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The Best Sensory-Stimulating Baby Play Mats

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

All hail the baby play mat. Like the baby activity center, the playmat — also known as baby play gym or baby activity mat — is 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. There are a variety of infant play mats out there, but it’s important to choose an easy-to-clean mat with bright colors to grab and hold your baby’s attention. All the ones on this list are machine-washable. 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

If you'd rather have a play mat that blends with your home decor, meet the Cushmat. It's made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane, which is known for being flexible and durable) and is thick enough to cushion any falls. It does not have any hanging rattles or blinking lights, but it does give babies ample room to explore. Bonus: You can use baby wipes to clean it.

A perpetual crowdpleaser, this play mat has 17 developmental activities and 13 loops you can use to dangle baby toys; you can swap them out to keep things interesting. The color scheme is bright without being too offensive. And there's even a tummy time pillow because, you know, tummy time. Once you remove the mirror, it's machine-washable.

With this play mat, you get a tricked-out newborn gym with 10 toys and activities and a removable, take-along toucan with music and dancing lights. Babies can make the zebra clack, spin the snail's rollerball, or bat at the monkey and lion. It even plays music and nature sounds. It's machine-washable.

This best-in-class play mat and baby gym has removable accessories for stage-based learning and five development zones for your baby, to keep him or her curious and engaged. This play mat and baby gym turns into a fort when your child outgrows it. But first, it was specifically designed and created to promote cognitive, visual, and motor development in newborns and older babies. It's machine-washable.

It's like Coachella for babies. The Tiny Love play mat features 30 songs and 18 activities for your infant. This two-way mat has 18 different activities and developmental toys to keep your baby busy. The play mat has adjustable arches that let you customize this multi-mode activity mat to match your baby's developmental stages and keep him or her engaged and entertained. Plus, it can be used as a changing pad and is machine washable.

This baby play mat gives your infant four ways to play: Via tummy time, lay and play, sit and play, and take along with you. The content adapts with your baby as she grows up, going from 20 minutes of continuous music, and short songs about animals, to the introduction of colors, shapes, and phrases. But that's not all. This baby mat is pretty much all-around great, rave parents. There's a large keyboard with light-up keys. And you can move five toys around: the mirror, the teether, a crinkle panda, a lion rattle and monkey cymbal clackers. The mat is machine-washable.

Take this engaging little collection of hanging apple, bee, and flower on walks or on the road. A portable baby gym that folds up into its own tote — perfect for road trips, afternoons in the park, or when visiting family or friends.

For the discerning baby, here's a play gym and ball pit in one. The playmat lies flat for newborns, so they can explore, grab at the hanging toys, and do their tummy time workouts. For older babies, it also serves as a sensory ball pit; the balls are stored inside the animal's head. Once you remove the side-supports, the mat itself is machine-washable.

This play-mat comes with 24 different sea animals. Your child will love the sensation of the stimulating water beads. And the mat is inflatable, which makes it perfect for both the play room and the pool.

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