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Baby play mat ins and outs: What age you should get one and the benefits for baby

If you have a little one and need a quick break, a baby play mat is a must-have item. It’s a comfortable spot where your baby can play on their tummy and practice rolling over. It’s also a nice place where baby’s classic toys can be within reach of your mini human. 

A helpful benefit of a baby play mat is it encourages your little one to interact with their surroundings. It’s also a way of helping your baby reach development milestones and build the muscles they need to sit up and crawl. If you haven’t grabbed your tiny tot one yet, you’ll want to after we tell you all about these fun baby play mats. 

Baby on a play mat

What is a baby play mat?

The designs and features vary, but most play mats share these characteristics:

  • A comfortable surface with foam, pillows, and soft fabrics
  • Different fabrics and textures to encourage tactile interactions and discovery
  • A bar with dangling toys to encourage baby to roll over, plus reach and grasp objects
  • Some play mats have additional activities, like mirrors, lights, sounds, and built-in musical instruments
  • Typically collapse the bar holding the dangling toys
  • Easily fold the mat to store and transport it
A little baby on their stomach on a play mat.

When should you introduce a baby play mat?

Start using a baby mat as soon as your newborn is comfortable lying on their back. Your newborn might not interact with it yet, but looking at the dangling toys is a fun activity during their alert time. Babies get the most from play mats once you introduce tummy time at 3 months of age. Limit sessions to five minutes at a time, start with three short daily sessions, and work your way up to an hour of tummy time a day. 

Baby will likely begin rolling over at 4 months old. The dangling toys will encourage your baby to reach and eventually sit up by the time they’re 6 months old. Your child will also practice getting up on all fours and rocking back and forth to reach the different toys.

By the time your baby is 9 months old, they could start crawling. Crawling is usually a marker that your little one has outgrown their play mat. They might get bored on the mat and go explore the rest of the room. It doesn’t mean you should completely eliminate the play mat, but don’t force your baby to stay on it. Consider upgrading it with new toys and activities, since it’s still a good way of developing important motor skills. 

Baby tummy time

What are the benefits of a baby play mat?

A play mat for baby is a must-have item for several reasons:

  • Convenience – Play mats are portable, lightweight, and easy to fold. You can set it up at the park or at a friend’s house to keep baby busy and happy.
  • Safe space. –The soft texture and supportive foam help your newborn feel safe. Your baby can practice rolling over and sitting up away from hard surfaces.
  • Freedom of movement – A play mat provides more space than your infant’s crib or bassinet. It allows them to kick, roll around, and scoot with more freedom, encouraging exercise. This freedom of movement gives them independence to make their own choices.
  • Sense of touch – Baby gyms use fabrics, plastic, soft toys, and different textures to encourage babies to touch and explore. Newborns are curious, and their sense of touch is an important way for them to interact with the world.
  • Cognitive development – Play mats provide the stimulation they need through bright colors, textures, lights, and sounds. There is always something that will grab their attention and make your child’s alert time more stimulating.
  • Motor skills – Grasping is a major development milestone that your baby should reach between the ages of 3 and 5 months. The dangling toys encourage your baby to reach and grab them.
  • Hand-eye coordination – It will take a while for your newborn to develop hand-eye coordination. A play mat promotes this coordination because there is always something different to interact with.
  • Muscle development – Tummy time helps with neck, shoulder, and back muscle development. Your baby needs to develop these muscles before they can roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk. A play mat helps by providing a comfortable space where your baby can stay on their tummy and perform a wide range of movements to interact with the toys.

A baby on a play mat trying to get the dangling toys.

A baby play mat promotes learning and fun

A play mat encourages your baby to explore their surroundings. It will keep them busy with toys, textures, sounds, lights, and more. It’s a fun way of bonding with your baby, it promotes motor skills, and encourages muscle development. Given the wide array of play mats on the market these days, you should have no trouble at all picking out one that matches your little one’s personality.

From tummy time to teaching baby some independence, the benefits of having a baby play mat are endless. They also give the parent a minute of freedom to finish that cup of coffee. So, make sure you get a baby play mat for your tiny tot within the first few months for you both to enjoy the perks.

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