The Best Tummy Time Mats 2021
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 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
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–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 (photo credit: Infantino):
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.
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 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. 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 recommend the Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe Lights and Music.
Best Tummy Time Mat #3
Fisher-Price’s Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym 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.
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.
Best Tummy Time Mat #4
The Tiny Love Under the Sea Tummy Time playmat is for the minimalist parent who just wants to concentrate on tummy time with baby without sound and light gizmos. 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 Sea 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.
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.
Best Tummy Time Mat #5
If you are looking for a play mat for your registry, Lovevery Play Mat is a nice splurge. Eco-touches include folding wooden legs and 24 different play activities—without plastic or electronic gizmos. At this price, though, you might want to add it to your registry.
The Lovevery Play Mat includes get wooden toys, organic cotton teethers and toys, mirrors and more. One of our readers summed it up this way:
“I was struggling to find a play mat that catered to actual time spent on the tummy. A lot of the options out there focus on what’s hanging from the top – but the point of tummy time is to be prone facing! Most mats don’t include much stimulation when facing down – except for the Play Gym by Lovevery. It’s much more expensive, but it focuses on keeping baby entertained while on their stomach, with lots of different options. The colors are more muted so it’s a nice reprieve from the bright baby toys, but baby seems to love it. ”
The Play Mat is also machine washable but consider hand washing. Some parents noted it frayed in the wash even when following washing directions. It’s also really big—you could even use it for twins—so it may not work in a smaller house or apartment.