Best Baby Gym
When it comes to baby gyms, we think the Lovevery Play Gym is one of the best. It is loaded with features and truly designed with child development in mind. This gym provides a full year of play and a parent's guide with age-appropriate activities for your little one. In comparison to other products in our review, the mat is large and offers excellent padding. The gym uses eco-friendly and baby-safe materials, such as 100% organic cotton, sustainably-sourced wood, water-based non-toxic finishes, and soy ink. The mat features five development zones (one on each edge), which you can unfold for your little one to explore or fold up to prevent overstimulation. The zones include: learning to focus, making sounds, how things feel, hiding and finding, and exploring colors. The removable toys include a high contrast Montessori ball, a wooden batting ring, and a teether with a silicone ring. Also, a set of interchangeable cards s included: black and white pictures, faces, daily objects, and a mirror (all images babies love to stare at). Plus, a cover that transforms the gym into a tent once your baby is crawling and ready, making a game of hide-and-seek or imaginary play quite exciting. The mat attaches to the wooden legs, preventing it from moving and shifting, and the mat and cotton teether are machine washable. While testing, we think the task of assembly and disassembly is straightforward, and we appreciate that it does not require tools.
Although we believe this play gym is nearly perfect, it does have a few drawbacks. The high price point is a factor to consider, but we think it is worth the investment given its quality, attention to detail, and longevity. It does fold for easy storage, and it dismantles into multiple parts. We think there are many reasons to love this all-in-one product, and we believe it is worth every penny. Therefore, 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 topped our charts. We think the gym's color palette and patterns are not overstimulating but cheerful and inviting and the quality is noteworthy. It is easy to set-up, dismantle, plus it can fold and store when not in use. The mat's padding is sufficient, and it is machine washable. The gym offers multiple sensory-stimulating toys and features. It comes with five hanging toys: plush tomato, avocado rattle, beet squeaker, carrot with tactile ribbons, and a musical bunny with carrot teether toy, along with a plush watermelon wedge with texture to make tummy time more comfortable. The mat also incorporates various textures for a baby to feel and explore. Fold and snap the mat's sides to keep toys from rolling away. Once your child reaches the sit and crawling stage, remove the poles, and use the mat for play, plus one arch converts to a growth chart to measure your little sprout.
After washing, the mat must lay flat to dry. But, besides that, there are no major flaws with this choice. We appreciate the quality of this gym, plus its convenience. If you feel the same and enjoy the farm theme, we think you'll fall in love with it, too.
If you are on a budget, consider the Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin' Tunes, that comes with a tap and play piano. This mat provides an excellent amount of contrasting colors and comes with the multi-sensory toys (crinkle toy, rattle, mirror, flashcards, and book), plus a tummy time pillow. The piano is removable, which we appreciate, providing the option to use it or not. When in use, it connects to the mat. Another perk is that this mat is machine washable because, let's face it, accidents happen.
The mat is smaller in comparison to others, and the padding is minimal. 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. Despite these drawbacks, this sensory-stimulating gym with a kick-activated is at a reasonable price point, and we think it may be a match for families on a budget.
"Twist, Fold, & GO!" with the Infantino Tropical Twist and Fold. This gym features a unique fold system that is straightforward to use. Twist the knob, the legs release, and the gym collapses for easy storage. Simple. Plus, it stays in one-piece, which we appreciate. To lock the legs back into place, push down on the circular component, and the arches will click into place. The leaf-shaped mat is attractive, and the gym provides loads of sensory stimulation for your baby. The dangling toys are colorful, offer a mixture of fabric textures for baby to feel, and they make sounds. The monkey 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 baby entertained.
There are a few downsides to this gym. The mat lacks padding, and it is not machine washable, but surface clean only. Considering the amount of spit and drool babies produce, we view this as a drawback. But, if you value the mat's folding system and multiple sensory features, we think this mat may be a hit and 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, such as a baby-friendly mirror and a carrot teether.
We think this mat is simple yet 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 mat for multiples, play dates, or space to play, this mat will get the job done.
Between the alphabet patterned arches, quilt-like mat, and multi-sensory hanging toys featuring 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 drawback, 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, plus a piano level where your tot an 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.
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 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 baby 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 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 offer material textures on toys or play mats to encourage baby 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 a variety 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 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 size and padding are excellent. The B.toys Starry Sky mat is round and small but provides a fair amount of padding. The Fisher-Price Rainforest Music & Lights Deluxe Gym and the Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin' Tunes offer rectangular mats but not much for padding.
Ease of Assembly, Disassembly, and Folding
Each product requires less than 10 minutes to assemble, but we are fans of convenience and prefer products that are super easy to set up and take-down. 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, and 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