“What are the best activity centers to entertain and keep babies and toddlers occupied while contributing to their development?”
Activity Centers are the perfect all-in-one fun zone for babies to engage with the world around them. In brief, this is a play station made of different fabrics and materials and equipped with attached toys. It stimulates babies to practice fine motor skills like reaching, shaking, grabbing, and exploring new textures, sound, and sensory perception.
There are few types of baby activity centers. They are divided by age of your little one.
Play Mat and Activity Gym for Infants
Play mats are good from the first days up to 6-month-old. They primarily introduce a newborn baby to tummy time. It is advised to play and interact with the baby while he is in the tummy 2-3 times a day for 3-5 minutes. The amount of time can gradually increase when the baby gets used to it and shows he enjoys the activity. For more information about tummy time plese visit American Academy of Pediatrics
Tummy time activity helps develop neck, back, and arm muscles strength, while the baby is fascinated by different colors, textures, and sounds.
Main advantages of playmat:
- great opportunities for tactile, visual, and hearing perception;
- stimulating activity and independence;
- development through entertainment
- beautiful appearance;
- compact size
Important: Babies should never be left alone on a playmat!
Activity Center for Toddler
There are three different types of activity centers for toddlers:
1. Seated Activity Center (Activity Chair)
2. Activity Table
3. Activity Exersaucer and Jumpers
Seated Activity Center
When a baby is more mobile and ready to sit, it is good to invest in a seated activity center. Most of them have full 360 degree rotating seat that allows the baby to observe what happens around and lock into one position when preferred.
Built-in sound and light effects will ultimately capture attention and give parents a break to rest. Although it seems completely safe for your baby to seat in Activity Center, it doesn’t mean that you can leave your baby unattended while she is playing. Some of the activities on the tray can still cause their fingers to become entangled or pinched, so be careful and be around at all the times.
You should keep track of the time that your child spends in Seated Activity Center. Extended use can cause the the malformation of the hip socket that is known as Dysplasia. If you’re looking for an option where your child can spend extended periods of time playing, you should opt Stationary Activity Table.
Stationary Activity Table
It is made in the form of a table with different interactive zones divided over the entire surface. Babies will remain in the standing position due to the stimulating and entertaining activities being held on the play tables. The child can approach each toy going around the table from different sides. This is an excellent exercise for babies who are learning to pull themselves up.
In terms of health safety, this type of Activity Center has obvious advantages over Seated Activity Center or Activity Jumper.
Activity Exersaucer and Jumpers
Baby jumpers are not a basic necessity for a child’s development. If your budget allows you to buy them, you should understand that you will buy only an entertainment toy that won’t serve for a long time. First of all, in order to bounce baby must have a tonus, which is fully developed not earlier than 4 months of age. Tramp that are fixed in the doorway is better to use even later – starting from about 6 months. By about 9 months, the baby is trying to learn to walk, and the baby jumpers lose their attraction to the baby.
From my personal experience with my older daughter, we used the bouncing cradle in the doorway about 3-4 times. After that my daughter was no longer interested in bouncing in one place. She was more interested in trying to stand up and try to take her first steps in order to explore things in the rooms, especially kitchen.
It is important to remember that a child may try to get out of the jumper. Therefore, never leave a child without supervision.
What are the Best Baby Activity Center to Buy?
I have to admit that I didn’t bother reading reviews and blogs about toys with my older daughter to hear the opinions of more experienced moms. It seemed to me that absolutely everything should be purchased and tried with my child. Some purchases were helpful, and we used them for a long time, while some toys turned out to be almost useless and uninteresting for my baby.
The good thing was that almost all of my friends started having babies after me. So I had the opportunity to give purchased activity centers with the benefit for my loved ones – their budget was safe with a friend like me. Make sure that all parts for the assembly are intact and in a complete set before giving away activity center for baby to your friends or second-hand shop.
With the youngest child, I was already more experienced in the choice of purchases. I found the all-in-one options. Many toy manufacturers now take into account the fact that playmats, active halls, active chairs, and active tables are primarily used in the first year of a child’s life. There are only a couple of months of use for each such active center. Therefore, a profitable solution is to buy one thing that will serve you from birth to a year.
Check baby activity centers by Fisher-Price. They have few options of all-in-one activity centers for baby.
Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Step ‘n Play Piano
This a really an activity center that grows with your child! It has four different features that activities centers for different age should have -play mat for first months of life, play table for toddler, rotating 360 degrees seat, lights and sounds.
What did I like most is that it is all about music. It has light-up drums, guitar, end even a microphone! The huge keyboard make sound when little feet step on the soft mat – your baby will be thrilled by this toy!
Skip Hop Baby Play Mat and Gym
Soft colors compliment the modern decor, while pops of bright colors stimulate the baby’s sight. It provides hours of plush playtime for your little one. In addition to the five celestial-themed hanging toys that will engage the baby with lights, music, the cushy mat will provide the ultimate cloud-like comfort. It’s impossible to put a limit on how much fun a baby can have!
A tummy time pillow in the shape of a cloud with a plush Minky surface on one side and a fun print on the other is included with the oversized mat, which provides cushiony comfort on the floor and various textures for sensory development.
Activities that promote development include musical sheep, lighted star, cloud squeaker, bird rattle, and a sunshine mirror that is safe for babies.
Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo Acitivty Jumper
This lovely jumper encourages your baby to be active as much as possible with lights and sounds reward with the baby’s every jump.
This jumper will grow with you baby with its three adjustable positions, and 360 degrees seat will encourage your little one to explore the world around him.
I also like the fact that all the springs are covered with soft material, which will protect the baby from pinching little fingers while bouncing.
Funny colored animals attached to a play tablewill make fun company when the child gets tired to bounce.
Baby Einstein Around We Grow 4-in-1 Walk Around Discovery Activity Center Table
This Baby Einstein Activity Center can be used as three different toys: walk-around center, activity play table and art table. In addition, removable toys can be used separately.
3-position height-adjustable seat rotates 360° around the table, from the center of the chair to the sides, supporting baby’s first steps with a fun.
Promotes movement and cognitive skills through a variety of movements and sensory experiences.
Fifteen nature-themed toys will help to develop visual and tactile skills.
Machine washable seat cover is a benefit (as a parent, you know it for sure). Four table legs ensures this activity center to be stable on the floor.
Few Tips on Choosing the Best Activity Center for your baby:
- Make sure that the activity center is 100% stable and won’t tip over. Especially if you have an active kid.
- Choose an activity center that is easy to clean with machine washable seat pad.
- Keep in mind the size of the room where you will place the activity center. Keep any activity center in open and clear space.
- It is preferrably to avoid buying baby-walkers, that are classified as dangerous by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Opt for a controllable volume feature.
- Look for 360 degree seat.