How much use will you get out of your baby’s playmat? The answer might surprise you. Depending on which one you choose, it could remain a well-loved fixture in your home long after your little ones have graduated from teething toys and tummy time.
Do I Need A Playmat?
There’s a life cycle to baby gear. First you research it, spending hours poring over reviews and best-of lists. Then you have to assemble it — which sometimes feels like more it takes longer than growing an actual baby! — and learn how to use it. And finally, just as you’re getting comfortable with it… it’s outgrown and delegated to the pile of items you have to decide how to hand down, resell or recycle.
For all the money and effort we put into finding the right baby gear, all too often it seems like we barely get any use out of it. That feeling is amplified as we become more aware of how our consumer habits impact the planet that we will leave to our children. Apart from the true necessities like diapers, clothing and a place to sleep, it’s easy to look at a lot of baby gear and wonder: “Do I really need that?”
While we like to think the answer is yes (we are, after all, a company that makes play rugs!), we can see how new parents might not be convinced. What you might not realize is that a quality playmat can be useful well past the baby days.
How To Use A Playmat With An Infant
Unlike a lot of baby and toddler gear, a play rug is an item you can use from day one – literally from the moment you welcome your new addition home. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting daily tummy time as soon as a newborn has lost their umbilical stump, and a playmat or play rug is the perfect surface for floor play. Be sure to pick a mat that is safe, easy to clean (for your sake), and well padded (for everyone’s comfort).
As your baby grows and becomes more mobile, a playmat can be used to create a comfortable base around which to build a play area. It’s also a soft, safe surface for the tumbles that inevitably come with learning to scoot, crawl and toddle.
How To Use A Playmat With A Toddler
As your baby grows into a toddler, your mat will become playtime central! A soft, smooth surface is ideal for toddler play; it’s comfortable enough for you to get down on the floor and interact with them, while also being smooth and even enough for stacking blocks, assembling train tracks and pushing cars — the kind of play that helps little ones develop fine motor skills, spatial reasoning abilities, confidence, and imagination.
Toddlers and preschoolers also love sensory play, and a rugged, wipeable playmat is a great place to stage a sensory bin or table. They’ll be able to play to their hearts’ content in comfort, and you can relax knowing that no matter how much they splash, spray and dig, the mess will be easy to wipe up afterward.
How To Use A Playmat With Older Kids
A good play rug should see you through the baby and toddler years and well beyond! Although playmats are generally thought of as baby gear, there’s no reason to put the mat away just because your children are out of diapers. Kids love to spread out on the floor to play, and a playmat makes that playtime more comfortable (and, consequently, more fun!). Your playmat can also be helpful in defining a dedicated play space, especially if you have a small home.
Even in the tween and teen years, the right playmat can keep its place in your children’s lives. Older kids are world-class loungers, and flexible seating is great for movement, comfort and concentration. Add pillows and floor cushions to create a cozy reading nook or spot for movie viewing, yoga and video game hangouts. A play rug is also a great addition to a home gym, the cushioned surface is perfect for anti-fatigue lifting, jumping or floor work.
How To Pick A Playmat That Will Last
When you invest in a playmat, make sure it’s one that will stand the test of time. A mat that combines form and function can serve your family for many years. Opt for a design that is versatile and can grow with your children (and that they won’t think is too babyish when they get older). It should be soft enough that they want to spend time on it, and rugged enough to withstand being spilled on, stomped around and scrubbed down over and over again.
For longevity, look for a one-piece mat rather than interlocking tiles. Foam tiles provide flexibility, but there are tradeoffs. Kids being kids, you’re likely to find stray tiles and pieces of edging pulled up to use as playthings. They’re also difficult to keep clean; you’ll be surprised at how much dirt and grit will find its way into the cracks between the tiles and underneath, causing damage to the mat (and potentially your floors). The problem gets worse the more the tiles are used, since over time, the interlocking edges tend to become loose and allow for more dirt, more slipping, and less protection for your kids (and, again, your floors).
Finally, be sure to pick a design that fits with your style and design aesthetic — your playmat will be part of your home for many years, so you’ll want to love it, too!