During the first year of your baby’s life, you will spend a lot of time holding your little one close. But, there will come a time when your baby will need more than swaddling and rocking, and the time will come sooner than you think. So, when your baby is ready to move past your arms and on to the next phase of their development, a baby play gym or an activity mat may be a beneficial investment.
A play mat or baby gym is a must-have item. It’s a comfortable spot where your baby can play on their tummy and practice rolling over. It’s also an agreeable spot where your baby’s classic toys can be reached and promptly played with.
One of the main benefits of a play mat for baby is that it encourages your little one to interact with their surroundings. It’s also a great way of helping your baby reach development milestones and develop the muscles they need to sit up and crawl.
When should you introduce a play mat?
You can start using a baby gym as soon as your newborn is comfortable with lying on their back without being swaddled. Your newborn might not interact with the toys and different textures yet, but looking at the dangling toys can be a fun activity during their alert time.
Babies get the most from play mats once you can start introducing tummy time. Tummy time can begin at 3 months of age. Limit sessions to five minutes at a time, and start with three short daily sessions. You can gradually work your way up to an hour of tummy time a day.
Baby will likely begin rolling over on their own at 4 months of age. An activity gym is perfect for tummy time because your baby will feel comfortable, and the different toys encourage them to roll over on their own.
The dangling toys will encourage your baby to reach and eventually sit up, a milestone they should reach by the time they’re 6 months old with a little help. Your child will also practice standing on all fours and rocking back and forth to reach the different toys, a movement that eventually turns into crawling.
By the time your baby is 9 months old, they will start crawling and might surprise you with their speed! Crawling is usually a sign that your little one has outgrown their play mat.
They will probably get bored with the activity gym and decide to go explore the rest of the room. It doesn’t mean you should completely eliminate the play mat, but don’t force your baby to stay on it if they want to move around. Consider upgrading the baby gym with new toys and activities, since it’s still a good way of developing important motor skills.