Best Baby Gym
When it comes to baby gyms, we think the Lovevery Play Gym is one of the best. This gym is designed with child development in mind, providing a full year of stage-appropriate activities for your baby to explore. Compared to other products in our review, the gym's mat is large and offers an exceptional amount of padding for your baby to lay or sit on. We appreciate that the gym uses eco-friendly and baby-safe materials, including 100% organic cotton, sustainably-sourced wood, water-based and non-toxic finishes, and soy ink. The mat has five development zones (one on each edge), such as learning to focus, making sounds, exploring how things feel, hiding and finding, and colors. You can control what you would like your baby to experience by unfolding any amount of the zones or folding them up to help prevent overstimulation. The gym comes with many accessories: a few removable toys, including a high contrast Montessori ball, a wooden batting ring, and a teether with a silicone ring, a set of image cards (black and white pictures, faces, daily objects, and a mirror), and, once your baby is crawling and ready, a cover that transforms the gym into a tent, making a game of hide-and-seek or imaginary play quite exciting. The mat attaches to wooden legs, which prevents it from moving and shifting. This gym's assembly and disassembly is straightforward, not requiring tools, and the mat and cotton teether are machine washable.
Although we think this play gym is nearly perfect, it does have a few drawbacks to consider. It has a high price point, but we believe it is worth the investment given its high-quality and numerous stage-appropriate activities. Keep in mind, this gym does not fold, and it dismantles into multiple parts. We think there are many reasons to love this all-in-one product baby gym, and we believe it is worth every penny. We highly recommend it to friends and family.
The Skip Hop Farmstand Grow & Play quickly became a tester favorite, and we have a long list of reasons why it ranked high. We appreciate that the gym's color palette and patterns are cheerful, inviting, and less overstimulating than other gyms in our review. It is quick to set-up, plus easy to dismantle or fold for times when not in use. The gym has multiple sensory-stimulating toys for your baby to explore, including five hanging toys: a plush tomato, an avocado rattle, a beet squeaker, a carrot with tactile ribbons, and a musical bunny with carrot teether toy. It also comes with a textured plush watermelon wedge to make tummy time more comfortable. The mat incorporates various textures, too, allowing your baby to feel and experience. The sides fold and snap in place to keep toys from rolling away. We appreciate that the mat's size and padding are sufficient. Once your child reaches the sit and crawling stage, remove the poles, and use the mat for play. Plus, one of the arches converts to a growth chart to measure your little sprout.
After washing, the mat must lay flat to dry. Besides that drawback, there are no major flaws with this option. We appreciate this gym's quality, its various texture, plus its overall convenience. If you feel the same and enjoy the farm theme, we think you'll fall in love with it, too.
If your baby loves contrasting colors, the Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin' Tunes may be a fit. The gym's mat and arches have plenty of contrasting colors and patterns for your baby to explore. The gym comes with multi-sensory toys, including a crinkle toy, rattle, mirror, flashcards, and book, along with a tummy time pillow. The piano is removable (a feature we appreciate), providing the option to use it or not, depending on your little one's mood. When in use, the piano connects to the mat.
Compared to other gyms in our lineup, the mat's size and minimal padding didn't impress us. Therefore, we suggest using this gym on top of carpet or a rug for added padding, not on hardwood flooring. Also, the manufacturer recommends air drying the mat. Despite these drawbacks, this multi-sensory stimulating gym with a kick-activated piano is at a reasonable price point.
"Twist, Fold, & GO!" with the Infantino Tropical Twist and Fold. Take notice that this gym stars a unique fold system that is super easy to use. To set-up, push down on the circular component, and the arches click into place. To collapse, twist the knob, and the legs release for easy storage. Easy-peasy. Plus, it stays in one-piece, which we appreciate. We think the mat's leaf-shaped design and colors are attractive, and the gym offers loads of sensory stimulation for your baby. The dangling toys use colorful textured fabrics for your baby to feel, and some make sounds, like the monkey, which plays "You Are My Sunshine" and spins. We appreciate that the detachable mirror is movable, offering multiple placement opportunities, which is great for tummy time, encouraging head-turning, and keeping your baby entertained.
The gym has a few downsides. The mat lacks padding, and it is not machine washable, but surface clean only. Considering the amount of spit and drool babies produce, this drawback is not ideal. If you can overlook its flaws, and value the gym's easy-to-use folding system, then we think this gym may be a tropical vacay for baby.
In need of a large mat? Meet the Tiny Love Super Mat. This super-sized mat provides wide-open space for tummy time, rolling, playing, and more. Also, it is large enough for parents and babies to lay together. It is easy to fold, take on the go, and launder. Plus, it's plush is noteworthy. Instead of arches, the mat offers colorful graphics and sensory features for a tot to explore, including a baby-friendly mirror and a carrot teether. Although simple, we think this mat is entertaining and offers a fantastic amount of cushion.
The only drawback is that it is line dry only. But, with advanced planning of overnight cleanup, we think this drawback is minor. If you seek a large and thick mat for multiples, play dates, or space to play, then this mat will get the job done.
The Carter's Shoot for the Moon Play Gym is down-right adorable for your little space explorer. This gym features a soft planetary mat with a cheerful sun in the middle, a shooting star tummy time pillow, a rocket ship and astronaut friends that hang above, and a starry night sky under the arch. We appreciate that the mat's size and padding are sufficient (slightly more than some contenders), and the detachable toys are easy to reach for younger babies. The dangling toys provide multi-sensory experiences. The rocket ship features a mirror and toy pocket to hold one of the astronaut friends. The astronauts include a musical bird, a monkey with a chime, a bear with a rattle, and a bunny with tactile ears and planet teether. Once your baby outgrows the arch, remove it and use the padded mat for seated play.
This gym does have a few downsides. The mat needs to dry flat after laundering. The rocket ship's mirror is small and not detachable from the rocket ship. While we prefer gyms with detachable mirrors as they provide placement versatility, you can detach the rocket ship and move it about. The gym has one arch, which attaches to the mat with hook-and-loop fasteners to keep it stabilized. It is common knowledge that hook-and-loop fasteners can collect hair and fibers, potentially decreasing durability and strength, but it can take time for that build-up to occur. If you think this galaxy adventure for your baby's playtime overrides a few flaws, we think this adorable gym will be fun and inspiring.
Between the alphabet patterned arches, quilt-like mat, and multi-sensory hanging toys starring beloved animals, the Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Baby Gym has a playful and welcoming feel. Baby can explore the mat, which offers multiple fabric textures to feel and activities to explore, like crinkle noises, a squeaker, and a mirror. The arches have 13 loops to hang toys high or low, and from our hands-on testing, we think the toys hang low enough for little ones to reach and bat. The mat's size is plenty, and the padding is adequate but not noteworthy. This gym is quick to set-up, dismantle, fold, and store (honestly, it can't be easier or more manageable). Also, the mat and tummy time pillow are machine washable.
The gym needs to dry flat after laundering. Although we don't view this as a deal-breaker, it is a factor to consider. Also, the mirror is sewn into the mat. We prefer detachable mirrors as their mobility offers more placement possibilities. Besides these drawbacks, if you fancy the alphabet zoo theme, we think this gym may be a good match.
Have a little one who likes lights, colors, and action? The Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym may be a fit. This eye-catchy product offers fun and colorful graphics of rainforest friends, including a zebra, lion, snail, monkey, and a plush giraffe that can tie to an arch. The toucan is motion-activated and removable. This gym is quick to fold up and easy to store. The mat is machine washable, and it can tumble dry on low heat. This mat has a few interactive features, such as a leaf that crinkles and ribbons for tactile stimulation.
Unfortunately, the mat does not offer much for padding. But, if you can overlook this shortcoming, we recommend this gym to a baby who likes action and a good dose of entertainment.
Rock n' roll with the Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas. The removable light-up piano with "Smart Stages" technology offers three levels for your baby to explore sounds, tunes, and phrases, along with a piano level where your tot can activate sounds by kicking or pressing the piano keys. The rainbow-like arch can connect in two different places on the frame, and it has dangling toys for baby to reach and bat, plus a detachable mirror for self-discovery. The mat attaches to the piano and legs, and it is machine washable and tumble dry safe.
Unfortunately, the rectangular mat is narrow and thin in comparison to other products. But, if you can overlook this flaw, we think this product may be a match for a noise-loving baby.
If you're on a tight budget, or perhaps you seek a secondary gym to leave at a caregiver's house, the Bright Starts Zig Zag Safari maybe your best option. This bright-colored, safari-themed gym is inexpensive and comes with a few dangling toys, including a soft zebra chime, rattle, detachable mirror, and leaf-like toy for your baby to explore. The arches have multiple fabric loops to provide hanging versatility. We appreciate that the mat is machine-washable, and the toys are surface clean only.
Compared to others in our lineup, this gym offers no major frills and is somewhat bare-bones. The mat is thin, with no interactive features, and the dangling toys are few. However, given the gym's price, we can forgive its limiting features. The mat is machine washable (a feature we appreciate), but it needs to air dry flat. Although not a deal-breaker, this task does take some time. So, if you don't want to break the bank, this gym may fit your needs. But, if you have some room in your budget, we think other gyms in our review provide more value.
With dreamy shapes and soothing colors, your little one can explore the world above with the wooden B.toys Starry Sky. This gym is minimal and simple. It comes with three detachable toys to stimulate your little one's senses, like a cloud-inspired mirror for self-discovery, silicone beads, and plush stars. The cozy quilted mat offers sufficient cushion, and it is machine washable. The gym is easy to assemble and disassemble.
The gym does have a few downsides. The mat is smaller than other contenders in our review, and it does not connect to the wooden frame. Also, the gym does not fold as the legs interlock. The toys dangle above your baby with no option to hang toys elsewhere on the stand, and we prefer contenders with placement versatility.
Why You Should Trust Us
The BabyGearLab team has been extensively testing baby products over the past decade. Leading our review is Molly Bradac, Senior Review Editor, Nanny, and Newborn Care Specialist with over 14 years of experience. Between Molly's expertise and knowledge of child development, she is truly a pro at identifying top-notch products and making recommendations. Each product was purchased and experienced hands-on testing and side-by-side comparisons to evaluate performance.
Analysis and Test Results
With some little testers' help, we put each product to the test to see which gyms were real standouts among the metrics.
Benefits of a Play Gym
Babies are born eager to learn and explore the world around them, and within a short amount of time, they experience rapid development. A baby gym is much more than a safe space for your little one to lay and play. A gym can support a baby's growth and development, especially with parent-child interaction, encouraging babies to reach critical developmental milestones.
Each product offers various features and toys to stimulate a baby's senses, encouraging them to see, feel, hear, and taste. Essentially, this type of "play" allows a baby to learn and make sense of the world.
According to the American Optometric Association, newborns focus on objects 8 to 10 inches from their face and prefer high contrasting or bright colors. The Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym a powerful punch of bright colors, while the Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin' Tunes uses more contrasting colors, like white and black, along with other colors, and the same is true for the Lovevery Play Gym.
As your baby's vision improves, and their eyes begin to work together, it will allow them to start tracking objects, especially those that make noise (a crinkle, squeak, or music), encouraging babies to reach. As babies begin to bat and grab toys, they start to develop fine motor skills, too. We appreciate baby gyms with arches that offer several loops, providing multiple locations to hang dangling toys to baby interested, discovering, and reaching - all within their vision limits, too. Most of the products in our review provide multiple loops, except the B.toys Starry Sky, Lovevery Play Gym, and the Tiny Love Super Mat has no arches.
Most of the competition offers textured material on toys or play mats to encourage babies to feel, explore, and play for tactile stimulation. We think the Infantino Tropical Twist and Fold, Skip Hop Farmstand Grow & Play, and Lovevery Play Gym stand out, offering various touchable textures.
Additionally, gyms can be helpful when it comes to tummy time, an essential exercise in child development to strengthen back and neck muscles. However, not all babies enjoy tummy time, and a gym can keep baby distracted through music, lights, or a baby-friendly mirror. Also, some of the products include a tummy time pillow to help your baby feel more comfortable.
Mat Size and Padding
A glance at the competition, it is evident that not every mat is created equal. They vary in size, along with padding. The Tiny Love Super Mat is the queen of size and comfort as it is large and plush. The Lovevery Play Gym follows close behind as the padding is excellent, and the size provides space for play. The Carter's Shoot for the Moon Play Gym isn't too thin, either.
However, a few gyms in our lineup lack size and padding, which hurt their ranking. The B.toys Starry Sky circular mat is plush yet small, and we believe babies will outgrow this mat sooner than other contenders. The Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym and the Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin' Tunes offer smaller rectangular play mats that lack padding, and the Bright Starts Zig Zag Safari square mat is medium-sized but thin.
Ease of Assembly, Disassembly, and Folding
Each product requires less than 10 minutes to assemble, but we are fans of convenience and prefer super easy to set up and take-down products. We think the Skip Hop Farmstand Grow & Play and the Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo Baby Gym are superstars when it comes to this metric. On the flip side, the Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas required installing screws (included), which takes some time to complete. However, once set-up, it is ready to go.
Also, unless you don't mind leaving your baby's play gym as permanent furniture, you will appreciate having a product that is easy to fold and stash, plus stays in one-piece. Gyms with fabric arches are typically easier to fold and stash, including the Infantino Tropical Twist and Fold, which features a unique folding system. However, the B.toys Starry Sky and Lovevery Play Gym dismantle into multiple pieces, which isn't a deal-breaker but requires keeping parts together.
Inevitably, a mat will collect spit-up and drool, plus no matter how often you clean your home, flooring will collect dust and hair. Therefore, we prefer a gym with a machine-washable mat. All of the products in our review permit laundering, except the Infantino Tropical Twist and Fold, which is spot clean only.
Babies need to move and play for developmental reasons, and a baby gym can be a perfect place for your little one to explore while they are awake, active, and ready to exercise those muscles and brain. We believe our lineup of top-notch baby gyms will help kick-off playtime and be a great addition to your little one's daily activities.
— Molly Bradac