My feed

Our writers test and research products independently. When you buy through a link on our site we may earn a commission but this never affects our product choices.

10 best baby play mats and activity gyms

Whether it is a baby play gym, activity centre or luxury floor covering, a play mat is a multi-use baby toy that's perfect for your child's development and offers hours of fun. Here's our guide to the best play mats and activity gyms for babies in 2023.

By Natasha Gregson | Last updated Nov 30, 2023

Picture of a baby playing in a baby gym

Every baby is like a sponge; they soak up the world around them and show incredible curiosity for everything (even the things they shouldn't!). The best baby play mat or baby gym is a mainstay of every family's toy collection for a reason. They're engaging, versatile and stimulating, perfect for helping your baby strengthen their muscles, focus their eyes and safely enjoy their tummy time. There really is a lot to love about them especially because, much like the best playpen, they can also buy you a quick five minutes to pop to the loo.

The problem is play mats and activity gyms come in all kinds of styles with wildly varying price tags and features. You might think of them as plastic arches with dangly bits babies can grab, shake, squeeze and pull. Now they play music, come with flashy lights and do all kinds of magical and wonderful things. Some even come with ball pits! So, how do you pick one that’s right for you and your baby?

From the finding the best baby thermometer to the most engaging bath toys to keep them occupied in the tub, picking the right products for your baby can be tricky, and that includes selecting the right play mat. That's where we come in; every option on this list comes recommended by the real experts – parents! We searched the Mumsnet Talk forums for those tried, tested and loved by mums, dads and their babies to find you the best play mats for babies and activity gyms for every budget, need and floor space.

Plus, when your baby is a little older and more active, we've also compiled a guide to the best baby walker to help them toddle along further than their play mat.

Here's our guide to the best baby play mats and activity gyms available in 2023.

Best baby play mats and gyms: Editor's Picks

Tiny Love Gymini Kick and Play Activity Gym
Best overall

Tiny Love
Gymini Kick and Play Baby Play Mat

Buy now
Bright Starts ball pit
Best multi-use

Bright Starts
5-in-1 Ball Activity Play Gym

Buy now
Munchkin and Bear play mat
Best large play mat

Munchkin and Bear
MOD Play Mat

Buy now

1. Best overall play mat and activity gym: Tiny Love Gymini Kick and Play Baby Play Mat

Tiny Love Gymini Kick and Play Activity Gym

Price on writing: £67.49 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: H106cm x W45cm x D115cm | Material:  Plastic | Batteries required: No | Suitable for: 0 - 12 months | Skills: Best for motor skills and cognition

What we love

  • Highly recommended by Mumsnet users and consumer reviewers

  • Grows with your child

  • XL detachable play mat (big enough for twins!)

  • Generous padding

  • Easy to clean

What to know

  • Some found it difficult to dismantle

  • Comparatively pricey

What Mumsnet users say

"Bought a Tiny Love play mat with my first son. Was invaluable until he started sitting as he LOVED batting at the huge array of stuff we attached to it (he still loves watching things spin)." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user yomellamoHelly)

"We got this Tiny Love one for my daughter when she was about a week old. To start with, it was just somewhere to put her, but from about two weeks she'd quite happily stare at herself in the mirror for five or 10 minutes - just long enough for me to grab lunch . She's now seven months and is still getting use out of it." (Vetted by Mumsnet user Tangle)

Our verdict

Mumsnet users and previous customers highly recommend Tiny Love and its Gymini Kick and Play. Easy to clean, portable and well made, its extra-large detachable play mat is big enough for twins and has adjustable arches that make it suitable from birth to 12 months. So, although it's comparatively pricier than other options, it’ll grow with your child and last long enough for their siblings too. It's a popular choice for active babies that like to grapple with the best baby toys, chew teethers and are alert to what’s around them. Some Mumsnetters say that their babies loved this product right up until they could sit up unassisted, making it excellent value. From that point, you can detach the arch and use it as a padded mat for comfortable play.

This activity gym is interactive too and includes baby-activated kick-and-play music and lights that start up at the touch of a little foot or hand – this is a developmental milestone as babies need to build an understanding that their physical actions can control and shape their environment. Once they’ve got the hang of it, they’ll never stop.

The option to have a closed or open border on the mat and a wind chime are other primary attractions here too. However, the mat has a slightly bigger footprint than competitors’ products, even when packed away, so that’s something to bear in mind if storage and space are at a premium.

Read next: The best baby changing mats to buy, as recommended by parents

2. Best budget play mat: Red Kite Baby Peppermint Trail Play Gym

Red Kite play gym

Price on writing: £23 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: ‎82 x 82 x 51 cm | Material: Plastic | Batteries required: None | Suitable for: Can be used from birth | Skills: Best for hand/eye coordination and gross motor skills

What we love

  • Can be used as either a play mat or a ball pit

  • Great value

  • Mat is padded for comfort

  • Great for tummy time

  • Comes with five toys to attach to the arches

What to know

  • You only get six balls included for the ball pit

  • Some found it too small when the sides are up

  • A few users reported the sides are a bit floppy when up too

Our verdict

At less than £25, this two-in-one activity gym would make a fantastic addition to your nursery or living room without costing a small fortune. The Red Kite Baby Peppermint Trail Play Gym comes with five colourful toys with sensory features that clip to the overhead arches to engage your baby and encourage them to develop their motor skills by reaching for them. Plus, there's also a mirror – one of the most basic but best sensory toys for babies – so they can entertain themselves with their own reflection.

We love that this can be used as a play mat when laid flat, and then the edges can be folded up to create a ball pit for your little one. However, some reviewers did note that when the sides are up it becomes a little small, so this feature is better suited to younger babies. On the whole though, this mat offers great value, and while it may not have all the bells and whistles of music and lights like other options, you can't go wrong with this if you're wanting to avoid paying £40+ for a play mat.

3. Best multi-use play mat and activity gym: Bright Starts 5-in-1 Ball Activity Play Gym

Bright Starts ball pit

Price on writing: £48.99 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Size: H113cm x W52cm x D76cm | Material: Plastic | Batteries required: Yes (3x AAA) | Suitable for: 0 months+ | Skills: Best for gross motor skills

What we love

  • Grows with your child

  • Great features (ball pit)

  • Comes with storage

  • Detachable toys

  • Machine-washable and wipe-clean

What to know

  • Pricey – the Red Kite Play Gym is a good budget alternative, though it does have fewer features

  • One reviewer found the foam shrunk after washing

What Mumsnet users say

"I had the Bright Starts 5-in-1 Play Gym that converts to a little ball pit and has a musical elephant thing that sits on top – thought it was really good. Not the cheapest but just had a look and the Red Kite Ball Play Gym looks similar and is only around £25. Worth it if you plan on using for more babies down the line I'd say." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Kimblebee19)

Our verdict

If your baby is the one that doesn’t sleep when you’re trying to catch a coffee with your mums’ group, we think the 5-in-1 Ball Play Activity Gym from Bright Starts is perfect for you. It has five ways to play and can be converted into a ball pit for hours of endless fun and an extended lifespan well into your baby’s toddler years. Compared to our budget pick, the Red Kite, which only includes six balls, you get an impressive 40 colourful balls with this model. We certainly think this activity gym is worth every penny!

The 48-inch jumbo mat and play gym has adjustable walls that keep boisterous babies safe during play time and tummy time (do see our guide to the best tummy time toys approved by parents if your little one needs some encouragement with this). It also features an easy carry storage case for portability and comes with seven take-along toys that include an elephant music player, crinkle toy, mirror, flashcards, hanging leaf toy and bead rattle. The elephant even plays 20+ minutes of merry melodies.

The only fault we could find is that although the mat claims to be machine washable, a previous customer reported that the foam inside the mat shrank after washing, which is less than ideal, but most reviewers didn't report an issue.

4. Best large play matt: Munchkin & Bear Large Melbourne MOD Play Mat

Munchkin and Bear play mat

Price on writing: £138 | Buy now from Munchkin and Bear

Key specs

Size: L2m x W1.4m x 1.5m (thick) | Material: Non-toxic PU and foam core | Batteries required: No | Suitable for: All ages | Skills: All skills

What we love

  • Award-winning play mat

  • Doubles as an exercise mat

  • Wipe clean

  • Attractive, reversible design

  • Non-toxic

What to know

  • Comparatively more expensive then other options

  • No toys or play features included

What Mumsnet users say

"We have a foam mat from Munchkin & Bear and would highly recommend it! We’ve spent so much time on the floor with our baby since the mat arrived – we’re much comfier! He’s just started to roll on it, but it will be amazing when he can sit etc." (Suggested by Mumsnet user Derbee)

Our verdict

Munchkin & Bear’s Large Melbourne MOD Play Mat is a simple but effective concept. It is a practical, one-piece, easy-to-clean, large-scale carpet that protects your baby and your flooring. Although it is expensive, industry experts highly rate it. In 2022 alone, it won the Gold award from Made For Mums, Baby Project and Mother&Baby. We love that it's an indestructible solution for anyone who doesn’t like all-singing, all-dancing baby activity gyms or has limited storage space.

While you can admittedly pick up a cheaper play mat, this non-toxic, Australian ‘mat masquerading as a rug’ has years of life built in. With its classic scalloped design of greys, blues and muted tones, this is a solution that is unequivocally designed to last. As a play mat, the Melbourne will take the chill off cold, hard floors and save your carpets from the thrills and spills of drinks, sick and dribbles. It is a great option for a young family that doesn't want to compromise on style, plus you can add your own toys to it too to keep your baby entertained – our guide to the best toys for newborns has got plenty of ideal options for use on this mat.

5. Best play mat and activity gym for tummy time: Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Musical Rainforest Infant Activity Gym

Fisher-price Rainforest Activity Gym.

Price on writing: £46.93 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: H41cm x W50cm x D81cm | Material: Plastic | Batteries required: Yes (2x AA) | Suitable for: 0 - 12 months| Skills: Best for motor and communication skills

What we love

  • Highly recommended brand and activity gym by Mumsnet users

  • Machine washable

  • Take-along musical lion

  • Portable and easy to store

  • Easy to assemble

What to know

  • Some previous customers didn't think it offered as good value as other options

What Mumsnet users say

"This baby gym has been invaluable for us. Babies love it. I’ve since noticed that a lot of friends/family have the same one." (Vetted by Mumsnet user sabrinathethirtysomethingwitch)

"We had the Fisher-Price one, very bright but baby loved it and it was still in use until just before nine months when crawling round the floor was more appealing." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user Laaalaaaa)

Our verdict

Fisher-Price products usually come highly rated by Mumsnet users and its Musical Rainforest Infant Activity Gym is no exception. Highly recommended by many parents, it's colourful and appealing to babies, and is comparatively cheaper than other brands.

It boasts lots of exciting features that actively stimulate babies to practice pushing up, building their core strength and hand-eye coordination. The activity gym is easy to fold in half when not in use, and the mat can be machine washed, easily removed and stored away, which is great news if your cats or dogs happen to colonise it, or there are the inevitable baby dribbles or sick on the mat.

If you’d like to add to it, Fisher-Price also offers low-cost, additional toys which you can clip onto the arches, which is a huge plus because it expands the lifespan of the gym. Although some reviewers noted that the price point was a little high for the limited size and features, this can be a great option for on-the-go or smaller homes or flats.

Looking for more Fisher-Price products Mumsnet users love? The brand won our coveted best baby bouncer award – check out the page for our full review.

6. Best portable activity gym and play mat: Baby Einstein Neptune Discover Reef Play Activity Gym


Price on writing: £28.71 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Size: H68.58 x W2.03 x D55.88cm | Material:  Not specified | Batteries required: Yes (2x AAA) | Suitable for: 0 months+ | Skills: Best for communication and language skills

What we love

  • Affordable

  • Detachable toy bar and play mat

  • Grow with your child

  • Portable (fits infant carriers)

  • 65+ songs and teaches English, Spanish and French

What to know

  • Mat not very padded

  • Songs are short and don't play continuously

What Mumsnet users say

"My son loved his Baby Einstein one. Spent up to 10 mins under there which was great for me. He loved the music box in the middle of the stanchions." (Brand recommended by Mumsnet user AlbusPercivalWulfricBrianSun)

Our verdict

Baby Einstein’s Neptune Discover Reef Play Activity Gym doesn’t compete against the larger, more expensive models for features, but it does beat them on portability. Small, compact and travel ready, you can remove the bar and fit it into your infant carrier for baby-centred entertainment on the go. Not going anywhere? The mat can be removed and used for tummy time, and the toys can be unclipped and stored in the nappy bag for when you really need it. Oh, and it is much, much cheaper than some alternatives too!

With its 3-in-1 design, your baby can grasp, bat and tug the toys, whilst its light-up toy bar teaches your child songs and words in English, Spanish and French. Your baby will be a multilingual genius in no time. The only downside is that some previous customers noted the mat was a little thin for hardwood floors and that they found it irritating that the songs are short and don’t play on a loop. Otherwise, this is a great option for anyone looking for a budget-friendly baby activity gym that can travel.

7. Best baby-to-toddler play mat: Infantino Grow-With-Me Playtime Teepee Gym

Infantino Grow With Me Teepee

Price on writing: £57.59 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size:  L86.4cm x W86.4cm x H112cm | Material: Polyester | Batteries required:  N/A | Suitable for: 0 months+ | Skills: Best for motor and language skills

What we love

  • Multifunctional

  • Grows with your baby

  • Mobile and musical feature included

  • Contemporary appearance

What to know

  • Some reviewers felt the design was flimsy

Our verdict

Infantino have really tried to tackle the issue of the short lifespan of a lot of baby mats and activity centres by creating this multifunctional gym that transforms from an infant’s mat into a young child’s play teepee. And it’s a very good effort indeed – it should see your child through from the newborn stages, to when they're coming up to one and making the most of the best toys for nine-month-olds and beyond, right through to their toddler years.

In its basic configuration, there’s a fairly standard offer: four bold hanging toys, including a squeezy musical elephant and a large mirrored mobile. But the versatility of the Grow with Me Playtime Teepee Gym is built into the architecture of the structure itself. At the first signs of your baby becoming mobile, you can close one side of the gym to create a crawl tunnel. The pleasant play teepee reveals itself with the unfolding of the gym's sides too. Batteries come included, which is an unexpected touch.

8. Best play mat for newborns: Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick 'n' Play Piano Gym

Fisher Price Deluxe Space Saver Kick and Play Piano.

Price on writing: £69.12 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size:  L66.86cm x W91.5cm x H45.7cm | Material: Not specified | Batteries required: Yes (3x AA) | Suitable for: 0 months+| Skills: Best for communication, language and numeracy skills

What we love

  • Four ways to play with great features

  • Adjustable

  • Super soft and thick

  • Machine washable

What to know

  • Small surface area with arch and piano

What Mumsnet users say

"My son loved the Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano Gym. He loved to kick the keys and hear the music and he’d do tummy time on it and watch the lights. He still sits and plays with it now at eight months! Or will stand and play with the piano if I take it off and put it on the sofa or footstool." (Reviewed by Mumsnet user waitingforwinter)

"I think the Fisher-Price Kick and Learn Baby Gym is perfect. It does grow with baby, and baby will love it (get her parents ear plugs, the 'plink plink' will drive them nuts)." (Rated by Mumsnet user fuzzywuzzy)

Our verdict

The Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick 'n' Play Piano Gym is a bonafide Amazon hit with over 4,000 reviews, and an 87% five-star rating. It is designed by a Mumsnet user trusted brand, and it comes with four ways to play: lay and play, tummy time, sit and play and take along. It is a little more expensive than other options, but many say it is well worth the price.

As a gym combining a piano and five hanging toys, it promises a genuine workout for your baby, accompanied by a musical accompaniment that is self-generated by their kicking feet against the keyboard’s keys – perfect for budding musicians. There is one consistent moan here, and it's that the surface area of the activity centre is quite small once the piano and overhead arches have been added in. But the consensus is that, while this is a gym that really captures the imagination of newborns, there’s enough interest here to keep the baby coming back for more for at least six months.

Want more baby essentials? We've carefully researched parenting must-haves from the best baby shampoo to the best baby toothbrush so you can shop confidentially for your little one.

9. Best for style: Skip Hop Celestial Dreams Activity Gym

Skip Hop Celestial Dreams Activity Mat And Gym

Price on writing: £90 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Size: H48.3 x W96.5 x D96.5cm | Material: Polyester, PP, mirrored PETG board, PU foam, fibre glass rod, EVA | Batteries required: Non-replaceable coin batteries (included) | Suitable for: 0 months+ | Skills: Best for motor skills

What we love

  • High contrast colours to aid visual stimulation

  • Stylish design

  • 17+ developmental activities – lots of opportunities for sensory play

  • Super soft and comfortable

What to know

  • Expensive

What Mumsnet users say

"I really like Skip Hop Baby Gyms." (Suggested by Mumsnet user kingat)

"Skip Hop is a nice brand if you want something that has a bit of an adult aesthetic to it." (Brand recommended by Mumsnet user EssentialHummus)

Our verdict

While this activity gym isn't the most budget-friendly choice on our list, if you do have the pennies to spare, this stylish design is well worth the expense according to reviewers. Users praise the soft, cosy material and high-quality composition – in fact, at the time of writing every single reviewer on the John Lewis website had awarded this product a five-star rating. High praise, indeed.

We love the five toys hanging from the arches: a metallic musical star with tactile ribbons, a sugar glider lovey, a rattle raccoon with star teether toy, a wolf with chime, and a snow owl with crinkle. Not only are they super cute and in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the gym, but they also allow for plenty of sensory play too. There's also a mirror to engage little ones on the mat too. The only downside is the high price tag – this is more of luxury buy which a lot of parents won't be able to stretch too, particularly during the cost of living crisis.

10. Best cushioned mat: IKEA KLAPPA Play Mat

Ikea Klappa Soft Play mat

Price on writing: £54 | Buy now from IKEA

Key specs

Size: L114cm x W114cm | Material: Cotton | Batteries required: None | Suitable for: 0 months+ | Skills: Best for motor skills

What we love

  • Soft, quilted cotton for comfort

  • Gorgeous design

  • Covert, stimulating attachments

  • Very little plastic used compared to other mats

What to know

  • Less features in comparison to others

  • Pricey

What Mumsnet users say

"I've gone for this one from IKEA for our baby girl." (Bought by Mumsnet user sel2223)

Our verdict

IKEA's KLAPPA Play Mat for children is soft, interactive and under-the-sea themed. The Swedish homeware brand has truly outdone itself with this padded play mat that looks good enough to sleep on – no wonder parents love it and it holds a five-star rating from reviewers.

There is no sign of plastic or tinkly theme songs that get stuck in your head, as the stimulating, interactive play is covertly disguised around the edges of the play mat. It has a shiny, play-safe mirror, crinkly sounds, moveable crabs arms and shiny whales to catch your child's attention. You'll need to be quick, though; it is an IKEA bestseller and therefore sells out fast!

Read next: We've rounded up the best baby nasal aspirators, as recommended by parents.

At what age can my baby use a play mat or activity gym?

Your baby can use an activity gym or play mat from day one, but it is best to wait until they’re at least two to three months old before you expect them to engage.

How long should a baby use a play mat or activity gym for?

Quite a few baby play mats and activity gyms are obsolete by the time your baby is six months old. However, some play mats and activity gyms have great longevity and can go up to two years of age. The Bright Starts 5-in-1 Activity Play Gym, or Large Melbourne MOD Play Mat are built to last up to and beyond your baby's toddler years.

Are baby play gyms or mats necessary?

No, they aren’t necessary, but they have many benefits developmentally and are a great place to pop your baby when you need to free up your hands for a few minutes. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, a thick blanket or yoga mat with household objects like bangles, a wooden spoon and some stacking cups can do the trick, too!

Which baby play mat or activity gym is best?

We think that the Tiny Love Gymini Kick and Play Baby Play Mat is the best activity play mat, and it seems that previous customers and Mumsnetters agree! Tiny Love is a brand that knows its stuff, and this activity gym has been designed to grow with your child; with its XL play mat and adjustable arches, you’ll get many years of use out of it before it inevitably joins the charity pile. There are plenty of features that will keep your child entertained for hours whilst developing their developmental skills simultaneously.

Read next: Keep your little one's nails groomed to avoid scratches when they play with the best baby nail clippers.

Why are play mats and activity gyms good for babies?

All baby mats, gyms and activity centres serve the same purpose. They offer an opportunity for your baby to explore the world around them in a safe, soft and stimulating environment. They also provide visual and sensory stimulation and are ideal for tummy time. Here are the skills your baby can develop, depending on the play mat or gym you opt for:

  • Communication

  • Language

  • Numeracy

  • Cognitive

  • Gross and fine motor skills

How do you choose a baby play mat or activity gym?

When buying a play mat or activity gym, it is important to consider the following:

  • Budget: It is important to know how much you can or are willing to spend.  Ensure you balance this consideration against its quality and features, as the last thing you want is an activity gym or play mat that breaks within months of owning it.

  • Longevity: Read reviews to check if it is built to last and if it has adjustable features that can grow with your baby.

  • Features: More doesn’t always mean better. Look for activity gyms with a good balance of interactive features, with space to add to or change it up.

  • Your needs: If you travel frequently, a portable activity gym or play mat is better than a large clunkier option. Ditto, if you have a small or limited space.

  • Aesthetic: You have to like the look of it as much as your child, as you could be staring at it in your living room for quite a few years, especially if you are planning on having more, so ensure that it appeals to you as much as your baby.

What makes a good baby play mat?

Here are some key features to look out for when shopping around:

  • Machine washable

  • Offers multiple stimulating features

  • Helps babies to develop a range of skills

  • Has great storage options (like a bag) or is easy to fold away

  • Has longevity or adjustable features

How we chose our recommendations

We use a triple-check verification process to create our guides because it ensures that our write-ups are balanced and trustworthy and that the products we recommend are high quality.

Mumsnetter recommendations

All of our Swears By articles start with research via the Mumsnet forums. We know nothing beats a real recommendation from a parent, so we thoroughly scoured the forum threads in search of the activity gyms and mats parents and their babies love.

Expert opinions

We then took our long list and cross-referenced it against parenting experts' opinions, noting the products that are award winning, frequently recommended and featured on multiple best buy guides.

Verified customer reviews

Finally, we looked at each shortlisted product's customer reviews and selected highly-rated ones that boasted a large percentage of five-star reviews and positive write-ups. We also took into account the merits and disadvantages users found with each to bring you an honest, in-depth guide.

Celebrated play mats and activity gyms

Our process left us with this guide to the best play mats and activity gyms for babies, recommended by parents, trusted by experts, rated by previous customers and loved by babies.

About the author

Natasha Gregson is an Affiliate Content Editor at Mumsnet, with a focus on product reviews and round-ups.

After a three-year stint on Gransnet's editorial team, Natasha joined Mumsnet in 2021, and has since carved out a specialism in all things home, lifestyle and baby.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.