Play and gym mats see a great deal of use in the first year! Having somewhere clean, safe and stimulating to place your baby is invaluable. Furthermore, play and gym mats can be moved around the home, giving you somewhere to put baby in sight wherever you are.

Given that floors aren’t the most hygienic spot, a play mat helps you manage your baby’s needs. Many play mats are washable.

A baby gym will also provide an additional layer of padding between your baby and a hard floor, making it a more comfortable spot for them to be.

Additionally, play and gym mats provide a big mix of activities in one spot. Babies aren’t known for their long attention span! An activity mat will provide lots of different activities from colourful sights and kick toys, to mirrors and rattles. They are a safe place for baby to explore texture too.

The importance of tummy time

Tummy time is when you put your baby on their tummy, whilst awake and supervised. This helps your baby to strengthen their back, neck and shoulder muscles and motor skills which are vital for sitting unaided and crawling. Tummy time also helps your baby to avoid plagiocephaly (a condition where a baby’s head develops flat spots).

Play and gym mats are absolutely ideal for promoting tummy time with as little angst as possible. To begin with your baby may only tolerate tummy time for a few seconds. Gradually extend the length of time they spend on their tummy before gently rolling them on to their back (until they can do it themselves).

What to look for in play and gym mats

Choose a play mat or baby gym which can be used from birth. Good basic play mats, such as this one, will include a variety of toys, textures and colours. Look at the size of the mat and consider the space where you will usually be placing it. Take care to choose mats which appeal to a baby lying on their back with items hanging. However, also choose a baby gym which has plenty visible and within reach for a baby having tummy time.

Very soon your baby will like to kick their legs freely. Realising that they can make things happen with their feet brings some of the first giggles and smiles. For this reason, play mats with a kick toy, such as the ZZM Kick Play Piano Gym or 4-in-1 Kick and Play Musical Activity Mat are ideal.

Mirrors are always a hit with young babies. Watch them squeal in delight as they spot themselves with mats such as the Discovery Carpet.

Room to grow

As your baby develops, they will soon learn to roll. For young rollers, the Crawling Baby Play Mat can help you contain them!

For nearly sitters, and sitters, a play nest is a good option. This supports your baby in their wobbly early days of sitting, whilst providing lots of entertainment within easy reach. The Galt Toys Farm Playnest has been a popular choice for many years for this reason.

Other options for play mats to grow with your child include the Grow With Me 3-in1 play gym. Suitable from newborn, it can also become a crawling baby or young toddler’s ball pool.

Getting bigger

As your child learns to crawl and toddle you’ll want to protect their little knees and still give them a play space to call their own. The Foam Alphabet Mat can be configured how you need and last through to preschool and beyond.