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Article: Ultimate Guide To The Best Baby Play Mats (2024)

Ultimate Guide To The Best Baby Play Mats (2024)

Ultimate Guide To The Best Baby Play Mats (2024)

Author: Corey Smith, PhD

Mar 29, 2024

Play mats are an integral part of many households with children, providing a dedicated space for play, rest, and exploration. Let's dive in to find out the best options on the market, based on our expert review.

When Should You Start Using a Play Mat?

As early as the first few weeks of life, a play mat becomes a valuable accessory for fostering sensory experiences and promoting motor skill development. During tummy time sessions, typically recommended from the age of one to two months, a soft and supportive play mat offers a comfortable surface for your newborn to explore and strengthen their neck and upper body muscles. 

Tummy Time Baby Play Mats

The ideal first play mat for your little one should be made out of breathable cotton, providing a gentle and cozy surface for your baby's early interactions. Ease of maintenance is key for busy parents, and an ideal first play mat should be effortlessly washable, allowing for quick and convenient cleanup of spills or inevitable baby messes. Additionally, the mat should be delightfully soft, offering a plush yet supportive environment for your baby to explore and practice motor skills. Opting for a compact size ensures versatility, allowing you to easily move and position the mat in various areas of your home. 

Play & Go organic cotton babymats, with a generous diameter of nearly 4 feet, ingeniously double as a convenient drawstring toy storage solution for hassle-free cleanup.

Play & Go Bloom Play Mat, Lounger & Toy Storage

Play & Go Bloom Play Mat, Lounger & Toy Storage

Play & Go Baby Mat Storage Bag

Play & Go Baby Mat Storage Bag

Play & Go Baby Mat Storage Bag

Play & Go Penguin Baby Mat Storage Bag

Lorena Canals play mats, slightly smaller at a little more than 3', are manufactured in India with organic cotton and stand out for their practicality, being conveniently machine washable, and offer a delightful sensory experience with an embedded rattle toy, which contains crinkly paper and a rattle inside. Additionally, you can purchase coordinating baskets for a stylish and organized play area, and use these play mats as couch cover or baby blanket.

Play Mat Honeycomb with Crinkle Toy Bee

Play Mat Honeycomb with Crinkle Toy Bee

Water Lily Play Rug

Lorena Canals Water Lily Play Rug - 100% Organic Cotton

Lorena Canals Quilted Baskets

Lorena Canals Quilted Baskets

If you'd like a cotton play mat with a thicker padding, E&E play mattresses are 40"x40" (which is about 3 1/2 feet) and 4" thick! Plus, you can optionally add a matching play tent - the perfect spot for your baby or toddler to feel cozy while reading a book or playing!

E&E Colette Play Mattress with Optional Play Tent

E&E Colette Play Mattress with Optional Play Tent

E&E

E&E Round Play Mattress with optional Ethan Play Tent

E&E Charlotte Play Mattress

E&E Charlotte Play Mattress

Foam Play Mats For Crawlers

As your baby grows older and starts crawling at 6 months+ you may want to consider a larger play mat to provide better cushioning and a larger area for the baby to move around. The ideal play mat for this stage are foam play mats. However, it's crucial for parents to exercise caution when purchasing foam play mats, because most of the available options are made from synthetic foams and are sold without passing safety certifications, leading to off-gassing and the release of toxic volatile compounds. These harmful substances pose potential risks to your baby's health and well-being, especially if the area is not well ventilated.

To provide the safest and natural alternative, consider Toki Mats. Toki Mats feature 1" thick natural dunlop latex foam. Dunlop latex is the same latex used in high end mattresses and removes any concerns associated with off-gassing and toxic compounds. These mats are not only the safest and most durable choice but also boast a washable organic cover with an array of elegant prints to choose from. 

Epic Toki Mat

Epic Toki Mat in Mudcloth

Mega Toki Mats in Bloom

Mega Toki Mats in Bloom

Toki Mat in Sandcastle Jersey

Toki Mat in Sandcastle Jersey

Beware of generic non-toxic claims

Unfortunately, the vast majority of play mats on the market are made of synthetic foams, which is presented as "safe", "non-toxic" and are "certified to not contain certain toxins". Play mats manufactured with synthetic foams, despite what the brand is claiming regarding their safety, off-gas toxic and potentially carcinogenic volatile organic compounds such as formamide and phthalates. Examples of synthetic foams known to offgas VOC include:

  • Polyethylene Foam (e.g. EVA, Flotex foam)
  • Neoprene Foam
  • Polyvinyl Chloride Foam (e.g. PVC)

The level of off-gassing may vary from one brand to another and it's virtually impossible for the consumer to verify. While the level of off-gassing may be so low to not pose any health risk at all, these VOCs are known to be toxic for development and carcinogenic. 

Even if many of the synthetic mats on the market were possibly safe, if you are in the process of purchasing a play mat, we recommend to err on the side of caution and avoid synthetic foam altogether. 

While most synthetic foam mats off-gas VOC, mats made of Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) don't and are perfectly safe to use for your baby.

If you are looking for a foam mat without a removable cover that is yet easy to clean and non-toxic, our two favorite brands are LittleBot and Wander and Roam, which are all made of Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU). 

Littlebot Play Mat in TPU

Littlebot Play Mat in TPU

Littlebot round rug - 4'

Littlebot round rug - 4'

Littlebot Plant Eze Mat

Littlebot Plant Eze Mat

We do NOT carry play mats made with any other synthetic foams (e.g. EVA and PVC which are toxic). 

    Which Baby Play Mat is Safe yet Most Affordable?

    You don't have to compromise on safety if you're on a budget! Here is a summary of our best selling baby play mats priced by square foot for a straightforward comparison! Price differences depend on thickness, unique features, and materials used:

    If you're looking for a place that brings together only vetted, safe play mats, with the most beautiful prints and colors to match your decor, look no further than our ample collection of baby play mats!

    Conclusion

    Play mats offer children a safe and comfortable environment. When selecting a mat, understanding its materials and safety implications is vital. Whether you're drawn to the cushioning of foam mats, the adaptability of tile mats, or the natural essence of cotton or wool, always prioritize safety. With informed choices, you can establish a secure and stimulating play area for your child.

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