If you’re doing your baby registry checklist or you’re already a new parent, you might be wondering when to start using a baby activity mat.
Should you wait until your baby is a few weeks old so they can make full use of it? How necessary is it?
And when do babies stop using it?
This article will answer those and more.
But before we dive in on when you should introduce a baby activity mat, let’s first define what it is.
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What Is A Baby Activity Mat?
A baby activity mat, also called a baby gym/ wooden activity gym/ baby play mat or infant play gym, is a developmental toy for newborns and older babies.
Depending on the brand and design, a typical baby activity mat has the following features:
- A bar with dangling age-appropriate toys (some usually has wooden toys)
- Can be kept easily for storing and/or transport
Some may come with a padded mat or none. Some might have more features such as different textured fabrics for sensory play, mirrors for self-awareness, sounds, musical instruments, etc.
Some are made from synthetic materials like polyester, plastic, etc.
But others are made of wood and are considered non-toxic baby activity mats and are safe for babies.
Take note that baby activity mats are different from play mats.
Baby activity mats or baby play gyms has a lot more features while play mats are just a padded, soft surface for your baby to lie on or crawl on.
Related Article: Should I Let My Baby Crawl on the Hardwood Floor?
When To Start Using a Baby Activity Mat
You can actually start using a baby activity mat from the beginning – when your baby comes home from the hospital!
Benefits of Baby Activity Mat
Here are several advantages of making your newborn baby lay on the play mat, rather than on a rug, carpet, or any similar soft surface.
Provides a Safe Space
In a baby activity mat, especially if it’s a brand new one, at least you know that it’s clean and safe for your baby to lie down on.
Provides Age-Appropriate Toys
Baby activity mats or play gyms have suitable, age-appropriate toys so you don’t need to worry that much when your baby starts playing with them.
Some are even made of non-toxic, organic materials, making them completely safe for your baby to mouth and bite on.
Encourages Tummy Time
Most, if not all baby activity mats have some toys that can encourage or at least distract your little one to do tummy time, especially if your baby hates it!
Prevents Flat Head Syndrome
Giving your baby lots of tummy time on their activity mat can help prevent a flat head.
Provides Sensory Stimulation
Baby activity mats or play gyms have all sorts of toys, including textured cloth, which is perfect for sensory play.
Improves Gross Motor Skills
The dangling toys in the baby activity mat can encourage your baby to swipe and reach for it, which is a gross motor skill that they should learn.
Your baby will also learn how to grasp things, bring them to their mouth, raise their heads, etc., all from playing with the toys in a baby activity mat.
Improves Hand-Eye Coordination
Babies can also improve their hand-eye coordination using dangling toys.
Over time, they’ll be able to gauge how far the toys are, how to hold the toys and bring them closer to them, and how to transfer them from one hand to another.
These activities are all necessary for their development, as they will help them become more sufficient and do tasks such as holding their milk bottle, feeding themselves, etc.
Develops Cognitive Skill
Most baby activity mats or play gyms come with cause-and-effect toys, such as crinkly toys or rattles, for developing your baby’s cognitive skills.
They might not fully grasp yet the concept of cause and effect but over time, they will understand that for every action that they do, there’s always an effect or outcome.
Provides Freedom and Movement
A baby activity gym provides a space for your little one to wiggle, look and move around, to explore their environment.
Which is so much better for their development, as opposed to staying in a crib or crib alternative the whole day.
Encourages Independent Play
A baby activity mat not only entertains your baby but can also encourage them to play and explore on their own!
At What Age Do Babies Stop Using Baby Activity Playmats?
That will depend on the baby and some factors, such as your little one’s personality, age, and size, and your willingness to make the baby activity mat/ play gym more fun for a bored baby.
Some parents mentioned using it until their kid was 2.
Others said their babies were bored with it in just a few months!
While those with 2 kids and more, have used it longer than expected – even their 4-year-old was still using it, according to one parent!
Size-wise though, a baby activity mat is only built for newborns and younger babies. Others can accommodate a 1-year-old.
But you can prolong its use by letting your kids pretend to play with it, turn it into a fort or tent, etc.
So there’s no definite age for stopping the use of an activity play gym, it just depends on your baby.
FAQ on Baby Using An Activity Playmat
When should a baby start using an activity mat?
A baby can already start using an activity mat right from the start – the minute they get home from the hospital!
Can newborns use play mats?
Yes, newborns can use play mats.
Newborns are already encouraged to do some tummy time so the perfect place for them to do that is on a play mat.
Playmats offer a lot of benefits for babies but take note that they are different from activity mats.
Are activity mats good for babies?
Yes, activity mats are good for babies. They offer a lot of benefits such as providing a safe space and age-appropriate toys for improving their developmental skills and encouraging movement and independent play.
When To Start Using a Baby Activity Mat: Takeaway
If you’re considering getting a baby activity mat or play gym, I highly recommend getting a non-toxic one and buying it before you have your baby.
You can save a lot on toys for the first few months or half a year, with just a baby activity mat. So baby play gyms or baby gyms or baby activity mats are really worth it!
Getting one right from the get-go gives you also more bang for your buck!