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How to Choose a Baby Play Mat

Being able to play in a relaxed environment has an extremely positive effect on a baby’s emotional development. When mom and dad get involved, the effect is even stronger, essentially creating a safe haven where kids feel loved, protected and free to explore their surroundings without danger.

Playtime stimulates children mentally and physically, in addition to the biggest reason to let your kids unleash their pent-up energies: They love it! In truth, parents are just as happy as they watch their babies having fun and growing up. At Pottery Barn Kids, we like to see the smiles on babies’ faces, too. Two popular ways to encourage children to play is with activity gyms and play mats.

Why Choose a Play Mat

While play mats and activity gyms essentially work hand in hand, there are times when just having a play mat is preferable. For one thing, wide-open spaces make it easier for mom or dad to get in on the fun.

Play mats are good for your kids because they provide comfort when they’re on the floor. Some plush mats can make your baby feel as though he or she is lying on a cloud, helping your child fall asleep quickly after feeding. In cool climates, fuzzy surfaces keep kids far warmer than on tile or carpeting. Play mats also encourage exploration by cushioning little hands and feet as they head towards their favorite toys.

How Tummy Time Works

A great activity for newborns and parents to share, and where play mats play a big role, is tummy time. Tummy time is exactly what it sounds like: a few minutes where babies lie on their stomach. It’s important for them to always be supervised during tummy time, at least until they’re old enough to roll over on their own, usually about six or seven months. The activity is very beneficial for infants. It strengthens their back and neck muscles, and keeps them from developing soft spots at the back of their head. Parents and newborns can launch tummy time from day one.

Exciting Exploration: What Activity Gyms Do

There are a lot of things that make activity gyms awesome, both for children and parents. They’re great at holding kids’ attention, thanks to the motion and colors of the plush toys suspended overhead. That lets you rest while your baby coos happily. As kids grow, activity gyms strengthen their arms and legs, boost grasping abilities, cognitive development, visual perception and color recognition. All in all children learn while they play, and stay healthy and active to boot.

Games to Play with Newborns and Toddlers

Interaction with you as a parent strengthens the bonds of love between you and your child, which is actually good for the health of both of you. Here are some games parents and infants can share:

  • Sensory adventure: Simply put, growing babies like to experience the world around them. Along with a fuzzy play mat, add appropriate swatches of cloth, leather items, rubber bath toys and other interesting objects that aren’t messy but feel interesting.
  • Find the object: An activity gym helps here. Hide a favorite toy underneath a blanket or behind part of the activity gym, but while your baby is watching. It’s like peek-a-boo except way better for learning.
  • Homemade rattle extravaganza: Fill waterproof plastic bottles with brightly colored liquids, gelatin, rice or other child-safe foods that make noise and look cool. Kids have fun shaking and swirling them, teaching them cause and effect and entertaining them for a long time.

Safaris and Castles Galore

It’s easy to transform an activity gym into a fort or tent just for your baby. For a larger version where parents fit, use the dining room table instead. Activity gyms with plush animals, together with an extra elephant or two, are perfect for safari pretend play. Don’t hold back with colors, no matter what your child’s age. Babies adore colorful games.

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