The Best Tummy Time Mats

The Best Tummy Time Mats

Last Updated: Dec 5, 2017 @ 4:37 pm. The Best Tummy Time Mats. Ask your mom or dad, do they remember tummy time? Bet the answer will be “Huh? What’s that?” Yep, tummy time is a relatively new concept in the world of parenting.

In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics and various child health advocates joined together on a campaign to combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The campaign, called the Back to Sleep Campaign, centered around placing all infants to sleep on their backs as well as several other recommendations.

Back to sleep campaign

If you’d like more information on the Back to Sleep Campaign and its history, click on the graphic.

 

The good news: the campaign has been so successful, it has cut SIDS deaths in half (SIDS research continues to look at other factors and one day hopes to cut it down to no deaths). The less good news: sleeping exclusively on the back can lead some babies to suffer “positional plagiocephaly” or, as it is more commonly known, flat head syndrome. Babies with severe positional plagiocephaly need expensive treatment including helmets to correct head shape.

There are some things you can do to avoid or lessen prevent this, among them practicing “tummy time” with your baby. Tummy time is just a cute moniker for the practice of encouraging your baby to spend time on her tummy playing, stretching and strengthening back and neck muscles.

Here are our tips for successful tummy time:

• Start with a few minutes at a time during waking hours every time you do a diaper change.

• For babies under two months of age, aim for one to two minutes of tummy time about eight times a day.

• For older babies (older than two months), gradually increase tummy time . . . you can stop when your baby tells you that’s enough.

What if your baby hates tummy time? Well, exercise is hard work (don’t we adults know that!) and it’s the same for babies. You can get down there on the floor with him so it isn’t so lonely. And, of course, there are products that can help make tummy time more fun.

That’s why we’re here to help you with our recommendations for the Best Tummy Time Mats! We tested 23 play mats and pillows with actual real-life kiddos. The following are our top five picks in no particular order for best tummy time mats. Some of these are exclusively for tummy time, while others have multiple functions.

Best Tummy Time Mat #1: Infantino Pond Pals Twist and Fold Activity Gym and Play Mat

The Infantino Twist and Fold Mat scored high among our testers thanks to a handy little crescent-shaped pillow in one corner to help prop up your baby during tummy time. We liked the bright and cheerful patterns and the mat itself is sized just right (18′ x 24″). Compared to other tummy time mats, the Infantino is also well priced at $39.59. Not the cheapest, but not the most expensive.

The Twist and Fold has four arches and comes with multiple loops to connect toys. In our tests, we loved the detachable toys with their large eyes and different textures. The mirror is a nice addition as well. The whole mat folds down by twisting the plastic handle at the top. It folds up into a long tubular shape (you wrap the mat around it). Here’s a look:

Infantino Pond Pals Twist and Fold Activity Gym and Play Mat folded

Once folded, it’s pretty compact and easy to store.

Our readers note the mat is easy to clean, portable and easy to assemble. Adaptability is another plus: you can use it as a tummy time mat (babies can bat at the toys or look in the mirror) and older babies will use it as a play space with the detachable toys. The biggest complaint: the twist and fold action to fold it up is not as easy as it should be. Our testers noted the arches needed to be pushed down slightly while twisting.

That caveat aside, the Infantino Twist and Fold Mat is an excellent tummy time mat that we’d recommend.

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Best Tummy Time Mat

Infantino Pond Pals Twist and Fold Activity Gym and Play Mat
With a clever support pillow and easy assemble, this affordable play mat comes with four sensory stimulating detachable toys. A good value.

Best Tummy Time Mat #2: Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe Lights and Music Play Mat

Tiny Love has been making Gymini play gyms for at least 20 years and it shows. Among the variety of options Gymini offers in this category, we like the Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe Lights and Music ($52) as a best bet for tummy time mats.

It includes an interactive music and lights controller in the corner baby can swat to start a string of lights, classical music, or nursery rhymes. The arches have a mirror and loops for toys like a crinkly parrot, giraffe rattle, and monkey pull toy.

In our tests, we found the Gymini arches and mat to be easy to fold up and snap together for transport. The mat is machine washable but take care to remove the music box and mirror first.

Our testers were pleased overall with the Gymini. They like the many different textures and sounds on the mat and the attachable toys. Many readers praised the music and nursery rhymes as well—baby can activate the music and lights if she hits the flowers on the mat, for example. On the other hand, some parents noted the music box sounded distorted and it quickly burns through AA batteries.

Because of the music and lights feature, this mat is pretty expensive at $52. Yes, this is also a play mat for older babies for extended use . . . but this option is at the top of the price range for most folks. Despite that, given the features and overall quality, we like recommend the Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe Lights and Music.

Graco Nautilus 80 Elite 3-in-1 Harness Booster, Go Green

Best Tummy Time Mat

Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe Lights & Music Play Mat
With interactive music and light show plus clip-on toys and lots of sensory stimulating accents, the Gymini Super Deluxe Lights & Music Play Mat is a bit pricey but an excellent choice for tummy time,

Best Tummy Time Mat #3: Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym

Fisher-Price’s Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym ($53.70) has a lot of similarities to the Gymini reviewed above. It comes with a music/light show feature that is responsive to baby’s movement.

Fisher-Price has an interesting feature for this tummy time mat: baby can trigger the music/lights for a short period of time . .  or parents can set the music box (cleverly disguised as a toucan) to play for 20 minutes of music or sounds.

Our testers like the four detachable toys, mirror and sensory play mat. By kicking or swatting at the arches, babies can trigger the lights and sounds. Or the toucan can be removed and taken with you anywhere you want to go.

Toucan Fisher-Price gym

The Toucan music and lights player detaches for travel. And if you lose it, you can buy a new one for $24.95.

Testers were enthusiastic in this praise for this tummy time mat. Fisher-Price’s quality is a cut above other brands in this category, from the fabric feel to the sound/lights implementation.

Kids seem to love the Toucan music feature the most, although one parent noted that the location at the top of the crossbars means baby can’t see the lights that well. A handful of online reviewers, however, noted that the toucan was defective on their models and needed to be replace/returned. Check carefully that your toucan works properly as soon as you get the mat.

If music is a must on your tummy time mat shopping list, the Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym is an excellent choice.

Graco Nautilus 80 Elite 3-in-1 Harness Booster, Go Green

Best Tummy Time Mat

Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym
While it doesn’t have a mirror, the Fisher-Price Deluxe Gym does have a detachable purple toucan music box with lights and sounds.

Best Tummy Time Mat #4: Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place

The Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place takes an interesting modular approach to the tummy time mat: it can either lay flat or the sides fold up to make a more enclosed space (see second photo below)–this might be nice for younger babies. Eventually, you can remove the arches that hold the sides up and the mat will expand to a pretty large surface for older babies and toddlers.

As we mentioned above, it’s a nice perk to have a head support pillow on your tummy time mat. Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place from Kids II takes that feature to the next level: the pillow has toy loops with three attached toys (for a total of eight toys and a mirror).

Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place

Once unfolded, the Play Place makes into a fairly large play mat for older kids.

Our testers liked the lights and music are a feature of this tummy time mat, which is similar to the Fisher-Price and the Tiny Love picks above. But the sound quality disappointed. However, folks liked the ability to fold up the sides and babies seemed to enjoy the view.

At $72, Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place is at the top of the price range for tummy time mats. But there is a bargain to be had here: Amazon sells a version of this mat (Sweet Song Birds) for $45.99 for prime members.

Overall, testers like this mat’s flexibility (although a few though the Fisher-Price mat reviewed above had nicer fabric). The music and lights come from the plastic animal attached at the top of the arch (it can be detached and taken with you) and can be activated by baby or parents, similar to the Fisher-Price mat reviewed above.

Bottom line: the Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place is a good choice for tummy time mat—and if you are a prime member, a good deal at $46.

Graco Nautilus 80 Elite 3-in-1 Harness Booster, Go Green

Best Tummy Time Mat

Bright Starts Sunny Safari Baby’s Play Place
This tummy time play mat morphs from an enclosed space for young infants to a wider, flat mat for babies who are sitting up. It comes with lights and sounds—but it is pricey!

Best Tummy Time Mat #5: Tiny Love Tummy Time Under The Sea Playmat

The Tiny Love Under the Seat Tummy Time playmat is for the minimalist parent who just wants to concentrate on tummy time with baby without sound and light gizmos. At only $24, this entry is one of the more affordable tummy time mats we tested, yet scored high in our tests.

First, we like the large booster pillow attached to the mat. Our tester parents said it seemed more comfortable for baby than the smaller pillows on other competitor mats. The googly eyes of the crab were cute and really drew baby’s attention.

The Tiny Love Under the Seat Tummy Time playmat comes with a stand alone mirror and a teether toy which connects to the pillow. The pillow doesn’t velcro to the mat, so you can place it anywhere you want.

Crab pillow Tiny Love Tummy Time playmat

The moveable pillow is the best part of this mat!

There is no light and music option here, just the basics. And a few dissenting testers complained that the padding was non-existent. They recommend the mat be used on carpeting or extra padding, not on a hardwood or tile floor—and we see that point.

Overall, we will recommend the Tiny Love Under the Seat Tummy Time playmat.  Our testers liked the bright colors and singled out the pillow for special praise —the crab design and eyeballs are quite clever. If your budget for a mat is under $30 and only want a basic tummy time mat, this is a great choice.

 

Graco Nautilus 80 Elite 3-in-1 Harness Booster, Go Green

Best Tummy Time Mat

Tiny Love Tummy Time Under the Sea Playmat
A basic tummy time mat for a very affordable $24, the Tiny Love Tummy Time Playmat is a great buy for parents who don’t want electronic bells and whistles.

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