The Best Sensory-Stimulating Baby Play Mats

These exceptional mats encourage everything from tummy time to sensory play.

Originally Published: 
best baby play mat and activity mat against a teal background

All hail the baby play mat. Like the baby activity center, the the best baby play mats — also known baby play gyms or baby activity mats — are a parenting essential. It not only offers an array of sensory activities to encourage development and curiosity in babies, it’s also an excellent arena for the neck-strengthening, core-shaping workout called tummy time. And it’s one of the few toys that will grow along with your infant during their first year.

Another bonus: When your infant is on the mat, it buys parents a free moment to, you know, run to the bathroom, wipe down a cabinet, or just give their arms a rest. Because babies don’t have great vision until they’re about six months old, you want a play mat that is high-contrast to hold and keep their attention. Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, newborns can “see large shapes and faces, as well as bright colors,” while by three or four months, “babies can focus on a variety of smaller objects and tell the difference between colors.”

You want a mat that’s machine-washable, or at the very least, easy to clean. Crinkly fabrics that encourage sensory exploration are another solid feature. Some mats have lights and sounds. Others do not. It’s a matter of your preference (and tolerance).

The Best Baby Play Mats

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