by | Jul 15, 2020 | Play Gear, Z

Last Updated: Oct 21, 2021 @ 10:37 am.

We tested 20+ tummy time mats, including those increasingly popular water play mats, to find the best tummy time mat. Which ones did babies like the best? We judged the mats on overall quality, affordability and, of course, the fun factor. Here are the winners.

FYI: We are Baby Bargains, the #1 online resource for honest and independent baby gear reviews. Good news: we don't take money or free samples from the brands we review. Baby Bargains is 100-% reader support. We thank you for reading this article!


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Best Fabric Tummy Mat

Easily folds up, great for travel
Our testers just loved this one! We liked the included rattle, prop pillow and soft surface. Machine washable. Critics say it is on the small side and thin, so it may need a blanket underneath.
$26.47

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Best Tummy Time Mat, Fabric: Bright Starts Prop Mat, Flutter Friends

Yep, we’ve tested 20+ tummy time mats in recent years—and this one came out on top in our most recent testing. We loved Bright Starts affordable mats for their overall fun and portability . . . it easily folds up for travel. Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Machine washable and lightweight. Easy to fold up and take on a trip to grandma’s house.

• Instagram-ready! Super cute pattern.

• Includes flower rattle.

What Needs Work

• May need a blanket underneath. This mat is rather thin and isn’t quilted. If you use it on a hardwood floor or tile, you might throw a blanket under it for additional padding.

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Best Water Tummy Mat

Affordable and babies love it
Fun! This water-filled mat kept our testers mesmerized, with 6 floating toys inside. Loved the colors. Critics note: must change water frequently to avoid mold or add tablespoon vinegar.
$12.99

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Best Tummy Time Mat, Water: Splashin’kids Inflatable Tummy Time Premium Water mat

Water mats are all the rage today for tummy time and after testing several, we realize why: they are mesmerizing for babies! After trying out a few water mats, we thought Splashin’kids version was the best bet. Here’s why:

What We Liked

 Fun! This mat comes with six floating toys and features an inner water compartment (just fill from the kitchen faucet) and an outer ring that is inflated with air. For some reason, this thing just enthralls babies! Perhaps it is the bright colors or just the novelty/squishiness of water, but this mat is excellent at keeping baby occupied while doing tummy time.

• Affordable.

What Needs Work

• Mold can grow if you don’t change the water frequently. Or consider this tip: add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water to prevent mold growth. Of course, this is an issue with all water mats—they require more care than fabric ones!

• Strong plastic smell when it came out of bag. This dissipated quickly, but you might want to air it out for a bit before baby plays with it.

• Frustration. Some babies get frustrated that they can’t grab the toys, which are inside the mat, of course. This was a minor issue, however. Most babies just loved it.

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Best Tummy Mat Pillow

Music + lights + toys = fun!
Instead of a mat, consider this pillow. We liked its music player with 3 keys, which kept our baby tester engaged. Later it can be used to prop up babies who can sit.
$24.99

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Best Tummy Mat Pillow: VTech Tummy Time Discovery Pillow

Some folks prefer a simple pillow for tummy time instead of a bigger mat—and we realize the larger mats can be a problem space-wise. So we tested a few pillows designed to entertain babies on their tummies. The winner: VTech’s Discovery Pillow. It was both fun and affordable. Here’s a breakdown:

What We Liked

• Fun! Our testers loved the music player with three keys, as well as the toys attached with loops.

• Super cute in pictures. The bright yellow giraffe was a winner.

What’s Needs Work

• Could be more durable. We see reports from other parents that this toy doesn’t have much long-term durability—paint comes off the buttons after just a small amount of use.

• Only surface clean. This pillow isn’t machine washable. But then again, most tummy time pillows aren’t washable.

Tummy Time Mats: Advice and Tips

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

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 baby, so it isn’t so lonely. And, of course, there are products that can help make tummy time more fun—which is why we wrote this article!

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby gear, including tummy time mats, since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward safety, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews.

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