Among the various toys designed to stimulate the baby’s motor and cognitive learning, the baby activity center is probably the most complete and most capable of ensuring the greatest number and variety of activities. We aim to teach you how to choose an activity center but if you don’t feel like reading, use the links below to see our selection of the best baby activity centers.
Baby activity centers, also called baby gyms, are indispensable educational toys that stimulate the babies through visual and acoustic stimuli, determining them to explore the world.
There are many models of baby gyms available on the market and the main difference between them is the number of toys and accessories they come with, apart from the size and the structure.
In fact, these activity centers vary from simple padded mats with few toys to gyms fitted with padded plush toys and electronic learning toys, lights, mirrors, and surfaces with different textures that provide a wide range of tactile experiences.
For this reason, choosing the best baby activity center is rather complicated. After gathering expert opinions, we put together some tips and advice to help you choose the right toy for your little one. Then, don’t forget to have a look at the most popular baby activity centers available on the market!
- 1 What Is A Baby Activity Center?
- 2 Is An Activity Center Suitable For Newborn?
- 3 How To Choose A Baby Activity Center?
- 4 Best Baby Activity Center Reviews
- 4.1 1. Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano Gym
- 4.2 2. Tiny Love Gymini My Musical Friends Play Gym
- 4.3 3. Taf Toys Jungle Pals Gym With Play Mat
- 4.4 4. Skip Hop Baby Treetop Friends Activity Gym
- 4.5 5. Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit
- 5 Conclusion & Final Pick
What Is A Baby Activity Center?
A baby activity center, as its name suggests, is more than an educational toy. A baby activity center is a real environment designed to help infants play, make physical exercise, and learn how to discover the world around them.
The activity center is usually made of a soft padded mat sometimes equipped with raised padded edges and covered by one or two arches on which hang various toys made of plush, plastic, or rubber.
Many activity centers are also equipped with mirrors or other types of reflective surfaces, as well as various games and elements that can be detached from the arches. The most advanced models come with educational electronic toys that enhance the attention of the baby through sound.
The most economic models are usually characterized by the lack of the arches or of the mat. However, since the price difference between the simpler models and the complete ones is usually negligible, we recommend investing in a baby activity center that comes with a mat, arches, and many different accessories.
Is An Activity Center Suitable For Newborn?
Most baby activity centers are suitable for babies of two months and above. Although many of the baby gyms available on the market are advertised as suitable from birth upwards, the truth is that in the first month of life your baby will probably not be able to give enough attention to the various toys.
Nevertheless, you can still let your baby rest on the comfortable pad since her first days of life.
On the other hand, there is no real age limit for the use of the activity center. Your baby will probably lose interest after she starts exploring the surrounding environment, usually after seven months. However, if the activity center is equipped with various gaming activities, it could raise the child’s interest even further on.
If you decide to buy a baby gym for your newborn, know that they are designed as a highly-protected environment, therefore they are safe even for the youngest infants. In all cases, the activity center will encourage your little one to explore the environment in complete safety, teaching her few new and useful notions each day.
How To Choose A Baby Activity Center?
The first aspect to consider when choosing a baby activity center is the structure. The structural elements determine the reliability of the product and also the level of comfort and entertainment offered to the baby.
As mentioned above, the baby will probably lose interest in the activity center once she begins crawling around the house. Nevertheless, if the center is equipped with many toys and various play modes, the child might continue to find it interesting for a longer time.
Some of the best models offer different play modes that vary in accordance with the abilities of the baby to stay in supine position, seated or standing. To adapt and grow with your child, these activity centers have detachable toys that can engage the baby throughout the growing period.
Almost all activity centers come with traditional toys that have the great advantage of not requiring any kind of power to be engaging. Depending on the model, the number of toys can vary from few to many. Although the type of toys varies widely, it is advisable to choose activity centers equipped with brightly colored toys with recognizable shapes that can stimulate the cognitive activity of the baby.
The most complete models of baby gyms feature both traditional and electronic toys. The electronic toys are usually designed to engage the baby and stimulate her interest in learning new things.
Because electronic educational toys have many proven advantages, most manufacturers equip the activity centers with sound buttons that babies can touch with both feet and hands, music features, colored lights, vibrations, and more.
A thing to keep in mind, check what type of batteries is required to power the electronic toys. Some manufacturers use custom batteries that are hard to find.
One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a baby activity center is the cleaning ease. Because most mats are made of padded fabric, make sure to choose one that is washable. You should also check if the fabric is liquid repellent and if you can just wipe it clean in case of spillages.
Lastly, an important thing to account for is the size of the activity center. The best thing to do is to install it on your bed or directly on the floor. However, if you want to install the activity center in the crib, make sure that its dimensions are appropriate.
Best Baby Activity Center Reviews
|Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano Gym||$$|
|Tiny Love Gymini My Musical Friends Play Gym||$$$$|
|Taf Toys Jungle Pals Gym With Play Mat||$$$|
|Skip Hop Baby Treetop Friends Activity Gym||$$$$$|
|Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit||$|
1. Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano Gym
If you are looking for a safe and fun activity center that can entertain your baby since the first months, then Fisher-Price Kick & Play Piano Gym might be the answer to your needs.
In our opinion, this is probably the best baby gym on the market because it allows the baby to carry out many activities and it adapts its shape to the different standing positions of the child, according to the age group.Check Price on Amazon
In fact, in the first months the baby will be able to play from a supine position, while as soon as she is able to stand, the activity center transforms to accommodate the new position.
The activity center provides many different play modes designed to keep the baby’s interest alive throughout the growing period. Among all the toys, the piano is probably the best, as it will reward the baby’s kick movements with cheerful musical notes.
Things We Liked
- Colorful and soft: the activity center comprises a padded mat and an arch on which are installed various toys. The mat is available in two color selections suitable for both boys and girls.
- Various toys: above the mat parents can install an activity arch with various plush toys. Positioned at the right height, the toys stimulate the arms and hands movement of the baby.
- Piano: to stimulate the feet movement of the baby, the activity center is equipped with a piano that can be used in various positions.
- Easy to clean: the mat is machine washable and really easy to clean with a soft cloth whenever necessary.
Things We Didn’t Like
- Padding: the mat is rather thin and it might be uncomfortable for the baby. If you decide to install it directly on the floor, maybe you would want to use a thin mattress underneath.
2. Tiny Love Gymini My Musical Friends Play Gym
Another excellent baby activity center to consider is the Tiny Love Gymini My Musical Friends Play Gym. This activity center is spacious and adjustable to the age of the baby.
The mat can be placed with open edges or, for greater security when the gym is installed on the bed, the edges can be raised and closed.Check Price on Amazon
One of the greatest strengths of this activity center is the electronic elephant kicker that can be used as a music keyboard activated by kicks. The toy plays 8 different childhood melodies and the gym features nine different activities.
Things We Liked
- Elephant kicker: many activity centers come with kicker toys, but this one distinguishes itself thanks to the elephant kicker that is detachable and suitable to use even by toddlers.
- Spacious: to address the demand of many parents, the manufacturer built a spacious activity center that is designed to provide superior comfort and freedom of movement.
- Numerous toys: the gym can accommodate two cross arches to which are attached various traditional toys. The toys can be replaced periodically to maintain the interest of your child.
- Teether toys: the activity center is designed to grow with your child. For this reason, it comes with convenient teether toys.
Things We Didn’t Like
- The touch system of the elephant is sometimes insufficiently sensitive to the activation of the sensor, a thing that can be frustrating for some babies.
3. Taf Toys Jungle Pals Gym With Play Mat
If you are looking for a generously sized baby activity center, then you should consider the Taf Toys Jungle Pals Gym With Play Mat.
This baby gym is characterized by a thick padding that provides a superior comfort to your baby regardless of where you decide to install it. The manufacturer didn’t leave anything to chance, including the choice of shapes and colors that are chosen to stimulate the interest of the little one.Check Price on Amazon
The activity center features two activity arches and three detachable toys, including a baby-safe mirror.
Things We Liked
- Traditional toys: this activity center doesn’t feature any electronic learning toys, yet it comes with two plush toys that jingle and with an adjustable baby mirror.
- Removable toys: some babies get fond of some of their toys quite easily, and for this reason, you will be more than grateful to be able to attach the same toys to a stroller or crib.
- Versatile: the activity center is equipped with two activity arches that present multiple hooks. It is easy to attach any other toy to the center.
- Padding: the mat is thick enough to provide an outstanding comfort to the baby regardless of where you decide to install it.
Things We Didn’t Like
- Even if you will be able to attach as many toys as you want to the activity arches, the center itself comes with only a few options.
4. Skip Hop Baby Treetop Friends Activity Gym
Some parents consider electronic toys annoying, and if you are one of them you might be happy to consider this activity center for your little one.
This baby gym is a seemingly simple model, yet it hides a number of surprising elements that will certainly keep your baby interested, engaged, and stimulated.Check Price on Amazon
In fact, the mat of this center has several “sensitive” areas, such as a blossoming flower, cracking leaves and a mirror hidden in the trunk of the tree that decorates the mat.
The traditional toys, on the other hand, are other hides for more surprises. A second mirror is hidden in an apple and the owl emits a sound when touched. All the toys are detachable and the activity arches offer sufficient space for additional toys.
Things We Liked
- Easy to assemble: the activity center is easy to put together and thanks to this feature it can be easily taken with you on the trips.
- Entertaining: although simple, the gym offers a variety of entertainment, from areas that activate different melodies to hidden items and customized fabrics for each toy.
- Five multi-sensory toys: from rattle to the ringing bell and crinkling leaves, the activity gym comes with five multi-sensory toys designed to maintain the interest of the baby.
- Easy to clean: the mat is made of washable fabrics that can be easily cleaned by hand or in a washing machine.
Things We Didn’t Like
- The activity center is rather expensive and some parents feel that they could get a gym with more activities and toys for the same price.
5. Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit
Lastly, an activity center designed to entertain your baby from the early days up to preschool age, the Infantino Grow-with-me Activity Gym and Ball Pit is a gym that stands out.
The main thing that draws the attention is the incredibly attractive design. Inspired by the sea, this activity center is shaped like a turtle that provides 3 ways to play.Check Price on Amazon
For the early stages of life, the mat provides excellent comfort thanks to the thick padding. Two activity arches and four brightly colored toys will keep your baby entertained.
The activity center also comes with 40 colorful balls and the activity center can easily be transformed into a ball pit for infants and toddlers.
Things We Liked
- Easy to assemble: putting the activity together literally requires only a few minutes, and transforming the gym for various uses is also really easy.
- Built-in storage: as mentioned, the gym comes with 40 balls that are conveniently stored in the turtle’s head.
- Multi-sensory: apart from the toys, the mat itself engages the senses of the baby thanks to the crinkly sounds it makes.
- Thick padding: you will be able to install the gym directly on the floor without the need of using supplementary support underneath.
Things We Didn’t Like
- Unfortunately, the baby activity center is not machine washable and is really tricky to clean.
Conclusion & Final Pick
From all the options available, we believe that Tiny Love Gymini My Musical Friends Play Gym is the best baby activity center available on the market.
This baby gym is a complete product including both traditional and educational electronic toys integrated with a high-quality mat. Among the toys, probably the most useful is the teether toy, although the electronic elephant is probably the one that will be the most interesting for your child.
We also like the versatility of this activity center. In fact, you will be able to attach more toys to the arches or simply replace them every now and then.
The mat is spacious and it boasts various installation options that can adapt to your particular needs.
The only downside of this gym is the sensitivity of the electronic toy, that not always reacts when touched. If you can overlook this minor flaw, then this baby activity center certainly deserves a chance!