Many parents wonder when to start tummy time with their babies, and whether they need a tummy time mat.
Here’s the long answer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies start tummy time right when they come home from the hospital. Meaning, as soon as your little one is awake, he or she should spend three to five minutes on his or her tummy, two to three times a day. You increase the amount of time as your baby starts to enjoy him- or herself more. The purpose of tummy time is to get babies ready for sliding on their bellies and ultimately crawling.
Babies don’t exactly love tummy time because it’s, you know, work. So make it more appealing by putting toys just out of their reach, and put the toys around the baby, forcing him or her to reach for them and thus build up his or her muscles. A great way to do that: A baby mat that’s got a ton of little activities to keep them engaged. Offering a little fun on the floor, these soft, colorful, and interactive play gyms feature music, toys, and more and encourage baby to engage, explore, and enjoy a sensory experience.
See more: Best Toys for 1-Year-Olds
If you’re on the hunt for something that will keep your little one stimulated and entertained, a play mat may be exactly what you need. So, how do you know which of these small entertainment centers will be a hit with your tot? Though babies can’t write glowing reviews just yet, their parents can. We’ve rounded up the best play mats that scored big with moms, dads, and caregivers.
Best Tummy Time Mats
This tummy time play mat includes a large mirror for hanging and a flower face rattle with beads. Plus there's a battery-operated motion track with a car that rides back and forth.
Pros: This is a fully tricked-out play mat. It has a car that drives around, and even plays music. Rest assured that you can always mute it.
Cons: Some parents have issues with the car and how it zooms around.
Another great play mat, this one does not have a motorized car. There is, however, a very cool battery operated motion activated musical plane, along with 20 developmental activities.
Pros: Parents attach the motion activated soft musical plane and other toys to the arches for endless exploration. And older babies can use this play mat when it’s switched into a sitting position.
Cons: There are not enough toys included, say some parents, so get extras.
Picture this: A baby gym play mat that looks like actual home decor. It's made of unfinished beech, and sanded to be smooth.
Pros: We love the simplicity of this design, and the fact that you can add or remove toys as you see fit. It folds up when not in use.
Cons: You need to provide your own padded floor mat or blanket.
This wonderful activity mat helps babies learn about textures and colors, while they practice tummy time.
Pros: This Melissa & Doug play mat has non-skid backing, features an illustrated town and road scene, and includes nine soft fabric vehicles that crinkle, rattle or squeak. The play mat folds up nicely, too. It’s great for babies six months and older.
Cons: As stated, it’s suitable for older babies, not newborns.
Babies love music. They really, really do. This tummy time play gym lets parents choose between four settings (laying, sitting, tummy time and take-along) and engage their babies with 70-plus sounds and activities, as well as 25 minutes of music. The play gym also introduces phrases in English, Spanish and French.
Pros: Babies can play the piano and create their own sounds, something they really and truly enjoy.
Cons: This thing is loud, so if you’re sensitive to noise …
This padded polar bear is not only cute, but it offers support for all your baby’s movements.
Pros: Babies love the satin taggies that surround the play mat. Your baby can explore crinkle sounds, rattles and a mirror. The mat is machine washable. And it’s ideal for small spaces.
Cons: In terms of quality, it gets solid reviews, but some parents complain that it’s on the flimsy side.
This plush and ultra-soft tummy time baby mat is great for travel, or for parents on the go.
Pros: Sometimes, all you need is a basic, but gorgeously made, baby mat. And this is it. It’s thick. It’s soft. It’s perfect for supervised tummy time. It folds up for easy travel. And you can choose your favorite animal. It’s machine washable.
Cons: There are no bells, whistles, or mirrors and rattles.
This play mat is designed to grow with your little one. Five development zones let you “reveal or conceal” as you wish so you can encourage exploration or prevent overstimulation. It’s quick and easy to spot clean. Or, detach the legs and focus zone and toss the whole mat in the washing machine.
Pros: This play gym is made with 100 percent baby-safe materials, including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood for its standing legs and organic cotton for its mouthable teether. It boasts a “no tools required” two-minute setup and keeps baby entertained for a while, parents agree.
Cons: The Lovevery is pricier than similar products and some found its colors “a bit dull.”
This bright and bold play mat features close to a dozen toys and activities, including a removable, take-along toucan. Its lights and music respond to baby’s movement so you don’t have to rush over and press any buttons to keep baby entertained.
Pros: Whether they’re on their back or tummy, this play mats offers plenty to see and touch. Baby can bat and kick away at the dangling toys, which can be interchanged for a whole new view.
Cons: The play mat is spring loaded so it can open on its own, making storage a challenge.
Super-size your tot’s tummy time with this extra-large play mat. A soft, padded mirror gives babies a chance to admire their reflection. The carrot teether and crinkly leaves keep little ones engaged and interested.
Pros: It’s thicker than a blanket yet folds easily making it perfect for taking along to the park or Grandma’s house. Parents of multiples love that it’s larger than other mats and easy on the wallet. It holds up well after multiple trips through the washing machine.
Cons: The material can be a bit slippery as toddlers attempt to crawl.
Keeping baby busy, this activity center is loaded with 17 developmental activities and 13 loops that give moms and dads the option to hang toys high or low if they want to encourage their little ones to reach and stretch. A supportive tummy-time pillow boasts a plush surface on one side and a fun print on the other.
Pros: The crinkle leaves, squeaker flower, and baby-safe mirror, which is removable for machine-washing, are all big hits with curious babies. This play gym can be assembled and dissembled in two minutes but keeps kids occupied for a solid 15 to 20 minutes, parents agree.
Cons: Parents wish it had lights or music for the price.
Bring the wonder of a playful ball pit right to your own home with this 5-in-1 play gym. The mat folds so you can create walls, keeping baby contained.
Pros: Little ones can enjoy up to 20 minutes of melodies while playing with an elephant or swimming through the bright bouncy balls, which come with their own bag for easy clean up.
Cons: This play mat is on the small side so baby may outgrow it quicker. It could also use a bit more padding if you’re using it on wood floors or tile.
Beloved for its extensive video collection, the Baby Einstein company has another hit on its hands with this machine-washable play mat, which entertains baby with eight classical melodies that play for 20 minutes.
Pros: Soft with bright colors, this baby blanket is a winner, and babies are dazzled by the light-up star. The detachable toys are even a hit with older siblings as well.
Cons: Parents wish the pad were thicker and noted that the flashing lights of the star where a bit too bright.
If your baby gets bored with her tummy time mat, turn things up a notch with this toy activity bar. It lights up when a baby touches it.
Pros: This activity bar has three modes, letting you choose between animal sounds, musical sounds, and colors. It’s suitable for babies three months and older. You push a button and the toy lights up and tells you the corresponding color or animal.
Cons: Well, it’s not quiet. So there’s that.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.