Types of Playmats for your Baby

kids playmat gym area

Hunting for playmats can be lots of fun. So when your baby starts to get active, support their growing bodies and brains with the right playmat. But finding that perfect option can be tough when you’re exhausted from a long day’s work. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide on how to choose a playmat that’s just right.

All about playmats

Playmats are a great place for your little one to play either alone, with siblings or with mommy and daddy. Some are simply a soft and safe space. While others are designed as an easy way to play with your baby while stimulating their mind. With features like bright, hanging toys to bat and grasp, soft and scrunchy textures for sensory play and high-contrast images to grab your baby’s attention, these playmats are designed to engage little ones’ senses.

This helps support the development of your baby’s body and brain, helping them reach milestones like clutching objects, rolling over and tracking the movement of objects with their eyes. Plus, they offer the option for a little bit of independent play, giving you some quiet time to sit nearby, read a book, watch a movie or enjoy a cup of tea.

When shopping for a baby play mat, think about what features are most important to you. Do you need an entertaining space to keep your baby amused while you tend to other household tasks? Then a baby activity gym with bars overhead and lots of bells and whistles might just be the right way to go. On the other hand, if encouraging tummy time is your thing, then a comfortable mat covered in different textures, flaps and mirrors will encourage your little one to roll around and explore.

Are playmats good for babies?

A playmat will be your little one’s first special place to learn and discover the world. Because they need to be soft but also sturdy, playmats are usually made from foam. They give babies, toddlers, and even older kids a soft and safe place to play. When your baby starts crawling, playmats are especially great to play on, because they provide cushioning for little hands, knees and feet. Meaning they make those oopsies and fall down bumps less easier on your little one.

What age do babies use playmats?

Babies will start to need a playmat from around 3 months. Or as soon as they’re spending any time on their tummies. But don’t be worried that your little one will soon outgrow their playmat. Most play mats can be used in children's playrooms for years. Many also come with grow-with-me features. These mean that they keep on being useful after your baby starts sitting up or even starts walking.

Which play mat is best for my baby?

You want only the best for your growing little one. As baby playmats come in all shapes and sizes, you may wonder which is best.

To make the right choice, first think about your baby’s needs right now. Are they crawling? Sitting up? Starting to walk? Or just enjoying tummy time? Next, think about where the playmat will be in the home. Will it be in a large area or small? On a hardwood floor or carpet or somewhere else? Third, think about how long you want the playmat to last.

By considering these three factors, you can get a good idea of the styles that will suit you and your little one both now and in future.

Here are some of the common styles of baby playmats you’ll find:

Puzzle playmats

Puzzle mats provide the perfect place for babies who are just learning to explore their world, as well as toddlers who are taking their first steps. You can set up a puzzle mat on any flat surface, from a hardwood floor to a carpet. It’ll be a great place for your child to enjoy hours of safe and cushioned play. Look out for options with extra thick foam or textured surfaces.

Water playmats

These fun playmats are usually made of clear plastic and are filled with water and floating toys. Lots of fun for growing bodies and minds, these playmats offer a unique play experience. They also help your little one explore the wonders of water without making a mess.

Tummy time playmats

Suitable for very young babies from about three months old, these playmats are a great way for your child to learn to spend time on their tummy, developing their motor skills and core strength.

Activity gym playmats

When your baby starts getting more active and wants to play with toys, activity gym playmats are great. They feature hanging toys for babies to play with while lying on their backs and are a great way to keep little ones safely entertained. With toys that encourage batting and grabbing, as well as large ring attachments, your baby will be laughing and playing in no time.

Storage and play mats

Functional and fun, Store & Go playmats are a great place for little ones to play. Afterwards, they help keep rooms tidy.

Are foam floor mats safe for babies?

Foam floor mats help create a safe, padded environment for young babies and toddlers to explore. Hardwood floors, tiles and even thin carpets would be a no-no without them.

Yet, some parents have raised concerns about the plastics used in foam playmats. If this is an issue for you, look for non-toxic options or think about alternative materials such as cotton or hemp.

So many playmat options, so little time

With so many options, you should have no trouble finding the playmat that’s right for you and your little one. Most can be used in children's playrooms for years.

If you're looking for an interactive and educational layout, many mats come with the alphabet, animals, or various scenes that create a fun learning environment. On the other hand, you can choose a play mat with a neutral design that looks more like a rug to match your home's decor. The choice is all up to you.