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

Best Activty Mat - Toy Awards 2019

MadeForMums reviews are independent and based on expertise and testing. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission, but this never influences our product choices.

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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.

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

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1. Taf Toys All Around Me Gym, £69.99 – best for multisensory play

Age: From birth
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Activity Mat – Gold

What it is: This padded baby mat (90cm in diameter) has music, lights and 14 developmental activities – music, hanging toys and lights, a mobile that can also attach to your baby’s cot, a mirror, a teether, and a rotating pinwheel. Takes 2 X AAA batteries (not included).

Why we love it: We love how soft and padded it is. The double-sided ‘sensi-centre’ has a high-contrast side for babies under 3 months, and a colourful side for babies over 3 months to help them explore colour. 

This mat, compared with others on our list, has a good longevity, as it can be used as a tummy-time mat, and for older babies, too – which we think justifies the higher price tag.

Rebecca, MFM tester and mum to Elizah, age 6 months, says “The mat is nice quality, super soft and comfy. And it’s large – my 6- month-old had plenty of room, so lots of room for growing babies!”

Aimee, MFM tester and mum to Penelope, age 4 months, says, “It was easy to assemble and I like that there are plenty of loops to hang the toys from so there is some variety to using it. It is also easy to disassemble for cleaning or to put away.”

Available from: Amazon

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2. Tiny Love Into the Forest Gymini Deluxe, £59.99 – best for growing with your baby

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 beautifully soft, 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 the mat’s sides. It won a Gold in our 2018 awards, too.

Clotilde, MFM tester and mum to Noah, 5 months, says, “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.”

It comes in at a tenner less than this year’s gold winner, and our home testers feel it is well worth the price tag.

Available from: Amazon and Precious Little One

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3. Magical Tales Black & White Gymini, £59.99 – best for monochrome

Age: From birth
Awards: MadeForMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Activity Mat – Silver

What it is: This monochrome mat (which measures 45cm x 86cm x 78cm) has adjustable arches that mean it can change as your child grows. It comes with interactive toys such as a musical hedgehog, and a baby book for tummy time.

Why we love it: There are so many toys are on this mat – it has rattles, mirrors, and musical toys. While there are lots of play-gyms on this list, this one stands out because it is black and white. Ashley, MFM tester and mum to Ruby, 7 months, says, “My daughter seemed very comfortable on the play mat. It’s a good size, with plenty of toys to keep her occupied  she has had so much fun. She loves the dangling toys and her favourite is the mirror, she speaks to herself and gives herself kisses.”

Caroline, MFM tester and mum to Charlotte, 2 months, says, “It can be used for tummy time, too, as the toys can be adjusted to work in the tummy-time position. I also think it will still be good when my daughter can sit up.”

Available from: Mamas and Papas, Kiddies Kingdom and Precious Little One

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4. Munchkin and Bear Luxe padded play mat, from £94.95 – best for comfort

Age: From birth
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Activity Mat – Joint Bronze

What it is: A durable play-mat that is suitable for any room, provides insulation from cold floors, is waterproof and wipe-clean. It’s made of non-toxic, shock-absorbing material, with a 1.5cm-thick foam core. It is available in two sizes (Medium: 1.4m x 1m x 1.5cm thick (2.4kg) and large: 2m x 1.4m x 1.5cm thick (4.8kg).

Why we love it: This mat is perfect for those with hard-wood floors – or even those who have carpets they want to protect from baby mess! It’s much less frustrating to use – and prettier – than the classic jigsaw mats that do the same thing.

Not only is it a safe, comfortable place for your baby to play, it looks great and can be used as a yoga mat, too!

Ify, MFM tester and mum to Eliana, 7 months, says, “Eliana is more mobile being on the play-mat, as she is able to practise her crawling every day. Eliana and her elder sister sit on the mat and play together. It is worth the money in the sense that it is very easy to maintain. You literally just have to wipe down with a damp cloth, and because of how it is made it doesn’t absorb dirt or liquid, so you don’t need to bother about how to keep it clean constantly.”

Julie, MFM tester and mum to Geraint, aged 21 months, says, “I’d be very surprised to come across anything better in the form of a play mat! You certainly see the quality in the product from the minute you open the box. It feels almost like a plush carpet.”

Available from: Munchkin and Bear

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5. Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym, £44.99 – best for musical play

Age: From birth

What it is: An updated version of the popular mat, built around a kick-and-play keyboard, that adapts with your baby from 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 monkey cymbal clackers. Batteries included.

Why we love it: With its lights and music, it’s very different from 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.

Andy, MFM tester and dad to Jack, 9 months, says, “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.”

And Madeleine, MFM tester and mum to Seraphina, 10 months, says, “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.”

Available from: Amazon and Argos

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6. Red Kite Peppermint Trail Ball Play Gym, £22 – best for converting for older babies

Age: From birth
Awards: MadeforMums Toy Awards 2019 Best Activity Mat – Joint Bronze

What it is: This baby-gym has soft hanging toys for floor-time play from newborn, and includes a carry-bag and balls. It can also be used for tummy time. And it converts into a ball pool – with sides up – for when your baby can sit up.

Why we love it: This is one of the best-value play mats on our list – and we love that it converts into a ball-pit once your baby gets bigger. We love that the hanging toys are easy to remove and play with on their own, when you’re using it as a ball pool for a sitting baby.

Amanda, MFM tester and mum to Eadie, 4 months, says, “Eadie really enjoys being on the playmat and is fascinated by her reflection! She seems very comfortable on it, too. It’s also made from a wipe-clean fabric. It was very easy to assemble and is also very easy to convert into the ball pit by simply lifting up the sides and securing with Velcro.”

Available from: Precious Little One

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7. Skip Hop Vibrant Village Smart Lights Activity Gym, £90 – best for sensory lights

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.

Fleur, MFM tester and mum to Huey, 6 months, says, “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.”

Available from: John Lewis and Amazon

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8. Taf Toys Musical Newborn Cosy Gym, £69.99 – best for easy storage

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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9. Little Bird Told Me My Little Sunshine Multi-Activity Playgym, £69.95 – best for extra comfort

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 be used as an activity rug when your baby can sit up or crawl.

Why we love it: Like the Munchkin and Bear playmat, 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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10. Skip Hop Camping Cubs Activity Gym, £80 – best for unique design

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

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11. Kids Concept Edvin Baby Gym, £85 – best for classic style

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: The Bebe Hive and Kidly

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12. Lamaze Freddie the Firefly Gym, £34.99 – best for value for money

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. Our baby judges especially like 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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