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Play mats we love

(Image credit: Unsplash)

A play mat is one piece of baby equipment that you might not give much thought to until your little one is actually in your life. It’s difficult to imagine quite how active even a tiny baby can be, and how much they’ll benefit from having a safe and comfy place to play – even before they’re able to sit up or roll over. Nevertheless, it’s essential to have somewhere suitable to encourage tummy time, especially when you need your hands free, so knowing they’re surrounded by interesting things to interact with will give you peace of mind too.

Baby play mats come in lots of different types and all sorts of sizes, from baby gyms with toys dangling overhead to foam mats where your baby can practice crawling and rolling over. The best play mat is one that’s practical for the space in which you’ll be using it. It seems obvious to say, but it’s often forgotten in those early sleep-deprived weeks (or months!): if you don’t have much room, go for something that you won’t spend all day tripping over. Also factor in how easy it is to store away if you’re likely to feel the need to clear it away once your baby goes to bed at night. 

A mat with lots of visual stimulation is ideal for ensuring your baby will be entertained when you place her on the mat. But keep in mind  that she might tire of those particular toys or interactive features quite quickly. A fairly plain mat can be just as entertaining if you pop a range of different toys near your baby and rotate them regularly as she grows and develops.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Tiny Love Meadow Days Super Play Mat

A large and colourful play mat

Suitable from birth
Extra large
Integrated carry handle
Less padded than other mats

This extra large play mat is designed so that you can roll it up and carry it with you via the integrated handle, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for something you can bring with you when going to visit friends of family. 

It has lots of engaging features to keep little ones occupied, including a teether toy and a mirror, plus lots of textured elements for your baby to touch and explore. Some reviews say it slides around on a wooden floor, and it’s not as well padded as other play mats – factor this in if you don’t have plush carpets!

(Image credit: Amazon)

Baby Einstein Bold New World High Contrast Playmat

A high contrast play mat to stimulate learning

Good for tummy time
High contrast to stimulate visual development
Musical features
Smaller than others

High-contrast colours and patterns make this play mat especially appealing for younger babies – it’s ideal for boosting your baby’s learning and encouraging her visual development. 

It has an adjustable canopy and a plush prop pillow that is especially good for encouraging your baby to spend time on her tummy, helping to strengthen the muscles she’ll eventually use for crawling and walking. It has some innovative interactive features including hide and reveal toys to encourage your baby’s curiosity. This also has musical functionality and it plays up to 20 minutes of music.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Winthome Baby Play Mat Round Non-Slip Cotton Gym Play Mat

A multipurpose play mat that doubles as a toy storage bag

Ideal baby shower gift
Suitable indoors or outside
Requires lots of space

This is a versatile multipurpose baby play mat. It’s soft yet durable so it’s ideal for use at home as a place to pop your baby when she’s learning to sit and roll. As she gets older, there’s plenty of space for her to practice crawling and taking her first steps. 

It’s stylishly designed with an eye-catching print that will appeal to little ones and help develop their sensory skills. The fabric is non slip so it’s a good choice if you have a wooden floor and want a sturdy mat that will stay in place, even beneath a wriggling baby. 

Best of all, this doubles as a storage bag for toys, so it can help you can make light work of tidy up time once your baby goes to bed.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Foldable Baby Playmat

A lightweight, reversible play mat that folds away for easy transportation

Wipes clean
You’ll need plenty of floor space

This extra large play mat is big enough for you and your baby to roll around on together! It’s made from soft, durable material that’s ultra-cushioned and free from phthalates, BPA, latex and formaldehyde, so it’s a good choice if your baby has sensitive skin. 

It folds easily for handy storage and it’s light enough to carry with you to the park or beach. The fabric is waterproof so you can use it outdoors as well as inside, and it’s easy to clean with a damp cloth. It’s also reversible, which means less chance of your baby getting bored of the pattern.

(Image credit: Amazon)

Yookidoo Play Mat

Encourage tummy time with this developmental play mat

Musical features
Soft fabric 
Easy to transport
Requires batteries

This soft play mat is ideal for encouraging tummy time. It’s designed to address your baby's developmental needs when she’s lying on her front, which is important to help strengthen your baby's shoulders, chest and upper body in readiness for learning to crawl and, eventually, for walking. 

The colourful pattern is also highly engaging to help develop your baby’s visual skills, and a musical car toy helps teach cause and effect and hone auditory skills. It also has a hidden pocket for keeping additional toys or accessories close at hand, and it folds away neatly into a self-contained roll with carrying handle for easy transport.

Heidi Scrimgeour

Originally from London, Heidi Scrimgeour is a freelance writer who lives near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland with her husband and their daughter and two sons.