10 Baby Activity Mats and Play Gyms Full of Sensory Stimulation

By Published On: May 24th, 2023

Whether you want something portable or a style that will blend in with your home’s aesthetic, there’s surely a design that you (and your little one) will love.

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There are a few categories when it comes to baby gear: must-haves, nice-to-haves, and extras. Must-haves are essential items, like car seats and strollers, and extras are the products that make things a bit easier or more convenient that you can do without, like wipe warmers or a super-smart monitor with features that go above and beyond the basic video and sound feeds. The nice-to-haves are the middle-ground buys that your baby probably won’t miss but offer enough benefits that they’re usually worth the extra cost—and that’s the gray area where baby activity mats and play gyms live. 

Babies crave exploration as their brains develop, and sensory play is a great way to encourage that curiosity. Sure, you can just put a blanket and a few toys on the ground to offer your little one some stimulation, but the benefit of play gyms and activity mats is that even the most basic designs are packed with developmentally appropriate sensory stimulation that’s perfect for keeping babies occupied during tummy time (which is recommended until a baby is at least 6 months old) and stationary play (most babies aren’t crawling until they are between 8-12 months old, and some don’t crawl at all). 

Baby play gyms and activity mats come in so many enchanting and practical styles—some are pretty enough that you won’t mind them sitting out in the open, and others can be easily stowed away when they’re not in use. Plus, they’re available at a wide range of prices, so this nice-to-have item doesn’t necessarily require a financial splurge (though if your budget has some wiggle room, high-end options are available, too). 

From playhouse and farmstand themes to fruit- and rainbow-inspired designs, we rounded up some of the most charming baby activity mats and play gyms for you to consider for your little sensory-seeking explorer.

Minimalist Play Gym

Thanks to its neutral colors and basic design, his gym will complement your home’s style. Lalo’s Play Gym includes a wooden stand with two black and white dangling toys that are perfect for grasping and kicking, a mirror, and a floor mat—which is available in four colors. If you want to get even more use out of this toy, you can also purchase a kit that converts the gym into a tent (sold separately).

Sunset Palette Activity Mat

With tassels, various textures, and a downright adorable design, the Desert Sunset Activity Mat by Crane Baby perfectly combines fun and practicality. It includes a crinkly mirror, a leopard rattle, and a bird that chirps with a squeeze of the belly. The best part? It’s machine washable!

Playhouse Activity Mat

This playhouse Tummy Time Play Mat from Anthropologie has the most whimsical design that is seriously hard to resist. The quilted mat is soft and machine washable and includes a prop pillow to help support baby during tummy time. There are also two detachable (and adorable) toys that come with it; a mushroom with textured ribbons, and a mirror with rabbit ears and the cutest little fluffy bunny bum on the other side.

Colorful Basic Play Gym

This simply designed play gym manages to be cute enough for a baby without being an eyesore for everyone else in the room. The Bitzy Bespoke Ritzy Activity Gym from Itzy Ritzy is available in two styles and includes a play mat, a pine wood bar, three hanging toys, and lots of sensory stimulation thanks to rattles, textured ribbons, teethers, and more. The “Rainbow” option features muted tones and plush koala, panda, and bunny hanging toys, while the “Pink Rainbow” design has pastel colors with soft snail, mushroom, and bunny hanging toys. Good luck choosing between the two because they’re both equally charming.

Convertible Play Gym

While the Cozy Spot Reversible Duvet Activity Gym from Ingenuity is easily collapsible for easy storage, it’s also polished enough that you probably won’t mind it sitting out. This gym is available in two styles: Loamy (pictured here) features grey and blue hues, and Calla has soft pink and purple accents. Each design includes a plush mat, six removable toys with different sensory stimulation, and a tummy time pillow. This play gym also has wooden toy bars that, once detached from the play mat, fold into each other for storage. The play mat is reversible and machine washable, and it features velcro straps and a handle so you can fold it in half and carry the whole gym with you at home or while away.

Farm-Themed Activity Mat

Textures? Check. Toys? Check. Unique and delightful design? Check. You can’t help but love this Farmstand Tummy Time Play Mat from Skip Hop. The mat has a removable pillow for tummy time, an attached blueberry squeaker toy, and three peekaboo pockets. It features four toys attached to the mat, including a beet rattle, carrot teether, crinkle bunny, and watermelon mirror. You can also roll the mat up and use the connected handle to take it on the go or simply stow it away until the next time your little one is ready to play. Plus, you can’t beat the price.

Rainbow Play Gym

For something with a burst of color, check out the Crate & Kids’ Rainbow Baby Activity Gym. Its cloud-shaped mat is textured and oh-so-cozy, and it is the perfect contrast to the coral, yellow, and aqua rainbow arches. There are also five hanging toys for baby to grasp, kick, and rattle around for extra sensory play.

Dinosaur Activity Mat

If your babe’s nursery has a dinosaur theme, then the Dinomite Baby Mat by Wonder & Wise by Asweets will fit right in. It features eight friendly dinos and is filled with sensory stimulation through different textures. Between the dinosaurs’ bright colors, the crinkly sounds, a built-in rattle, and open-and-shut flaps, your little one will look forward to tummy time. (Note: this activity mat is safe for babies 3 months old and up.)

Lovable and Colorful Play Gym

With vibrant colors and toys with lovable smiles, the Fruity Fun Play Gym by Carter’s will bring a little extra sweetness to your home. The machine washable play mat features a watermelon design with two detachable arches—one with a striped pattern, the other with lemons—and a tummy time support pillow designed to look like an orange slice. This little gym also includes five toys, a pineapple that plays music, a squeaking strawberry, a cherry rattle, an orange baby mirror with an attached leaf teether, and a crinkly banana that hangs from the arches or attaches to the citrus slice support pillow (two at a time).

Reversible Play Mat

The Explore Reversible Baby Play Mat from Wee Gallery is another great portable option. Thanks to the organic voile fabric, it has a super soft exterior, and the plush stuffing makes it extra cozy. Both sides of the mat feature black and white designs, which fit with minimalist aesthetics and are ideal for infants as they can’t fully see color until they are around 5 months old. This mat is safe for the washing machine and easy to fold for storage or travel.

Each activity mat and play gym is thoughtfully designed to encourage development and exploration in your little one. So, while it’s tough to argue that these products are essential must-haves, we’ll just say that they’re really, really nice-to-haves.