12 of the best baby activity mats

From musical baby gyms that light up to beautiful textured play mats, these are our favourite buys for your baby

activity mats

A comfy playmat or baby gym, with lots of things to see, hear, feel and grasp, is a must-have for small-baby entertainment between naps, feeds and nappy changes. The best ones will have a good range of mat-based features and dangly toys with different sounds, textures, mirrors and patterns to discover. And some activity mats will even ‘grow’ with your baby, coming with a special cushion to support tummy-time play or offering multiple places to attach the dangly toys so you can move them around as your baby learns to roll, sit and crawl.

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Here are our top activity mats, as tested by babies…

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1. Tiny Love Into the Forest Gymini Deluxe, £59.99

GOLD winner, Best Activity Mat, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: From birth

What it is: A machine-washable woodland-animal-themed activity mat with detachable, adjustable arches and dangly toys that include 3 big textured animals, a mirror, an easy-grip teether – and an electronic bird that lights up and plays music. Requires 3 AAA batteries.

Why we love it: It’s a beautiful, soft mat and the detachable animals are super cute and tactile (especially the rattling, jittery fawn). We also like how the arches adjust – so you can adapt the set-up as your baby grows – and the smooth, satin ribbons stitched to mat’s sides.

What our mum and baby testers made of it:

  • ‘I really liked the subdued gender-neutral colours and the mat felt thicker than other activity mats we have tried. The toys all have rings that can be detached for use outside the house or can be hooked onto satin hoops for tummy-time play – a nice touch.’ Clotilde, mum to Noah, 5 months
  • ‘This is definitely worth the price tag. We had already got an activity mat which had a very similar price tag but this one far surpassed that!’ Samantha, mum to Ethan, 5 months

Available from: Amazon and Precious Little One

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2. Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym, £44.99

SILVER winner, Best Activity Mat, 2018 MadeForMums ToyAwards

Age: From birth

What it is:  An updated version of the popular mat, built around a kick-and-play keyboard, that adapts with your babyfrom lay-and-play to tummy time to sitting up at the piano. The keyboard has 5 light-up keys and 4 musical settings, and the mat has a toy arch, a self-discovery mirror, an elephant teether, a crinkle panda, a lion rattle and a monkey cymbal clackers. Batteries included.

Why we love it: With its lights and music, it’s very different to your usual quietly jingly, crinkly playmat but there was no mistaking how much our baby testers loved it. And, with so many adaptable elements, it has great longevity for a playmat.

What our mum and baby testers made of it:

  • ‘Jack absolutely loves it! He makes a beeline for it with no encouragement and then happily plays on his own for as long as 15 minutes – and that’s a huge amount of time for him and testament to how good it is.’ Andy, dad to Jack, 9 months
  • ‘This play mat does seem to offer more features than many others. Seraphina really enjoys the keyboard on all its settings – especially the animal noises.’ Madeleine, mum to Seraphina, 10 months

Available from: Amazon and Argos

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3. Skip Hop Vibrant Village Smart Lights Activity Gym, £110

BRONZE winner, Best Activity Mat, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: From birth

What it is:  A colourful mat with 4 reversible sensory hanging toys, a dog-shaped tummy-time pillow and light-up, musical arches. Requires 3 AA batteries.

Why we love it: The bold graphics are gorgeous, and the light-up arches are enchanting (we particularly like the ‘tracking’ mode where your baby can follow the lights as they light up one by one). The sausage-dog tummy time pillow is a good size and has lovely crinkle ears.

What our mum and baby testers made of it:

  • ‘I only wish that we had discovered this product when my son was younger as we would not have bought anything else. The tummy-time pillow adds great value: we’ve used it daily and it has really helped Huey’s development.’ Fleur, mum to Huey, 6 months
  • ‘This mat is amazing. The colours and patterns/pictures on the mat are tasteful and modern whilst still stimulating for Iris.’ Laura, mum to Iris, 8 months

Available from: John Lewis and Amazon

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4. Jaycee Perfectly Padded Playmat, £85

BRONZE winner, Best Activity Mat, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards

Age: From birth

What it is: A very large, super-padded (5cm-thick) playmat, created to be a safe place for babies to roll over, learn to sit up and crawl, as well as a soft, imaginative play space for toddlers – when you turn it over, there’s a detail-packed toddler play scene on the other side.

Why we love it: It’s beautifully made, machine-washable and really comfy – and the interactive elements on the baby side are big and tactile and squeaky and lovely. There is also a detachable plastic sheet that can be attached for messy play.

What our mum and baby testers made of it:

  • ‘Although this initially seemed a little expensive, we feel it is worth the money. It will last from birth to beyond 3 and is very well made and thought-out.’ Jessica, mum to Oscar 4 months

Available from: Jaycee Baby

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5. Taf Toys Musical Newborn Cosy Gym, £72.99

Age: From birth

What it is: A nicely padded baby mat with a drawstring round the edges that can be pulled to turn the mat into a cosy nest for younger babies. Comes with 4 multi-sensory toys including a baby-safe mirror and a musical toy with lights.

Why we love it: It looks beautiful and it really is a super-cosy buy for a small baby. We really like the drawstring element and how easily you can transfer the toys to the mat’s sides later on, for tummy-time play.

Available from: JoJo Maman Bebe and Amazon

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6. Little Bird Told Me My Little Sunshine Multi-Activity Playgym, £69.95

Age: From birth

What it is: A well-padded (and washable) play mat with lots of smooth, shiny and scrunchy textures that comes with a tummy time/headrest cushion, 2 activity toys with teething rings, a (detachable) musical pull toy, a (detachable) play mirror and easy-to-assemble play arches. Can also to be used as an activity rug when your baby can sit up or crawl.

Why we love it: This is one of the comfiest play mats we’ve seen – really lovely cushion-y padding – and the bright colours and friendly snail design are fun (without being too much for your average sitting room). This mat won Gold in our 2017 Toy Awards.

Available from: A Little Bird Told Me

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7. Skip Hop Camping Cubs Activity Gym, £80

Age: From birth

What it is: A teepee-style gym which comes with 4 hanging toys, including a light-up firefly, a mirror, a rattle and a musical raccoon with teether. There’s also a plush sleeping-bear tummy-time pillow and a peekaboo felt flap on the mat.

Why we love it: It’s gorgeous-looking and its attention to detail won it Silver in our 2017 Toy Awards. It’s nice and comfy to lie on, there’s a really nice mix of different textures and sounds to play with, and the light-up firefly is very cute. Makes for a sweet den once your child outgrows the gym, too.

Available from: Amazon and JoJo Maman Bebe

Kids Concept - Edvin Baby Gym

8. Kids Concept – Edvin Baby Gym, £85.00

Age: From birth

What it is: Round padded floor mat with cushioned sides and plush gym frame, featuring 5 soft animal-themed hanging toys that are detachable.

Why we love it: It’s got that lovely minimal Scandi look – and is trend-settingly gender neutral. It’s definitely more of a luxury buy than some of the other mats featured here but it’s definitely of a high enough quality to last through several babies. Nice and light, and made with gorgeously strokable material.

Available from: Scandiborn, Kidly and Jeu Jouet

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9. Sassy Pop-Up Playmat, £135.00

Age: 4 months+

What it is: A padded playmat with gentle ‘security sides’, 7 colourful hanging toys, and detachable arches. It folds down quickly into a neat storage/carry bag (included).

Why we love it: We liked this mat’s portability (it really does ‘pop’ quickly down into its storage bag and ‘pop’ up again), and the fact that you can take the arches off and turn the mat into a ‘ball pit’ for an older baby. This mat won Silver in our 2016 Toy Awards, with our baby judges’ parents particularly liking the cheeky monkey toys, and the way the high sides ‘contain’ a rolling baby safely on the mat.

Available from: Amazon

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10. Lamaze Freddie the Firefly Gym, £34.99

Age: From birth

What it is: A smaller-sized mat with 3 large dangling toys (including Freddie the Firefly, natch), and a padded, curved cushion for tummy-time-play support.

Why we love it: This is a great-value mat, with really well-sized removable toys. It was a Bronze winner in our 2016 Toy Awards, with our baby judges especially liking the large mirror, Freddie’s crinkly wings, and the tactile ridges on the apple and pear teether. You’d probably need to place this mat on a carpet (it’s not very thickly padded) but it gets extra points for being machine-washable.

Available from: Amazon and Argos

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11. Fisher-Price Rainforest Music and Lights Deluxe Gym, £49.99

Age: From birth

What it is: A textured play mat with rainforest-themed activity gym, offering 3 play settings and 10 toys. There are lights, music and nature sounds that respond to your baby’s movement and a removable take-along toucan which has a 20 minute long-play music setting and colour-changing lights. Two AA batteries required.

Why we love it: The bright design, lights and sounds are designed to really grab your child’s attention and there is LOADS to keep them busy. The multifunctional toucan toy is great for on-the-go entertainment.

Available from: Argos

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12. East Coast Say Hello Little Rain Cloud Musical Play Gym, £39.99

Age: From birth

What it is: A lightweight set with a weather theme in pretty colours – it comes with 4 removable toys and removable arches so your little one can grow into tummy time with it too. It has a number of textures including crinkles, cotton and a velvety finish.

Why we love it: While this one has the classic removable toys and arches, it doesn’t have all the lights and music of, say, the Fisher-Price Rainforest – and some of you might prefer something a bit simpler.

There is a little bit of music though: if your baby presses the hanging cloud it makes a very quiet peaceful soothing sound they will enjoy without being overstimulated.

Available from: Boots

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