The 14 best baby play mats and gyms

best baby play mats and gyms

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

A baby gym or play mat is a classic baby toy that shows no sign of falling out of fashion any time soon and are great to use before a baby play pen. Nor should it, because having somewhere safe to pop your baby when you need your hands free can be a lifesaver, and it can really help baby to reach their development milestones!

Back in the day, baby gyms all had much the same design, but no end-of-smart variations are now available. That said, most still have a soft, padded mat for your baby to lie on beneath an arch with hung toys. They're a must-have for your little one's space, creating a safe and happy area for them to play in.

The idea is to occupy your baby and present them with all sorts of stimulating objects, colours, textures and sounds to encourage them to explore their senses and boost their development while they're enjoying some tummy time.

You'll want one within your price range that has design features that your little one will love - that's why it's so handy that there are many on the market. They're suitable from birth until your baby starts moving independently, and many will be designed with that in mind – after that, they'll crawl off in search of other adventures!

Best baby play gyms at a glance:

• Best overall play gym: Lupantte Baby Play Mat - Buy now on Amazon UK
• Best play gym for music making: Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best interactive playmat: Rock Stepper Reversible Playmat - Buy now on Rock Stepper
Best playmat for design: Skip Hop Camping Cub Activity Gym Mat - Buy now on Amazon UK

With plenty of different options available, finding the best baby playmat for you and your baby can be difficult, so we've done some research to help you choose. We have considered the overall design, durability, and price of favourites listed down below.

The best baby gyms and play mats 2024

Best overall play gym

Crafted with longevity in mind, this play mat features a sturdy framework with two contour bars, allowing for easy attachment of various hanging pieces. One mum agrees it's well made with good quality materials, and feels their child is safe on the floor with no sharp bits. She says "It's a great product with no small parts, so no choking hazards." Another parent says, "It’s beautiful, well made, large floor space, with good padding", however, a different reviewer was disappointed as the mat wasn't as thick as they expected – if this is the case you may want to use the mat on a soft surface like carpet.

Among the hanging pieces are a mirrored plastic piece placed directly above the baby, offering delightful self-discovery moments. The hoops for connection are easy to use too. A reviewer says their grand-daughter loves it and gets so excited with all the other colourful things she sees and touches. She says, "it's easy to use, light weight and great fun" Another mum whose little one is two months old and loves the play mat, says, "We can even hang her pram toys on it, little diva loves to stare at herself! Never seen her so happy I would definitely recommend!"

With a soft cushion insert that strikes the perfect balance between comfort and manageability, your baby will feel cozy during playtime without feeling overwhelmed. Designed to accommodate growth, this play mat will remain a cherished companion for quite a while, thanks to its durable construction. One mum loves it for her daughter, saying, "There's nothing to hurt her if she pulls the structure with the toys provided, it's soft, strong and bounces back into position." Although, some parents have found the arches can easily pop out. One reviewer says, "Got a few months of use before one of the metal rods in the arches popped out making it unsafe for use with a small baby".

The high-quality play mat comes with not just one, but two easy to wash covers, ensuring convenience for busy parents. One reviewer says that having two covers is useful and they like the cushion for tummy time. Some of the more sturdy toys are also easy to clean, which parents really appreciate.

Pros

  • The play mat doubles up as a "ball pit" with 4 colourful balls
  • Promotes newborn to toddler development, imagination & creativity
  • Great for teething babies
  • The musical cloud, stars and elephant pendant keeps baby engaged
  • Suits 3 stages of development from lying down to climbing and sitting
  • Tummy-time fun with the self-discovery mirror and other toys
  • Lots of variety for baby with removable toys
  • Quality, baby-safe materials
  • Easy to set up and take down in one minute
  • Easy to fold and carry if travelling or for convenient storage

Cons

  • Some parents found the arches could easily pop out
  • Some parents didn't find the mat to be as thick as expected
Size:45.5 x 68.5 x 7.5 cm
Material:Plastic
Age Range:0 months +
  • Large multifunctional mat with "Tree Design and Ball Pit" – comes with 4 colourful balls
  • Thick, Soft and Washable - Baby-safe materials
  • The gym floor mats comes with 9 toys in total: Baby self-discovery mirror, toy bear, lion's ears, green leaves, cloud pendant with sounds, balls, 2 soothing BPA-free silicone teethers, plus coloured cards with graphics
  • Removable Toys include: Cloud Pendant, self-discovery mirror, sound toy bear, toy mushroom and leaves, orange cat paw and purple lion teethers, cognitive book helps all round development of your baby

Best interactive playmat

This is a game-changer in the world of playmats! This innovative design offers more than just a soft surface for playtime; it's also reversible, doubling its functionality and longevity. Suitable for children from two to six years old, it comes with a pack of flashcards and an interactive app, adding a unique and engaging element to playtime.

Our Product and Lifestyle writer Samantha raves about this product, saying "I absolutely love this playmate!" She describes how it has become a beloved part of her children's morning routine. Instead of reaching for the TV remote, her kids eagerly gravitate towards the mat, where they spend hours immersed in imaginative play. From the ease of cleaning (a lifesaver with two kids, says Samantha) to the comfortable surface, making it ideal for kneeling, laying, or sitting its great for letting children's creativity flourish!

Pros

  • 100% waterproof and easily wipeable
  • Versatile design with the play mat being reversible
  • Offers support for early learning and development
  • Safe and comfy for little one, non-toxic and non-slip
  • Great for twins and siblings

Cons

  • App is still under development
  • Style:
    5.0
  • Comfort:
    5.0
  • Ease of cleaning:
    5.0
  • Worth the money:
    4.5
Dimensions:140 x 90 x 1.3cm
Material:Non-toxic PVC memory foam
Weight:10Kg
Suitable for ages:Birth to 6 years
Card size:12.7 x 8.9cm
  • Large, reversible play mat with a stylish grown-up side that looks like a rug
  • Non-toxic and non-slip surface 
  • Non-toxic PVC memory foam and does not contain BPA, phthalates, lead, latex, formamide, formaldehyde, EVA or flame retardants
  • A set of flashcards, 70 cards covering the tiles on the mat and more
  • Access to the Spotify / iTunes playlist with original songs complementing your Rock Stepper
  • An app with educational content that will be released very soon!

Best play gym for music making

Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano GymFisher-Price
Price: $54.98
Alternative retailers
Walmart$59.90View offer

Elevate playtime to a musical extravaganza with the Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym! One mum reviewer loves this activity toy for her little one so much, she says, "I've told so many mums to get this, I swear it's incredible." Boasting five light-up piano keys, this gym is perfect for nurturing your little one's musical talents from infancy to toddlerhood. Whether they're lying down, enjoying tummy time, or sitting up at the piano, the music and learning experiences evolve with them. Our mum tester Emily Stavri says her six-month-old boy's attention span in quite short, so she needed a baby gym with lots of variety to stimulate him and hold his interest. The Play Piano Gym ticks all the right boxes for her.

You can adjust the content to suit your baby's age and developmental stage, while real piano notes inspire creativity. Another mum reviewer notes how her daughter's development has flourished with this gym, and says "she grabs, laughs, rolls, just loves to sit so much", and our mum tester Emily thinks the piano is a great addition to the conventional design, especially with the position of the piano being flexible and easy to change. Little ones can either kick at it while lying down, or reach the keys with their hands once they can sit upright. Emily also likes that it folds away neatly for easy storage.

The only downsides compared to some of the other products are that the range of hanging toys is limited, and the toy may be quite expensive for parents on a lower budget. However, with it being such a good size and having plenty of featured play options, the Gym is likely to last a long time, and it's designed specially to accompany your little one through all the developmental phases that babies will go through in a year. We think this makes it pretty good value for money over toys that babies will grow out of more quickly.

Read our full Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano Gym review.

Pros

  • Smart Stages technology lets you change the learning content to suit baby's age
  • Plenty of ways to play from movable toys to playing piano
  • The piano is removable so baby can have fun making music on the go
  • Five toys are detachable to occupy baby in the car, carrier, or stroller
  • They won't get bored with 65 sounds and phrases, plus dancing lights and a mirror
  • Let baby enjoy some quiet time too with easy power and volume control 
  • Easy to clean – just stick it in the washing machine with your laundry

Cons

  • Some say the variety of hanging toys could be better
  • It might be considered expensive for parents with a lower budget
Size:68 x 91 x 45 cm
Age Range:Birth+
  • Super soft machine-washable play mat
  • 4 modes: Laying, Sitting, Tummy Time and Take-Along
  • 65 sounds and phrases
  • 20 minutes of music
  • Content changes as baby grows
  • 5 detachable toys and keyboard for take-along play
  • Power and volume control
  • Colours and styles may vary
  • Contents: 1x Piano Play Mat, 4x Hanging Toys, 1x Mirror, 1x Kick & Play Piano, 1x Arch
  • Batteries required: 3 x AA (included)

Best playmat for design

While it may lean towards the pricier side, parents rave about its creativity, featuring charming fireflies that light up with a gentle touch and an endearing wigwam design that complements any nursery decor. One mum reviewer says, "I have to say it has been a fab purchase for us. My baby stares lovingly at the fox and owl and smiles and giggles at them."

With over 17 developmental activities, this mat accompanies your baby through all their major milestones, from lay and play to sitting up. This mum says her 13-and-a-half-weeks-old baby has learnt to swipe at the little cloud handle and can now grab it! She says it'll take him a little longer to start pulling it, of course!

This play mat doesn't have as many features as some others on the market, however, it is still a great gift to add to your baby wish list with heaps of story-time appeal. This mum's tot loved interacting with the mat's adorable fox and owl characters. ​Parents think it's prefect for tummy-time as well as it drops down and will continue to entertain babies when they can sit up. "I have taken off the hedgehog and attached it to his bouncer," says mum, "so detachable toys are another plus."

Pros

  • Four ways to play with overhead play, tummy time, seated play and play mat
  • The play mat introduces little one to lots of different animals, from firefly to raccoon
  • Baby can enjoy fun textures and a peek-a-boo felt flap
  • We love the plush sleeping bear pillow for tummy time
  • The fireflies light up when touched for added visual stimulation and engagement
  • Colourful design will look great in any room of your house
  • The soft wigwam supports provide structure making it sturdy despite being soft

Cons

  • This play mat doesn't have as many features as others
Size:91cm x 91cm x 97 cm
Material:BPA-free, PVC-free, and Phthalate-free plastic
Age Range:0 months +
  • Four ways to play: Overhead play, tummy time, seated play and play mat
  • 17+ developmental activities including: light-up firefly, turtle mirror, bear rattle and musical raccoon with wooden teether that plays Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Scenic mesh backdrop
  • Unique soft supports with woodgrain pattern and rope ties
  • Play mat features fun textures and peek-a-boo felt flap
  • Includes plush sleeping bear tummy time pillow
  • BPA-free, PVC-free, Phthalate-free

Best play gym for quality

Skip Hop Celestial Dreams Activity Gym
Price: £99.99
Alternative retailers
Macy's$80.00View offer

Designed to ignite their imagination, this play mat boasts plush details and a cozy crescent moon pillow, perfect for tummy time adventures. Suspended above are five adorable nocturnal friends, encouraging exploration and interaction, while the removable shooting star mirror aids in developing self-recognition – a celestial journey of discovery for your baby. One parent reviewer's little one loves it! She says, "The plushies are favourites, and she's started playing with the cushion. Well worth the money." Praised by parents for its durability and engaging features, they loved the robust construction and captivating design. The parent reviewer said, "We've had this since our daughter was three months old (she is now nearly six months), and she loves it. There's plenty to do, and it is very robust - which is just as well."

Another mum reviewer describes the play mat as beautiful, and liked how easy it was to clean (it's machine washable). She said it was safe to use in the early months too. Unfortunately, one downside to this product is that the batteries are not replaceable. The mum thought that a toy with this kind of price tag should at least last long enough for two children that are less than two years apart to enjoy it. She says, "Such a shame that my second child won't be able to enjoy the musical aspect of this toy." Another mum was torn about purchasing this considering the price, but said you do truly you get what you pay for, in terms of quality, describing the mat as very well padded, the moon design lovely and soft. However, another mum says the teether itself was starting to come off in bits and so they had to remove it.

Pros

  • Pretty and unique design – with dreamy celestial vibes
  • Soft and comforting – with plush quilting details
  • Ideal for tummy time play – with the crescent moon pillow
  • Comes with five hanging toys that can be attached to the car seat or buggy
  • Baby can learn to recognise themselves in the removable shooting star baby mirror
  • Plenty of interactive features to stimulate baby's senses like music, sounds, textures
  • Easy to clean – just pop it in your washing machine

Cons

  • On parents reviewer found it to be smaller than expected
  • The battery in the star is not replaceable
  • Problem reported with the tether "coming off in bits"
Size:38 x 38 x 19 cm
Material:Polyester
Age Range:0 months +
  • Celestial-themed playmat with plush quilting details
  • Crescent moon pillow for tummy time play
  • Removable shooting star baby mirror
  • Five nocturnal friends with music, sounds, textures and more

Best play gym for style

boho chic
Price: $214.00

**This play gym was Shortlisted for the Mother&Baby Awards 2022 for Best Baby Toy.
**
Meticulously crafted to nurture babies' cognitive, emotional, and physical development this play gym has been designed with expertise, incorporating warm, calming colours that gently stimulate baby's senses, creating a serene and engaging environment. Parents love the stylish design too – Not only does the neutral earthy design help to soothe and entertain baby, but it also adds a touch of elegance to any home decor!

Our tester and first-time mum Louise said, "This product is not only beautiful to look at and looks fab in his nursery, but it also entertains him. I love watching him talk to the koala bear and hold the monkey's hand while snacking on the rattle." Mum tester Roseanne also thinks this play mat is much more aesthetically pleasing than other baby gyms due to its neutral colour scheme, and feels it has a good variety of sensory features. However, she says her baby responds better to play mats that are more brightly coloured, keeping him stimulated for longer than this one, although she says it did entertain him for a while due to the large variety of sensory elements there are to explore. Mum tester Emma quite likes the more neutral colour-scheme, saying allows baby to engage in play without overstimulation and is stylish enough where you are able to leave it out when not in use.

Mum Louise explains that as a first-time mum, it's hard to find products that hold your baby's attention. She says, "I bought another play mat, and he is not interested in it." With over 20 interactive features, including a plush detachable Koala doll, natural wood gripping rings, and a dream catcher mirror, it offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. Louise loved how this play gym complemented their baby's nursery, but also how her little one interacted with the koala bear, grasping the monkey's hand, and enjoying the soothing sounds of the rattle provided hours of entertainment. Roseanne points out that the sloth toy, once tapped, only plays music for a second or two, so this may be more suited to slightly older babies with better attention spans who can target the toy well enough to keep tapping to make the music play more continuously.

One thing to keep in mind is that this play mat is quite large and may take up a lot of space in the room. However, our mum tester Claire like that it's lovely and large providing somewhere safe for little one to develop and explore. She also says the mat is well-cushioned and can be used on any floor, so no need to worry about ensuring it is placed on a thick carpet or rug when out and about.

Read our full Tiny Love Luxe Developmental Gymini review.

Pros

  • A stylish wooden design that looks lovely in every nursery
  • Lots of sensory opportunities like a crinkly plant toy and an engaging mirror
  • Opportunities for interactive discovery with 20+ creative activities
  • Tap the sloth's tummy to activate a variety of captivating tunes
  • Large size provides room for growth
  • Toy develops with baby using 12 monthly milestone cards

Cons

  • The play mat is quite large and may take up a lot of space in the room
  • One mum felt it lacked bright enough colours to keep her boy stimulated for longer
  • The sloth toy only plays music for a second or two when it is tapped
Size:92 x 92 x 46 cm
Material:Wood
Age Range:Unspecified
  • Baby gym play mat with a standalone wooden arch frame
  • 20 creative activities that stimulate your baby's development during different age stages
  • Interactive musical sloth toy with a variety of tap-activated tunes
  • The play mat has an engaging mirror and satin ribbons for tummy time
  • 12 monthly milestone cards that take you and your baby through the journey of their first year of exploration 
  • Toys included: Mark the Sloth, Janis the Koala, a crinkly plant toy, peek-a-boo leafs and an engaging mirror 

Best playmat for sensory development

Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play, Mat u0026amp; Activity Gym

Rrp: $47.49

Price: $39.99
Alternative retailers
Target$39.99View offer
Walmart$39.99View offer
Macy's$59.99View offer

With adjustable walls to contain playtime chaos and transform it into a ball pit for toddlers, this gym adapts to your child's developmental stages, providing years of entertainment. One mum reviewer says they love it, and their little one loves it too! "We have had non-stop compliments of the play mat from friends and family", they say, and love the fact that it is a unisex design – perfect if you want to have more kids and re-use old toys, because it won't matter what gender they are.

This mum admits that the play mat may seem like it's a lot of money, but says she thinks it's a bargain for its 5-in-1 functionality and engaging toys. Featuring an electric toucan that serenades with over 20 minutes of melodies, a soft elephant, and a playful monkey bead chaser, it's a jungle-themed paradise for little ones.

The leaf-shaped teethers add to the sensory exploration, and the ball pit is great for when baby gets a bit older. One reviewer says "I really like this baby gym. Initially we used it as a flat activity mat but my son began rolling over and crawling early, so it's been useful to have sides that can go up and down so that he cant escape easily." She has also used a few of the plastic toys in a paddling pool during the hot weather, which she says was nice as they didn't have to buy additional bath toys.

One thing to be aware of is that the mat isn't very soft at all, according to one review. The mum says they have put a blanket in it to lay the baby on and even bought foam flooring to go underneath so she is more comfortable. If you have hard flooring, you may want to think the purchase through. Also, another reviewer noticed that the canopy that attaches to the mat is a bit fiddly, but they have resolved to just leave this on rather than dismantle the toy. If you plan to keep it out in your baby's nursery, this won't be an issue for you though.

Pros

  • Help baby to practice motor skills by rolling or passing the balls back and forth
  • Elephant toy lights up, plays 20+ minutes of music, and detaches for on-the-go fun
  • Plenty of take-along toys to choose, from a crinkle toy to the musical elephant
  • The play mat is machine washable, and the toys are wipeable
  • The toy came to grow with your little one, so it's suitable for babies and toddlers
  • Pack it away when not in use in the carry case for easy storage

Cons

  • The mat doesn't have much cushioning underneath
  • The canopy that attaches to it is a bit fiddly
Size:‎76.2 x 113.03 x 53.34 cm
Material:Polyester
Age Range: Unspecified
  • Grow-with-me ball pit play gym includes 40 balls with carrying case for easy storage
  • Elephant toy lights up, plays 20+ minutes of music, and detaches for on-the-go fun
  • Includes 7 tropical take-along toys: elephant musical toy, crinkle toy, mirror, flash cards, hanging leaf toy and bead rattle 

Best playmat for colour

A cute baby gym from a brand you can trust — Freddie the Firefly from Lamaze featured on our best baby toys list, and this mat is just as great. The versatile 3-in-1 gym is packed with features to support your baby's development, making it perfect for tummy time and beyond. One mum reviewer said, "When this first arrived, I wasn't impressed - but it turned out to be one of the best things I bought for my newborn."

With three detachable toys for on-the-go fun, it offers convenience and entertainment wherever you go. The bright colours and engaging design captivate babies' attention, while the large discovery mirror sparks curiosity and self-awareness. One mum reviewer loved how easy the detachable frame was, allowing for easy placement anywhere, and the portable toys that fit conveniently in pockets or purses for emergency distractions.

Some parents may feel this mat isn't as padded and that it comes with less toys than others on the market. Plus, the slightly smaller and more compact size than other baby gyms means less space for movement, however, this doesn't put parents off at all! One reviewer says "Size wise it's ideal. Not too big and bulky and easy to slide under the sofa or behind it when not in use." With its handy and compact design, Freddie the Firefly Gym is a must-have for parents seeking both convenience and developmental support for their little ones. Another mum found the tummy time pillow to be unsuitable as it kept slipping when her baby wriggled, but she simply decided not to use it.

Pros

  • Play mat grows with baby as they roll over, sit up and access interactive features
  • This baby gym is brightly coloured for added visual stimulation
  • The hanging toys all detach so you can move them to baby's car seat or buggy
  • Plenty of sensory discoveries with different textures to explore
  • The tummy-time curved cushion has contrasting patterns for babies
  • Parents will love the affordability of this great value activity baby gym
  • Super easy to clean – just bung it in the washing machine

Cons

  • Comes with less toys than other play mats
  • The mat is not as padded as others on the market
  • Smaller, compact size means less space for movement
  • Pillow might slip when baby wriggles
Size:45.97 x 77.98 x 77.98 cm
Material:Plastic
Age Range:0 months +
  • An activity gym that grows with your little one – Three different positions to follow baby's growth: lay and play, tummy time and sit and play
  • 3 dangling sensory toys
  • Large discovery mirror
  • Freddie with crinkle wings and two tactile shapes that act as teethers
  • Comfortable curved cushion upholstered with LAMAZE's classic sensory patterns: black and white contrast and multiple coloured patterns

Best playmat for easy storage

Tiny Love Dynamic Gymini
Price: $176.92

The Tiny Love Dynamic Gymini was the Bronze winner in the M&B Awards 2019 Best Baby Toy category.

This versatile and engaging space for your little one is great for developing their exploration and developmental skills. Featuring adjustable, moving arches, this play mat evolves with your baby from day one, transporting them to colourful meadows with its delightful design. One mum reviewer says, "One of the reasons I chose this one is because it looks nice - very important if it is going to be up in my living room for months!"

Discover the peek-a-boo tree and enjoy the musical tunes of Emilia the Bird while stimulating fine and gross motor skills with dangling toys, lights, and music. What sets this gym apart is its ability to record personalised messages for your baby, adding a special touch to playtime. Our mum tester Joanne said, "The fact that you can record your own message/music into the owl is a lovely idea", and mum tester Victoria said, "I would recommend this product as it's such good quality and has so many different toys on it. It suits all development milestones and you are able to customise it by moving the arches to suit babies age. "

Our mum testers loved how easy it was to store this play gym away as well as how easy it is to wash and dry, ensuring the mat is always ready for your baby's next adventure. One mum reviewer said they tend to just leave theirs up because it is used daily, but agreed it does fold well for storage. She also said she found it was a bit fiddly to fasten the arches down with the poppers the first time they put it up, but that it did get easier on subsequent times.

Read our full Tiny Love Dynamic Gymini review.

Pros

  • Ideally large-sized play mat for twins and siblings, or just more movement in general
  • Adjustable arches for different play modes, lying down, tummy-time, sitting up
  • The electronic bird toy has a unique feature – it records voices and plays tunes
  • Plenty of opportunities for interactive sensory fun
  • Bright, stimulating colours will keep little ones interested and engaged
  • Easy to clean – you can pop the play mat straight in the washing machine

Cons

  • The play mat doesn't have a lot of padding
  • One parent found it a bit fiddly to fasten the arches down with the poppers at first
Size:110 x 90 x 45 cm
Material:Polyester
Age Range:0 months +
  • Machine washable play mat
  • Adjustable arches for more play modes
  • Musical toy: Equipped with electronic bird toy that records voice and plays tunes
  • Includes:. Bee and butterfly cloud mobile, crinkly raccoon blankie, Easy-grasp carrot teether, Tummy time pillow with crinkly ears, House mirror doubles as a picture frame, Peek-a-boo crinkly tree, Fabric bee wind-chime, Fox doll rattle

Best modern play gym

2021 Gold Mother&Baby Awards Winner in the Best Baby Toy category.
Not only is it functional, but the stylish design of this play mat also adds a touch of elegance to any home decor. Our mum tester Gabriella Challis says, "I absolutely would recommend the Magical Tales Black & White Gymini to any other Mums. It is unisex with its design and folds up easily if you want to store it away. We use it every day, so we don't bother folding it away as it's a beautiful design, it doesn't look like an eye sore in the front room!"

With its striking contrasting colours and array of engaging features, including a mirror for extended tummy time, a baby-activated musical toy, and a soothing wind chime, this Gymini stimulates your baby's curiosity and encourages exploration for day one. The adjustable play arches and movable toys create a customisable environment tailored to your baby's preferences, fostering parent-child bonding along the way. Our mum tester Siobhan Andrews says, "The toys hang low enough so it is great for my baby to play. He can easily reach them and keeps him occupied for a decent amount of time so I can get on with housework etc. I know he is safe on the play mat if I am not always in the room so I can relax knowing he is happy having a kick about and being stimulated."

Our mum testers also loved how easy it was to store and wash, finding that it maintained its quality, showcasing its durability and practicality. Gabriella says, "We have washed the Magical Tales Black & White Gymini due to our baby having reflux, and it has washed/dried out brilliantly."

Mum tester Fiona Cheong-See is happy to recommend the product, however, she does say that against other play mats out there, she found this one to be a little bit pricey. She does love the design though and says it's made with good materials. She also likes that it's very lightweight and easy to pack up and store away. One thing to keep in mind if you have wooden or tiles floors though, is that because it's so lightweight it may move easily if you have an active baby. You can always get rubber rug grips for the bottom or use it on carpet instead though.

Read our full Tiny Love Magical Tales Black & White Gymini review.

Pros

  • A beautifully designed toy with high contrast for younger babies to see more clearly
  • The concertina book can be untied and taken with you
  • Baby can activate the musical hedgehop with a tap with a variety of different tunes
  • This play mat is easy to store as it folds away
  • Your baby can enjoy different play modes at different stages of their development
  • There's plenty to encourage your little one onto their tummy
  • Baby has lots of opportunities to enjoy interactive and sensory fun

Cons

  • The mat moves easily on a wooden floor if you have an active baby
  • Parents on a lower budget may consider this to be on the pricey side
  • It doesn't come with a travel bag
Size:88 x 78 x 45 cm
Material:Fabric
Age Range:0 months +
  • High contrast design for babies
  • Includes a removable high contrast fold-out concertina book
  • Tap-activated musical hedgehog toy with a variety of tunes
  • Folds away easily
  • Adjustable and removable arches for different play modes
  • Includes a mirror, contrast book and satin ribbons on the mat for tummy-time play
  • Smiling characters and stimulating toys: a crinkly peek-a-boo game, mini mobile, plush cloud, wind chime toy, contrast book, teether and mirror

Best play gym for sustainability

Shortlisted for 2021 Mother&Baby Awards for Best Baby Toy.

This play gym from Little Green Sheep is made from natural Birch wood and hand-finished with oil. If you want a sustainable, natural wooden playmat for your baby, then this is a wonderful choice. Although on thing to be aware of is that this play mat doesn't actually come with a mat, it is just the frame. Our mum tester Ruth Carmichael says, "This product was a fantastic addition to our toy collection. Our baby was so in love with it that she would play with it a lot longer than most of her other toys allowing us to do simple tasks around the house a lot easier like pop the dinner on, put a wash on, hoover the floor, we felt this product really did make life easier.

The toys are detachable and made from organic cotton and wood, safe for your little one to bat away and chew. The baby gym pictured is the curved safari theme, but you can also get it with straight legs, and other themes include Ocean Whale, Bunny Love and Bear Love. Some busy parents may not enjoy the inconvenience of not being able to pop the soft toys in the washing machine and dryer, but we really like that you can hand wash the cotton charm toys and wipe clean the wooden ones. If you're worried about hygiene, maybe you could only detach the wooden toys to allow baby to handle and chew on them as natural teethers, and leave the soft toys hanging so they are less like to get covered in drool or get dirty too quickly.

Another thing to be aware of is that the lifespan of this baby gym may be shorter than others. Our mum tester Michelle Campbell says, "It is a lovely, very well made toy which I am sure would entertain a small baby. Unfortunately by the time I received the product my baby was already crawling so got limited use out of it! But he really liked the rattling teether toy which is useful to attach to straps of the buggy/car seat and chew on as he is teething."

Read our full The Little Green Sheep Group Wooden Baby Play Gym review.

Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing (each charm is hand-finished)
  • Eco-friendly with responsibly sourced materials
  • Detachable toys and space to attach more in between if you have them
  • Easy to wipe clean the wooden parts

Cons

  • It doesn't come with a mat for baby to lie on
  • Less convenient to wash the hand-made soft toys that also need line drying
  • Babies could grow out of this more quickly as it has less features
Size:Unspecified
Material:100% certified sustainable Birch wood and organic cotton
Age Range:0 months +
  • Made from sustainably sourced Birch wood and hand-oiled for a natural finish
  • Made using certified organic cotton
  • Charms are detachable
  • Hand-oiled curved Birch frame
  • CE certified
  • Hand wash and line dry soft toys, wipe wooden toys with a clean cloth and allow to air dry
  • Due to each charm being hand finished, there may be very small variances to what is pictured

Best play gym with light-up features

Offering a contemporary twist on the classic baby gym, this play mat is designed to captivate and stimulate your little one's senses with high-contrast design, music and lights. Featuring bold patterns and vibrant colours, this gym appeals to younger babies while aiding their visual development. The interactive arches offer musical sounds and innovative light displays, ensuring endless entertainment for your baby. Complete with four adorable hanging toys that activate sounds with a gentle bat, it's a delightful play space for exploration and discovery.

Our mum tester Jemma loved the design and found her little one loved the light displays, and the adjustable sound levels provided some much-needed respite. She says, "Ada liked watching the lights track cross the gym, but we had to darken the room to get the best effect." Although there's ample space for rolling about, Jemma found storing the gym posed a challenge due to its size, meaning she left it permanently set up.

Pros

  • Baby can enjoy three ways to play with the overhead toys, tummy time, and play mat
  • Provides a visual delight for your little one with the light-up arch
  • Baby won't get bored with more than 17 activities to encourage their development
  • The four hanging toys are also reversible, which is great for engagement
  • Stylish and not too garish like some primary-coloured baby toys can be,
  • Has high-contrast artwork to baby to enjoy
  • Lots to do for tummy-time with a crinkly-eared doggy-shaped tummy-time pillow

Cons

  • Batteries not included
Size:66.0 x 24.5 x 61.0 cm
Material:Multi
Age Range:Unspecified
  • Three ways to play: overhead play, tummy time, play mat
  • Interactive, musical light-up arch with volume control and two light modes: visual tracking for baby to follow and an amazing light show
  • 17+ developmental activities
  • Bold, high contrast artwok
  • Three fun sound effects as baby bats at toys
  • Colorful mat with iridescent toy loops for tummy time
  • Dog shaped tummy time pillow with crinkle ears
  • Three AAA batteries required (not included)
  • Four hanging reversible toys with black and white on one side and bright colors on the other: Kitty with grab rattle rings; Soft car with squeaker and tactile ribbons; Hot air balloon with babysafe mirror; Dog rattle with ladybug teether

Best play gym for shape

aden+anais baby activity gym

Rrp: $99.95

Price: $89.95
Alternative retailers
Target$89.99View offer
Walmart$89.99View offer
Kohl's$99.95View offer
Macy's$99.95View offer

Yep, that's right, aden+anais don't just do amazing muslins and swaddles - they do baby gyms too! Crafted with eco-friendly and sustainable birch wood arches and a plush 100% cotton muslin mat, this gym offers comfort and support for your little one's playtime adventures. One mum reviewer said, "We've been using the baby play gym for about two weeks now (months 4-6) and absolutely love it! Soft, cushy top with supple fabric and durable underside, well constructed. As our son has developed, he's become more and more engaged with the features.

Equipped with a tummy time pillow, three attachable toys, and an overhead mirror, it promotes fine motor development while strengthening key muscles in your baby's arms, upper back, and neck. It may not have as many toys and features as other baby gyms on the market but this reviewer says, "It's such a great "go-to" for tummy time or when we need to put him down to cater to his toddler-aged sister for a bit. The mirror really seems to grab his attention, and the animals and theme are so cute." They loved how durable the gym was and how engaging the different features were, it's easy to see how it has quickly become a household favourite for both play and practicality.

Pros

  • This baby gym offers more than 30 developmental benefits
  • Made with eco-friendly, non-toxic fabrics
  • Beautiful design that will love great in the nursery or anywhere in your home
  • Easy to disassemble and store – just unclip the wooden bars and fold

Cons

  • Less toys/activities than competitors
Size:81 cm in diameter and 60 cm in height 
Material:Eco-friendly, non-toxic fabrics and handcrafted birchwood
Age Range:0-12 months
  • Machine washable
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable birch wood arches
  • A whole year of learning with Five areas of developmental skill-building and 30+ developmental benefits
  • Plush tummy time pillow
  • Three attachable toys
  • Mirror for self-discovery
  • Free from harsh chemicals – phthalates, lead, cadmium and formaldehyde
  • Unclip the wooden bars, fold, and store

How to choose a baby gym or play mat, and which is better?

When choosing between a baby gym and play mat we asked Psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer, who specialises in child development, play & parenting, which she thought was better. She said, "Both are beneficial, so it will come down to space and personal preference as to which should be recommended."

Dr Amanda Gummer's advice on how to choose a baby gym or play mat:

  • When choosing a baby gym or play mat, always take into consideration your baby's developmental stage and your own preferences.

  • Aim to look for one that provides a soft, padded surface for your baby to lie on comfortably.

  • It might sound obvious, but also consider the size of the mat or gym to ensure it fits your space at home so it’s free from being a trip hazard and can be set up in an area which is going to be warm and safe.

  • Some gyms come with detachable toys or hanging mobiles to keep your baby engaged, so think about whether these features are important to you. Both can offer benefits for a newborn’s development, but baby mats are great for tummy time play as they offer up a soft surface that’s safe for baby to lie on their front or back and will offer visual stimulation and attachments to grab.

  • Baby Gyms will often include arches or bars suspended over the mat with hanging toys or rattles for babies to bat or grab at.

Things to look for when choosing the right baby play mat and gym

As well as the above, here are some things to look out for when you're out shopping or browsing online for the right baby play mat and gym for you and your baby. It's important to consider things like going for a baby playmat that is very easy to use, clean, portable, and can also be customised by hanging extra toys on it.

Material - You'll want soft and padded materials to enrich their sensory time that are easy to wash if necessary.

Size - As long as it's large enough to grow with them but not too big for your space, it should work for you.

Easy to clean - Things can get messy with little ones, so make sure it's as easy to clean as possible.

Sensory features - Try to pick out a playmat or gym that has engaging and stimulating features that they'll love.

Colours - Make sure your chosen baby playmat is colourful and bright to stimulate your baby.

Age range - Your choice will have to be age-appropriate for your little one, so check the packaging.

There are many types of baby playmats, but choose a flat one because it's better for your baby's back. Also, you need to look for one that gives you space to hang many types of toys with different textures, sounds, colours, and shapes not only above your baby's head but in all their surroundings.

Playmat: Some gyms have much bigger playmats than others, so think about how much floor space you have available, but also how big and active your baby is. Dribbles and leaks are unavoidable, so a detachable, machine-washable mat is essential.

Baby-safe mirror: A mirror is a must – looking at themself will encourage your baby's face-recognition skills and boost their social and emotional development. Add one to the gym yourself if it doesn't already have one.

Toy arch: Opt for a lot of variety when it comes to sensory toys to hold your baby's interest as they get older. Black-and-white patterns might delight a newborn but not a four-month-old.

Musical features: Babies love music, but check you can turn this function off because the tunes will eventually get on your nerves!

Extra toys: Some gyms are designed to allow you to attach other toys to the hanging bar to keep your baby's interest. If your tot is inquisitive or easily bored, this is a great option.

Sensory activities: Many gyms have different sensory elements for your baby to explore, from peek-a-boo flaps, which can help boost fine motor skills, to crinkly-textured toys. When you're comparing gyms, think about whether the features will stimulate different senses.

Tummy-time pillow: Time spent lying on their front every day is important to help your baby strengthen the muscles they'll eventually use for sitting, crawling, and walking. Tummy-time features, or a dedicated pillow for extra support, are useful.

Do you need a baby play gym or activity mat?

When it comes to must-have baby gear, a baby gym isn't up there with a car seat or pushchair, but life is much easier with one. Having somewhere to put down your baby when you need to sign for a parcel from the postie or nip to the loo is so handy – and they'll be safe, comfy, and entertained! They'll benefit physically and cognitively from having interesting things to focus on as their sight and colour recognition develops, and they'll love kicking and batting at the toys overhead. A baby gym is also brilliant for helping tire out an active baby!

best baby play mats tummy time

Why are playmats good for babies?

Playmats are a really useful play space that help to keep baby entertained, but they have a range of other benefits too. We asked Dr. Amanda Gummer why she thinks playmets are good for babies, and she shared her expert insight. She says, "Play mats are great in providing a safe and comfortable space for babies to explore and develop important skills. They offer a soft surface for babies to lie on, supporting their physical development and can therefore help to prevent injuries.

"Play mats also provide sensory stimulation, with different textures, colours, and patterns to engage babies' senses. Additionally, play mats often come with toys or attachments that encourage reaching, grasping, and hand-eye coordination, promoting cognitive and motor skill development as well as being a cosy surface for fun and bonding."

Here is a summary of all the great benefits of baby playmats:

Learning about 'cause and effect' - Activity mats can help your baby from when they are firstborn. At around six weeks, they will help your baby start to develop 'cause and effect' as they realise if they push the toys on the hanging mobile, they will move.

Developing your baby's vision - Your baby is born with pretty blurred vision, meaning they can only see a few inches in front of their face. As they grow, they'll start to take an interest in different shapes and colours, which means most playmats are designed with a variety of bright, eye-catching toys for your baby to focus on.

Developing grasping skills - You'll already have noticed your baby's grasping skills - reflexively grabbing onto anything in their palms. As your baby grows up, you'll notice your little one reaching and grasping at the toys hanging on the mobile, even if they aren't interested in them when you first introduce the mat.

Developing self-awareness - Another feature you'll spot on a lot of play gyms on this list is a small mirror. Your baby probably won't notice themself in the mirror until they're around four months old when you might notice them starting to reach up at it. As they grow, your baby will interact more with their reflection in the mirror, making faces and smiling at themself.

Developing motor skills - Stimulating toys from activity gyms are great for your baby's development but also for use during tummy time. You should always use a playmat or blanket for tummy time, not a sofa or raised surface. Tummy time is important for helping your baby develop those all-important fine motor skills. Lie with your baby and encourage them to look up at you or the toys hanging over the mat.

Modern or traditional?

Baby gyms can completely divide parents. Some love the more minimalist, modern-looking gyms, while others felt they got much more bang for their buck from those with more interactive features. But even babies of the most discerning, style-conscious mums find it hard to resist noisy toys and flashing lights!

We asked Dr. Amanda Gummer what her thoughts were on whether play gyms and play mats with sound and lights more stimulating for babies. She said, "Play mats with sound and lights can be more stimulating for babies, as they provide additional sensory input which is really important for overall development. Both the sounds and lights can capture baby's attention and encourage them to engage with the toys and activities on the mat.

"However, it's important to consider your baby's individual preferences and sensitivities and remember that all children are different. Some babies may find loud noises or bright lights overwhelming, so I believe it's best to choose a play mat with adjustable volume and brightness settings to suit your and your little one’s preferences and developmental needs.

Do you need it to fold away?

You'll use a baby gym several times a day for about six months, so choose one that you'll be happy to keep assembled while it's in regular use or that you can easily pop away. If you're short on space or prefer to reclaim the living room when your baby goes to bed, a gym that folds away quickly and isn't fiddly to set up again the next day is useful. Factor in whether you're likely to pop it in the car and take it with you when you're visiting the grandparents, too.

About the expert

Dr Amanda Gummer is a child development expert who founded The Good Play Guide in 2012. Amanda has a PhD in Neuropsychology, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and over 20 years’ experience working with children and families. Having worked in children’s industries for many years, Amanda is now widely considered as the UK’s go-to expert on play, toys and child development.

Amanda can regularly be seen in the media, including BBC News, Sky News, The Daily Mail and many more, offering advice on news stories and issues surrounding children, families and child development.

Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide is an independent, expert organisation, dedicated to ensuring every child can develop the skills they need to thrive during a happy healthy childhood. The team’s mission is to help make the world a more playful place.

Why trust us?

Mother&Baby product recommendations are independent and based on a combination of real-world testing from our army of mum testers and the expertise of our experienced editorial team and product specialists. Whilst we may receive a commission for purchases made through our links, we never allow this to influence product selections. Any revenue earned helps us to fund more great content like this. Want to know more about how we work? Click here to read about our process and why you can trust our product picks.

Emily Gilbert is a Digital Writer for Mother&Baby and had written for the website and previously the magazine for six years. Specialising in product reviews, Emily is the first to know about all the exciting new releases in the parenting industry.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us
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Mother & Baby is dedicated to ensuring our information is always valuable and trustworthy, which is why we only use reputable resources such as the NHS, reviewed medical papers, or the advice of a credible doctor, GP, midwife, psychotherapist, gynaecologist or other medical professionals. Where possible, our articles are medically reviewed or contain expert advice. Our writers are all kept up to date on the latest safety advice for all the products we recommend and follow strict reporting guidelines to ensure our content comes from credible sources. Remember to always consult a medical professional if you have any worries. Our articles are not intended to replace professional advice from your GP or midwife.