From the moment they are born, babies are wiggly little creatures, desperate to roam and explore the big wide world around them. Unfortunately, they are also very small and fragile, so allowing them to crawl around freely is a very hazardous move.
That’s where the Baby Gym comes in - a marvelous invention that allows your little one to expend energy, receive consistent stimulation and build up those all important fine motor skills, all in one safe space where you can easily keep an eye on them.
But… how do you know which pint-sized playmat will be perfect for your precious bundle of joy? There are so many! Not to worry - we’ve put together a list of our top five baby gyms, covering a range of budgets, to make the choice a whole lot easier.
If you aren’t yet convinced about their benefits for baby, or you’d like to know more about the features you should be considering in your choice, don’t click away! Simply scroll down to our Buyer’s Guide, where you’ll find all that info and more.
Last but not least, we’ve also collected a list of FAQs, taken from the most common questions asked by other curious parents looking for the best of the best. Fingers crossed your query will also be one of them. Good luck!
Want To Buy The Best For Baby, ASAP? Here’s Our Top Pick:
OUR TOP PICK
Arriving in completely frustration free, easy to open, 100 percent recyclable packaging, adorably designed and coming from a reputable manufacturer, Fisher-Price’s Deluxe gym was our obvious choice for the number one spot.
Five fully repositionable toys, including a self-discovery mirror, elephant teether, lion rattle, crinkly panda and monkey cymbals, work to brilliantly stimulate baby’s senses and provide hours of entertainment, no matter what position they are in.
Growing just as your bundle of joy does, this mat can be utilized in different ways: lay and play, tummy time, sit and play and as a detached, take along piano toy - matching up with their stages of development, it’s practically four toys in one!
Soft all over, machine-washable, and featuring additional loops so that you can attach their favorite toys from elsewhere, there’s also a removable keyboard toy with light-up keys and enjoyable music sounds that are activated by hands AND feet.
Not only will their sensory skills see a development with the variety of colors, textures, sounds and phrases, but their fine and gross motor skills are also tested with plenty of kicking, reaching, grasping and pushing up.
- Gender neutral and great for multiple developmental stages
- 100% machine washable, comfortable and soft design
- Detachable keyboard works as a standalone toy
- Arrives in easy to open, completely recyclable packaging
- Assembly is a little difficult but fine once done
Featuring some absolutely adorable creatures, this nature inspired gym from Skip Hop features 18 developmental activities and 13 additional loops for hanging toys up high, low or in between, depending on baby’s age and range of movement.
Assembling in two minutes, and disassembling just as quickly if you want to take it with you (or just take back some adult space in the evening!), it’s a convenient design that has been tested to meet (even exceed) ASTM, CPSIA and EN71 criteria.
Five adorable hanging animals, including an owl, a robin and a squirrel, are made with patchwork materials in a variety of textures, with multiple fabrics also found on the mat - there are crinkles, squeakers and even a baby-safe mirror in the tree trunk.
Beautiful pastel graphics on the mat are soft and supportive - the mat’s arches are also lined and patterned; you’ll even get a matching tummy time pillow for additional support, completely free with your purchase!
The mat and all fabric accessories are machine washable, as long as you remember to remove the tiny mirror first! It’s oversized and softer than average, so baby has as much sprawling room as they could wish for.
- Adorable animal and nature themed motif - learn creatures AND colors
- 13 added loops for additional separate toys
- Two minute assembly and disassembly
- Free supportive tummy time pillow as part of every purchase
- On the more expensive side for a play gym
Larger than the average gym, this bad boy combines a play mat AND a ball pit to offer the ultimate entertainment center from newborn to active toddler.
Although slightly more expensive than average, the Infantino is a 4-in-1 wonder!
Toys are versatile and can easily be repositioned to different spaces, allowing baby to explore and experience no fun and bigger movement challenges; the large mirror and bolster pillow can both be used to turn toys on and off.
Featuring multiple toys of different shapes, textures and colors to develop fine motor skills, as well as a linkable teether and 40 baby-proof plastic balls for the most play options out of any of the mats we’ve listed. This mat is so worth the higher price tag.
Five of the toys, and the detachable mirror and teether, can be taken with you or linked to a stroller - if baby likes them so much they can’t bear to be off the mat, just make the mat portable and use each item on the go!
Transitioning in seconds from baby activity gym to toddler-friendly ball pit, not only can you use this as a storage space, but it also folds away easily - there’s even an adorable storage sloth bag to keep all of the balls safely stored.
- Play gym and ball pit - take you from newborn to toddler with no extra cost
- Plenty of toys with different sizes, colors and textures
- Detachable features that can be reattached to a stroller
- Versatile - can be adjusted and rearranged for new exciting playtime challenges
- Difficult to take with you on the go - not a portable mat in itself
Okay, you’re looking at the iPhone of baby gyms, so don’t be surprised if you’re shocked at the cost of this one.
The Lovevery play gym transforms from tummy-time play mat to a toddler’s first pillow fort, easily outshining the other choices on our list.
Inspired by the Montessori education program, the five development zones can be revealed or concealed to avoid distraction, prevent overstimulation and encourage focus, sound making, sensory exploration and cognitive development.
Using 100% certified baby-safe materials, including FSC-certified wood, organic cotton, sustainably sourced wooden legs and other totally non-toxic accessories, this gym is assembled in just two minutes (and taken down just as fast) without tools.
Three adjustable clips dangle down, attached securely to the frame, offering visual stimulation at every angle and encouraging your baby’s senses using 14 interchangeable and unique learning cards when lying on their backs.
As well as the gym, you also receive a complete guide to age appropriate activities for promoting brain and motor development, as well as additional detachable toys that match up to the recommended stage based learning.
- Developed in accordance with the Montessori education program
- Grows with your child - from tummy time to a play fort
- Easy two minute assembly/disassembly
- Adjustable clips for 14 unique learning cards cards
- Very pricey - but designed by specialists
Given that they’re the master of children’s toys, it’s no surprise there are two Fisher-Price baby gyms on our list.
The Rainforest Music and Lights Deluxe gym can make a mini musician out of your little one, and it arrives in recyclable packaging!
As a gym on the higher end of the price spectrum, there are more than ten toys and activities included, including a removable, take-along toucan that can play music and create dazzling light shows to stimulate baby’s senses.
Using the short-play function, this play mat can even respond directly to baby’s movements and react with appropriate music and lights, demonstrating cause and effect whilst encouraging exploration.
Not only that, but if you need a few minutes of hands-free adult time for making bottles or just resting your achy arms, a 20 minute long play setting can soothe and entertain your child (with supervision of course) so you have a second to yourself.
Lasting for several important stages of growth and development, what begins as a lay and play mat becomes a tummy time extravaganza and eventually separating the take along toy to continue the fun as a mobile toddler on the go.
- Three ways to play: back, tummy and take along toys
- Deluxe mat with 10+ exciting activities and stimulants
- Up to 20 minutes of continuous music using the long-play setting
- Frustration free, 100% recyclable packaging that opens easily
- Difficult to pack up and put away if you’re looking to reclaim space at night
Best Baby Gym Buying Guide
Using A Baby Gym - The Benefits
Stimulate Baby’s Senses: The best play mats have bold, vivid colors that grab baby’s attention - black and white might sound counter intuitive, but those are the two most contrasting shades, with opposites being one of the first patterns a baby will be capable of noticing.
Any rattles or shakers will bring their auditory sensors to life, and using a variety of different textures is wonderful for them to explore with touch.
Portable - Great On The Go: For those parents in a hurry, many baby gyms can make excellent car companions - foldable and ready to roll out in an emergency, whether that’s for a quick five minutes of playtime or a swift diaper change (we said emergency!) you’ll be glad you had the mat with you in the trunk or under your stroller.
Be aware that others are more difficult to assemble and feature rigid parts that won’t fold down - it’s all about compromise between portability and fancy attachments!
Increase Cognitive Development Over Time: Not only is it good for fine motor skill development and exploring their senses, babies will also be encouraged intellectually, by improving their awareness of various colors, sounds, shapes, patterns and textures, as well as demonstrating ‘cause and effect’ and object permanence - all of these things are highly important for the development of their brain, alongside other language and communication skills and problem solving.
Develop Fine Motor Skills/Hand-Eye Coordination: Your child will begin to pick up on and develop their skills throughout the first twelve months of their life, but with your help, they can boost those brains even quicker and more successfully.
Good mats have dangling toys babies can reach up for and grab at, as well as encouraging tummy time, rolling, grasping, turning and kicking.
Break Up The Day - Give Them Excitement: Although babies don’t easily get bored at first (they’re quite happy drinking milk and snoozing all day, if you’ll let them), it’s important to gradually increase their stimulation and provide different activities for them to enjoy during the day.
Not only will they enjoy playing with the mat’s features, but it’s also an excellent way to get in some floor and bonding time, as well as allowing you a few minutes of free hands to make a drink or answer the phone.
Encourage Movement and Kinetic Play: Once they stop spending most of the day asleep or attached to a boob/bottle, your baby is going to demand more freedom and independence to move - the baby gym allows them a full range of motion, with a soft landing pad to cradle their fragile bodies, and help them increase their confidence in rolling, crawling, even standing when they’re ready to, without staying totally attached to your side.
Features To Look Out For:
Range of Activities
It might sound a bit obvious, but the more things a gym has to offer, the better!
You’ll notice the best and brightest play mats work to stimulate baby’s senses, with colors, noises, different textures, fun things to chew on (safely) and more.
Grabbing, reaching, tugging, rolling and tummy play should all be encouraged, in a safe and roomy space.
Babies are curious beings and they do not understand just how strong they can be - a durable mat, that’s water (and other unpleasant liquids…) resistant, as well as made from a soft yet supportive fabric, with padding in appropriate places, will be more than enough to stand up to their inquisitive nature. Hopefully.
Safety ConcernsYour new play gym absolutely must be made from non-toxic materials; this is pretty much a guarantee when you’re looking at well known brands like Fisher-Price, and any baby toys by law need to be harmless.
It’s still worth being extra careful and checking out the customer reviews/manufacturer’s guide to find out just what your child will be playing with.
Small parts and choking hazards should also be considered - even if they appear properly attached, as we’ve mentioned, babies are way stronger than you’d think. Just ask a breastfeeding mother!
“I wish this toy was not machine washable,” said no parent ever! The easier the play gym is to toss in the washer (and, if you’re lucky, the drier!) the better.
Babies are notorious for their ability to have an accident in the least convenient of places, so save yourself a nightmare in the future and make sure you opt for a simple disassembly and washer friendly machine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should a baby do tummy time for each day?
According to the experts over at What To Expect, you should try and encourage your baby to get to around 15 minutes of tummy time a day - this can be all in one go, or in a few five minute sessions staggered throughout the day.
Gradually increase this time as the weeks go by, allowing them to build up the necessary strength for proper growth and really stretch out their muscles.
At what age should I start using a baby gym?
Being a soft and safe place for baby to rest, a play gym can be suitable for babies as soon as you get home from the hospital, though they might not be able to make use of all the bells and whistles until they’re around six months old.
Constant supervision is of course important, but a newborn should only ever be placed on the gym if you are going to stay right by them the whole time - just in case.
How thick should a baby’s play mat be?
It’s difficult to give a specific thickness that one should adhere to, given that all play gyms are different and made according to different guidelines and standards.
That said, around half an inch of thickness at the very least should be protective enough that the softest parts of baby will be safe and sound, no matter what.