A play mat or gym is a must-have for parents who want to keep their baby entertained and develop various skills at home. While many are safe to use from birth, you may find that babies from three months onwards love their play mats the most, as this is when they begin to develop their reaching and grasping skills, as well as hand-eye co-ordination.
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But should you go for an all-singing, all-dancing option with lights, sounds and colourful toys, or are you better off with a traditional Scandi-style wooden play gym? As with anything baby-related, it's down to personal choice to find one that suits your space and is versatile enough to last until your baby becomes more mobile.
We've rounded up the best baby play mats and gyms that have a good range of sensory features to stimulate your little one, with prices starting at under £50.
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Infantino 4-in-1 Milestones and Memories Twist and Fold Gym
Infantino 4-in-1 Milestones and Memories Twist and Fold Gym, £49.79, Amazon
Not only can you use this twist and fold gym as a play mat, but it also serves as a cute backdrop to capture special milestones for your baby. It features five multi-sensory toys to encourage exploration, and offers five play modes as your baby develops, including lay and play, tummy time, sit and play, on-the-go stroller toys and a milestone photo prop.
Lights & Sounds Rainbow play mat and gym
Lights & Sounds Rainbow play mat and gym, £89, Mamas & Papas
This interactive lights and sounds play mat is a bestseller at Mamas & Papas, thanks to its array of fun features including lights, music and toys to engage your little one and offer plenty to see, touch and hear. Featuring two arches with four removable toys, the mat and gym also has a hanging cloud with three different sounds to soothe your baby.
Meanwhile, the mat can also be used for tummy time, with a luxurious padded base to keep your baby comfy and help to strengthen their neck muscles.
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Ingenuity cosy spot reversible duvet activity gym
Ingenuity cosy spot reversible duvet activity gym, £59.99, Amazon
This cushioned play mat provides a comfortable and safe space for your baby to play, with slim folding wooden bars and removable activity toys including a mirror, rattle and teether. Best of all, it folds in two and transforms into a self-storage bag so it can easily be tidied away when not in use, or carried with you if you go away.
Disney Baby Mr Ray Ocean Lights activity gym and play mat
Mr Ray Ocean Lights activity gym and play mat, was £59.99, NOW £44.99, Smyths Toys
Fans of Finding Nemo will love this Disney Baby activity gym and play mat, which is colourful and features detachable toys of the film's much-loved characters. Mr Ray's canopy illuminates with colourful lights, while it also features more than 20 minutes of ocean-themed melodies and a cute Dory finger puppet.
The Little Green Sheep Baby Play Gym Set
The Little Green Sheep baby play gym set, £69.95, Mamas & Papas
If you'd prefer something a little more stylish in your living room, this Little Green Sheep baby play gym is the one for you. The wooden frame can be adapted to suit your child's stage of development, with detachable toys including organic cotton rattles and mango wood teething charms.
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Bright Starts 5-in-1 ball activity play gym
Bright Starts 5-in-1 play gym, £79.99, John Lewis
This play gym will see your child through from birth to toddler thanks to its clever five-in-one design that sees it change into their very own ball pit. Suitable for tummy time and sensory play, it has several jungle-themed toys, a prop pillow and an electronic toucan that features over 20 minutes of melodies.
Baby Einstein Caterpillar & Friends play gym
Baby Einstein Caterpillar & Friends play gym, was £54.99, NOW £49.99, Amazon
Featuring eight classical music melodies, dancing lights and six activities, this Baby Einstein play gym has plenty to keep your baby entertained. It grows with your baby from birth through to tummy time and sitting up play, and also has five additional toys including a frog rattle and baby-safe mirror.
Dream Upon a Cloud play mat and gym
Dream Upon a Cloud play mat and gym, £59, Mamas & Papas
Suitable from birth, this super-soft play mat and gym features a range of interactive development features like a rattle, detachable toys and musical functions, along with a Tummy Time accessory to aid your baby's development and engage their senses. The adorable grey and yellow colours are a pared-back alternative to other brighter play mats on the market.
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