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Baby Activity Center

Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby's Play Place

How To Choose The Best Activity Center For Your Baby’s Development

At about six months, most babies will have that urge to start moving. Others will even begin to start moving earlier than that.

How do you keep that little one scooting and crawling safely without limiting them? Well, we got something for you that will engage your baby with lots of activities and they will have fun while at it.

 So, what’s that? Baby activity centers.

Baby activity centers are the best choice for any parent who is looking to keep their young one busy for just a few minutes.

Maybe to watch just one more episode of your favorite show, or read a chapter of your current book, or even clear that messy pile of dishes in your kitchen sink.

You know; everything a mom wants to do without baby’s interruption. A baby activity gym can be a great source of entertainment for your child while you are busy.

Check out our recommendations for the 5 best baby activity centers

Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place

Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby's Play Place

This baby play mat is unique in design from the rest of the baby play gyms.  If you are buying for a child who is a little older, this is the best buy.

It comes with a side border that can be made to provide a “barrier wall” around your child. Of course, it will not stop a child that is determined to climb out, but it does establish a boundary for pets or older siblings.

You only have to let them know they are not supposed to go beyond the “barrier wall” when the young one is in the activity center.

And when you don’t really need that “barrier wall”, you can dismantle it to create more space for your child.

Features

Removable mirror/electronic toys- these can be detached and attached to other places such as the car seat bar.

Toys – This activity center for baby comes with several toys. They can easily be attached to different parts on the arches.

Furthermore, a parent/baby can activate music and lights on the play mat.

U-shaped pillow – The play mat comes with a pillow that is great for babies beginning with tummy time.

Leaf-like teethers- They are great if your baby has just started teething

Pros

Comes with toys that are BPA free

Plush toys that resemble real animals

Extra funlinks for attaching additional toys

Walls that work as barriers keeping the baby safe from pets or older kids

Cons

Not very spacious

Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym

Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym

Fisher -price is a well-known baby brand, and for a good reason though. This activity center for babies is great for both girls and boys.

It is uniquely designed to enhance your child’s mental and physical development.

It can be used from day one of your child’s life with a little supervision. It has several modes that can keep your baby entertained when you are held up doing something else.

Features

Lights and sounds – There are several modes of activating the lights and music. The baby can activate them by kicking around.

Eye pleasing arches– The arches on this baby gym are well designed and will not be an eyesore in your living room.

Stimulating toys–  with different types, shapes, and colors, this baby tummy time mat is sure to spark the baby’s imagination. There is also a mirror attached to it.

Cushiony mat– the soft baby mat offers your kid a comfortable place to enjoy tummy time. With the jungle theme design, your toddler will want to hang around it longer.

Sounds and lights– There are three modes that you can use for activating these lights and music. The music volume is also adjustable.

Pros

Unique design with a jungle theme

Easy to assemble

Assists in the motor and muscle development of the child

Cons

The mat is a little thin

Does not fold

Skip Hop Explore-and-More Amazing Arch Activity Gym

Skip Hop Explore-and-More Amazing Arch Activity Gym

Your baby hasn’t had tummy time fun if you have not used this amazing Skip Hop activity gym.

It has a distinct circular design that allows baby to have fun while seated, lying on his back and also while lying on his tummy.

It comes with crinkled leaves and hanging animals which will surely excite the child. It has a soft velvety feel which makes it comfortable for the baby.

Features

Mirror with inbuilt sounds to arouse the toddlers interest

Comfortable pillow – can be used to elevate or prop the child’s neck when they are lying on their back.

Lots of toys – there are several toys on this activity center to make tummy time a lot fun

Versatile design- the design is meant for babies of different age sets

Pros

Easy to fold up when done with use

Easy to clean. Can be wiped or put in a washer any time

It can be used alone or one can attach criss-cross bars

Unique design.

VTech Baby Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym

VTech Baby Lil' Critters Musical Glow Gym

Does your baby get excited by music? Well, the VTech Baby Lil’ Critters Musical Glow Gym is your perfect activity center.

This colorful kid’s play mat features piano keys and can be adjusted according to the child’s play position. The little one can use it while on their back or when seated.

The drum button plays exciting drum sounds.

The play mat has a forest with animal theme, which kids really enjoy.

Its one of the most interactive play mats than most others we have reviewed, it asks kids simple questions that keep then engaged.

Features

Several dangling toys-  It has 4 different dangling toys with varying textures and can play music and sounds

Teether- to relieve your baby’s gums, there is an attached baby teether

BPA free toys that are in accordance with US toy safety standards.

Required 2 AA batteries.

Pros

Keyboard can be adjusted depending on the little ones sitting position

Helps improve a child’s cognitive skills

The twinkling lights, music and sounds help in visual awareness and stimulate motor skills

Easy to clean play mat. Easily detaches from the gym for cleaning

Can be used from birth and up to when your child loses interest in it.

Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym

Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym

This activity gym comes in a variety of colors and patterns that your baby will love.

A parent will love the fact that they can hang interactive toys at the top of the arch which encourages their little one to look up and reach the toys.

Hanging toys help in strengthening different muscles especially the hands when they try to grasp and pull them.

Features

Folds up into a compact and takes minimal space in case you need to carry it in the car.

It has a tummy time bolster that helps support the baby while on the floor before they can learn to prop themselves.

Different ways of using the activity gym. The young one can lie on their tummy or back. They can also sit and play with the toys.

Different toys that are safe for use by baby and can also act as great teethers

Pros

Cleans easily and doesn’t attract dust or pet hair

Compact design for ease of travel

Strong fabric

Cons

Not spacious enough

Never leave the child unattended

While you cannot always sit and watch your baby in their activity floor mat, please never leave them unattended if you can help. An activity center for baby is not a substitute for a nanny. You will need to keep a close eye as your baby is in the play mat. Although there is not a lot of danger associated with them, anything could go wrong when you least expect it.

What can you expect from the most basic activity center?

Baby gym features

Also known as a baby gym, the most basic activity center will come with a wooden or plastic arch, which is what holds the suspended toys.

They will also come with a mat that lets your kiddo lie on it without any discomfort for longer periods.

As the baby lies on their back, they are able to reach out to the attached toys and play with them.

Apart from the attached toys, activity centers come with mirrors and different reflective surfaces.

Why every parent needs to buy a toddler activity center

With a new baby, comes a hoard of new stuff you need to buy. You may be wondering if a play mat is one of those must haves.

Well, I will not say they are indispensable, your child will just do fine without it.

However, if you can spare some extra money and get your child this, you will be glad you actually did.

Here are some benefits of a baby activity gym to your little one

Improves self-awareness

Most activity gyms come with a double-sided mirror. You child spends so much time simply by looking at themselves in the mirror.

This excites them and you will catch a baby smiling or making faces at the front of the mirror.

Have you ever seen how they get excited? Well, keep a close eye on your kiddo when on the baby tummy time mat and you will be awed.

Cognitive improvement

A baby lying on a floor mat is able to grab a hanging toy, activate some music or even kick the arches on the activity center.

There are lots of sounds and lights involved in these interactions. All these activities help to enhance their cognition.

Improving visual sensitivity

Newborns are able to see objects that are in close proximity. Baby play stations are constructed in such a way that they improve visual perception skills.

The colors and hanging toys play a vital role in your child’s development.

Motor skills improvement

When a baby is using a baby activity center, they are often lying on their tummy or back. As they lie on their tummy, they are able to exercise their neck muscles.

As they lie on their backs, they push themselves up so at to be able to scoot and then crawl. This helps to strengthen their leg muscles.

Your baby’s motor milestones will also improve and he is likely to become an early walker.

Can A Newborn Use an Activity Floor Mat?

Mom and infant in activity center

Most baby gyms on the market are advertised for use from birth. However, a baby who is a day old will not be amused by the activity center.

Still, it does not come as a useless buy when the infant is a few days old. You can just let them lie on the activity floor mat as its comfortable and well padded.

Babies from two months and above can begin to use one.

There is no age limit for a baby activity center. Some kids will begin to lose interest in it once they start crawling, others will still be amused by the toys for longer.

Usually, it depends on the attached toys and various activities the child can still relate to.

So, if you are looking to buy one that can be used while the child is a little older, consider the attached toys and activities available.

What To Consider When Looking For The Perfect Kids Play Gym

play gym with lots of toys

Baby activity gyms are not all created equal. Some are superior than others.

When you search on amazon for baby gyms, you will be overwhelmed by the results.

As a parent, what are the factors that you should consider before buying an activity center for your little one?

Let’s dig in…

Ease of Cleaning

Babies can get a little messy. An important thing to put into consideration before you buy a toddler activity center is how easy it is to clean it.

Since baby mats are constructed with padded fabric, ensure you pick one that can be washed.

Check whether the fabric absorbs liquid or can be wiped dry in case the baby pours something on it.

Check out the toys

This is probably the most important part! Toys! All activity centers for babies come with toys attached. Some are electronic, while others are traditional ones.

Depending on the brand, the number of toys can differ from a few to several.  Go for activity centers that come with brightly colored toys with shapes that are easy to recognize.

Do not buy a complicated activity gym with so many complex shapes that will bore the child. The shapes should be able to stimulate the child’s cognition.

There are those tummy time mats that will come with electronic toys. These electric toys are designed in such a way that they are able to stimulate the child’s interest as they learn new things.

Since electronic educational toys come with numerous merits, kids play mats come equipped with sound buttons that toddlers can push with their hands or feet.

Some even have colored lights and music features among other unique features.

However, with baby play stations that come with electronic toys, ensure you check the type of batteries used to power the electronic toys. Some batteries used may be quite hard to find.

In addition, be keen on where the toys are placed. Do not be tempted to buy one which has toys that are easy to reach.

Furthermore, ensure the toys are evenly distributed around the activity center. They should not only hang over the head, but also all around the child.

When the toys are far from the child, they are motivated to reach out for them.

Finally, ensure the toys can be detached for ease of cleaning.

Size

When buying a play mat, ensure that you get just the right size.

Although you may be tempted to buy an extra-large activity floor mat, it may not be that necessary since babies do not move around that much.

The baby activity center should lay flat on the floor

baby activity gym

An ideal play mat for your little one should have a flat mat below it or be free standing.

Do not place an infant lounge pillow, or any infant positioner as this is not good for the baby’s development.

Your baby should be able to move freely when they are using the activity floor mat. Infant positioners will restrict your toddler’s movement thus interfere with the motor inputs he gets.

Avoid Mobile Toys and Those with Lights

Do not buy kids play mat with light up or mobile toys at the center. You do not want the focal point of your baby to be right on top of her face every time.

You want your baby to be able to move their head in different positions.

This is good for her development as well as head shape.

It is easy to change/adjust the toys?

It’s important to change the toys and any other devices on you your baby’s tummy time mat. This is because as the child grows older, they are able to grab and play with the toys.

When you interchange the toys, it makes it more fun and interesting for the child.

It also improves the child’s developments as he gets acquainted with different items in the activity gym.

Final thoughts

Baby Jumpers, bouncers and swings are nice, but they cannot beat the portability and convenience of a baby play station.

A baby activity center is an absolute must have, not only are they great with milestone developments, but also, they are safe places you can put your baby for a couple of minutes when you need to rest.

Get one from the brands we have just reviewed, your baby will thank you!

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