combo

Lalo Play Gym 2-in-1 Gym and Tent Combo

If you’re looking for a play gym that looks as good as it is entertaining for your baby, this one from Lalo is it. It’s safe yet stimulating, and goes with a multitude of decors. This two-part play system can be converted from a play gym into a tent when your baby gets older to encourage discovery through play. My son spends hours a week in this gorgeous play gym. I like that the mat is easily foldable so you can store it out of sight in between playtime sessions. Shopping tip: Lalo’s products also made our lists for the best baby toys (0-6 months), best toys for 2 year olds, and best high chairs.

Specifications:

  • Size: Play gym: 26 x 20.5 x 20 inches, Mat: 37 x 37 inches, Tent: 44.5 x 25 x 40 inches
  • Weight: Playmat and gym: 6.5 pounds
  • Material: Playmat: Eco-friendly lyocell fabric derived from eucalyptus trees; Tent arches: Sustainable sourced FSC-certified beech wood; Toys and teether: Food-grade silicone and organic cotton.
  • Care instructions: Playmat and ball: Machine washable on gentle cycle/cold, dry on low heat; Tent arches and mirror: Wipe clean with a damp cloth; Teether: Dishwasher-safe.
  • Price on publish: $115

The bottom line: 

The Lalo Play Gym is a well-made, eco-friendly, and visually appealing option for parents seeking a stylish and stimulating play space for their little one.

Get it here: Lalo Play Gym 2-in-1 Gym and Tent Combo 


Toki Mats Standard Padded Play Mat

Toki Mats Standard Padded Play Mat in Mudcloth Size Non-Organic Insert

Toki Mats Standard Padded Play Mat in Mudcloth Size Non-Organic Insert

Furman is a big proponent of this playmat for the younger years and toddler stage because they are very cushioned, extra soft, and come in a variety of designs. “I also prefer them because they are made in the USA with all organic cotton and non-toxic foam (with latex made from sap trees) that have been certified beyond most other products,” she explains. While a little more expensive, they are easily washable with removable covers and are GOTS-certified organic cotton or OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified non-toxic.

Specifications:

  • Size: 40 x 40 x 1 inches 
  • Weight: 8 pounds 
  • Material: Top cover: GOTS-certified organic cotton or vegan leather; Insert: Certified natural latex foam rubber (choice of organic or non-organic)
  • Care instructions: Cover: Machine washable on gentle cycle, tumble dry low; Insert: Spot clean with mild soap and water, air dry
  • Price on publish: $185

The bottom line:

The Toki Mats Standard Padded Play Mat features a water-resistant cover, portability, and variety of designs to suit any decor. 

Get it here: Toki Mats Standard Padded Play Mat


Gathre Padded Midi Circle Mat

Gathre Padded Midi Circle Mat

Gathre Padded Midi Circle Mat

A minimalist aesthetic brand with beautiful baby mat offerings, Gathre will take your decor up a notch. “With so many options, from soft cushion play mats to standard thinner floor coverings, Gathre offers a variety of choices, including vegan leather mats that are easily cleaned and portable to be used in any environment, including beaches, parks, and even as splat mats under messy high chairs,” Furman says. Multiple sizes, styles, and strict safety standards make this brand a great option.

Specifications:

  • Size: Diameter: 51 inches
  • Weight: 10 pounds 
  • Material: Cover: Vegan leather (polyurethane); Center: Memory foam
  • Care instructions: Wipe clean with a damp cloth and mild soap. Air dry. Do not submerge in water or machine wash.
  • Price on publish: $229

The bottom line:

The Gathre Padded Midi Circle Mat is a stylish, comfortable option for creating a dedicated play space for your baby, especially during the early stages. 

Get it here: Gathre Padded Midi Circle Mat


Lovevery The Play Gym

The Lovevery Play Gym - Baby Play Mat - Wooden Activity Play Gym and Mat, Stage-Based Learning and Development for Babies to Toddlers

The Lovevery Play Gym - Baby Play Mat - Wooden Activity Play Gym and Mat, Stage-Based Learning and Development for Babies to Toddlers

Furman says that this is a solid activity gym based on neurological, stage-based development on Montessori principles of education. “I appreciate that everything is made with non-toxic pieces and that it can be used as a fort (albeit small) as baby gets older,” she says. There are many zones that promote different milestones and sensory experiences. “Mostly, it's perfect for ages 0 -12 months, and has plenty of stimulating activities that engage and encourage the growth of your baby's developmental stages. I'm also a fan of the included play guide that provides advice on different ways to interact with your baby.” My baby was a fan of this brightly colored play gym with lots of toys to keep him happy during tummy time (a tall order for this little dude). 

Specifications:

  • Size: Playmat: 43 x 38 x 24 inches (mat zones closed), 47 x 50 x 24 inches (mat zones open), Arches: Adjustable heights
  • Weight: 25 pounds
  • Material: Playmat and gym: Sustainable sourced FSC-certified wood; Play mat: OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified cotton fabric; Toys: Organic cotton, food-grade silicone, and BPA-free plastic
  • Care instructions: Playmat: Machine washable on cold water, gentle cycle, air dry; Wooden components: Wipe clean with a damp cloth; Toys: Hand wash with warm water and mild soap, air dry
  • Price on publish: $140

The bottom line: 

Rated 4.8 stars on Amazon for a reason—the Lovevery Play Gym is a versatile option that’s easy to set up and take down, plus it looks great in any playroom or living room. 

Get it here: Lovevery The Play Gym


Fisher Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym

This mat garnered a 4.8-star rating on Amazon and over 21,000 reviews. It’s the O.G. for a reason, and it’s a nice price to boot. My son loves playing on this brightly colored mat for long stretches of time. 

Specifications:

  • Size: Playmat: 27 x 36 x 18 inches 
  • Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Material: Playmat and arches: Soft, plush polyester fabric; Toys: BPA-free plastic
  • Care instructions: Playmat: Machine washable on gentle cycle, air dry; Toys: Wipe clean with damp cloth and mild soap
  • Price on publish: $39.99

The bottom line:

The Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym is an affordable option that’s brightly colored and well-sized for smaller nurseries. 

Get it here: Fisher Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym


Taf Toys Savannah 360° Activity Gym

Taf Toys Savannah 360° Activity Gym with Music & Light & 20 Playful Activities, Thickly Padded with Soft Mat and a Unique “Crinkle Toy” for a Variety of Body Positioning for Newborn and Up

Taf Toys Savannah 360° Activity Gym with Music & Light & 20 Playful Activities, Thickly Padded with Soft Mat and a Unique “Crinkle Toy” for a Variety of Body Positioning for Newborn and Up

Featuring a round crinkling blanket, this option is great for those on a budget who want a unique and stimulating play experience for their baby. Its customizable setup allows your baby to practice a variety of body positioning and includes hanging toys to help them develop their motor skills. 

Specifications:

  • Size: ‎39 x 31.51 x 20.8 inches
  • Weight: Not specified
  • Material: Playmat and arches: Soft fabric; Toys: Various materials including plastic, felt, and fabric
  • Care instructions: Spot clean or machine wash delicate cycle (check the specific care instructions for each toy)
  • Price on publish: $79.95

The bottom line: 

If you’re looking for an engaging, well-priced play space for your baby, this one is well-reviewed, wallet-friendly, and has adjustable arches that cater to different preferences and growth stages. 

Get it here: Taf Toys Savannah 360° Activity Gym


Avenlur Montessori Foldable Structure Playground

Avenlur Montessori Foldable Structure Playground

Avenlur Montessori Foldable Structure Playground

If you’re looking for a multifunctional play gym that will grow with your little one, Avenlur’s your top choice. Thoughtfully designed for kids ages one to five years old, this gym helps children improve their motor skills, explore their body limits safely, and engage in imaginative play. It’s Montessori- and Waldorf-inspired, meaning it aligns with educational philosophies that emphasize natural materials and open-ended play.

Specifications:

  • Size: 59.5 x 17.7 x 19.7 inches
  • Weight: 24 pounds
  • Material: Sustainably sourced wood, BPA-free paint
  • Care instructions: Damp cloth
  • Price on publish: $199

The bottom line: 

The Avenlur Play Gym is a beautiful and eco-friendly gym that’s designed to nurture kids’ creativity, imagination, and sensory development. 

Get it here: Avenlur Montessori Foldable Structure Playground


Dock-A-Tot Mini Mat

Mini Mat - Marine Chambray

Mini Mat - Marine Chambray

Ideal for apartment living, this mini mat boasts maxi fun. Despite its small footprint, the beautiful mat comes with a detachable, animal-adorned arch and tabs for play. I personally tested this one with my son and found its soft quilted base provided a comfy and secure environment for tummy time and early play.

Specifications:

  • Size: 30 x 26 x 2.5 inches 
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds 
  • Material: Cover: OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified cotton fabric; Filling: Polyurethane foam
  • Care instructions: Cover: Machine washable on gentle cycle, low tumble dry; Insert: Spot clean only.
  • Price on publish: $149

The bottom line: 

This beautiful, pint-sized playground is thoughtfully designed to stimulate and support your baby's development while creating a safe and inviting space for exploration. 

Get it here: Dock-A-Tot Mini Mat


Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas

Fisher-Price Baby Playmat Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas with Smart Stages Learning Content, 5 Linkable Toys & 2 Soft Rattles

Fisher-Price Baby Playmat Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas with Smart Stages Learning Content, 5 Linkable Toys & 2 Soft Rattles

This one is a favorite of mine—in addition to so many of my mom friends. It offers a whopping four ways to play as baby grows: Lay & Play, Tummy Time, Sit & Play, and Take-Along. Featuring Smart Stages technology, the learning content shifts with your baby’s age and stage so they’ll always be stimulated and never bored. The detachable keyboard includes five light-up keys, five repositionable activity toys for your littles to play with, plus two rattle maracas. Get ready to have that be the soundtrack of your life for a while—my son loves them. 

Specifications:

  • Size: ‎36.02 x 27 x 17.99 inches
  • Weight: 5.4 pounds
  • Material: Plastic
  • Care instructions: Machine wash or spot clean
  • Price on publish: $54.99

The bottom line: 

This affordable mat is great for ages 0 - 36 months and includes learning content that shifts as they grow, in addition to four ways to play. 

Get it here: Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas


Tiny Love Magical Tales Black & White Gymini Infant Activity Play Mat

Tiny Love Magical Tales™ Black & White Gymini, White

Tiny Love Magical Tales™ Black & White Gymini, White

Style at an affordable price differentiates this adorable mat from its competitors. Boasting a black and white design that’s ideal for newborns, this play mat features 18 developmental activities and interactive toys. Your baby can check out the shapes on the soft book or become enamored with his or her own reflection in the mirror during tummy time. It’s spacious while being cozy and includes a variety of textures and sounds for auditory and tactile stimulation via active play. 

Specifications:

  • Size: ‎28.75 x 22.63 x 2.88 inches
  • Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Material: Polyester
  • Care instructions: Playmat: Machine washable
  • Price on publish: $69.99

The bottom line: 

This affordable mat looks as great as it is wonderful for your growing baby’s developing skills, thanks to its variety of textures and sounds.  

Get it here: Tiny Love Magical Tales Black & White Gymini Infant Activity Play Mat


How I selected the best baby play mats and gyms

The baby test

To choose the best baby mats and gyms, I had my two-month-old son test out a number of the items on this list, in addition to researching reviews of various types of toys that received ratings of at least 4.6 stars. 

Expert advice

I spoke with a pediatrician, a learning specialist, and a baby toy specialist and baby massage founder to glean their insights and recommendations regarding the types of mats and gyms that are beneficial, engaging, and entertaining for this age group.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between a play mat and an activity gym?

“Playmats are soft, cushioned floor coverings that are designed to give your baby/toddler free reign to play and explore while providing a comfortable, cushioned experience to protect their knees and other body parts so they can do tummy time and prepare for crawling, sitting, and other motor developmental milestones,” Furman says. She adds, “Play mats can be used well into the toddler years.”

An activity gym usually consists of a round play mat with arches made of wood or foam with sensory toys, mirrors, and other developmental tools attached to keep your baby's attention. “Babies usually outgrow these by the time they are 12 months old, but the mat can be repurposed as a small play area once the arches are removed,” Furman notes. 

The main difference is the size and stage of each. “Play mats can grow with your baby as they get older while activity gyms are wonderful for encouraging sensory development for babies 0 - 12 months old," she explains. 

Are baby activity mats worth it?

“If compared to hardwood or tile flooring, it is a safer landing. Carpets can also serve this purpose,” Dr. Berger says. The activities and elements on the mat can be good for promoting child developmental skills, he notes. “But it should not be used as a ‘babysitter’— the baby should still be supervised as they may roll, crawl, or meander off of the mat,” he advises. 

Furman says baby mats are worth the purchase, especially as some come in larger sizes for walkers and crawlers and provide additional cushioning if they fall and need more support. “There are so many stylish options that come in modern, decor-friendly designs that many parents often leave as floor coverings in the main play areas for many years after the baby phase is over,” she says. “Smaller size mats can be transported to serve as picnic and beach blankets and fold up small for easy transport.”

When should I start using a play gym?

Dr. Berger says play mats can be used as early as the first couple weeks of life. “We want to promote tummy time from a very early age, and a safe play mat is an ideal surface for this,” he says. 

Furman says that a play gym with multiple attachments can be used from 0 - 12 weeks and provides sensory stimulation for your baby, including graphic black and white cards, mirrors, and toys that allow them to enhance tummy time play. “The toys and accessories are often stage-based and can be interchanged to encourage cognitive and motor development,” she explains. “The gyms also offer accessories on the mat, so when your baby is engaged in tummy time play, they can develop their core, motor tone, vision, and grasping abilities while enjoying different toys,” she adds. In addition, activity gyms help prevent flat head syndrome since they encourage tummy time play and frequent shifting and tilting of baby's head as they view items overhead, Furman notes.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

1.1310.0+1.68.6