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“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!
You can read about the benefits of music from an early age here.
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.
BATTOP Baby Play Mat Kick Piano Play Gym Baby Activity Center
The Baby Play Gym is designed to grow with your baby as she develops. If you’re looking for the best baby activity center, this amazing grow-with-me play mat is the perfect option for you.
The playmat for babies is equipped with a piano keyboard, which rewards your child with pleasant melodies every time she kicks the keys on the mat with her feet. Bright lights and music help to stimulate necessary senses such as hearing and sight.
The activity center comes with five different toys. Each one is made of soft-to-touch fabric and features an adorable owlet, a tiny star, and an amusing crescent moon as its centerpiece. These baby toys for babies aged 0 to 3 months are intended to keep them occupied and entertained.
The overhead arches and keyboard should be removed before washing the baby gym in the washing machine. The mat can be folded up easily, making it small and portable enough to travel with or even use outside.
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.
Skip Hop Baby Activity Center: Interactive Play Center with 3-Stage Grow-with-Me Functionality
This Skip Hop baby activity center, developed in collaboration with a pediatrician, encourages children to play and learn in a “whole body” manner.
It is simple to assemble, and it includes toys that can be placed anywhere for the baby. It also includes a 360-degree rotating seat that turns and stretches as the baby grows.
Because of the Discovery Window, babies can see their own feet while playing, which helps them learn about cause and effect. As the baby grows, the activity center becomes a sturdy table for coloring, playing, and other activities.
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.
Fisher-Price Sit-to-Stand, 3-in-1 Entertainer Converts From Newborn Mat and Infant Activity Center to Toddler Play Table
Your little animal lover will be entertained as they progress from tummy time to sitting and spinning, then standing and exploring with the Fisher-Price 3-in-1 Sit-to-Stand Activity Center. Using a bright and soft removable play mat, repositionable activity toys, and a tall, windy racing ramp that replaces the center seat, you can switch up the entertainment as your little explorer grows.
Every activity in this 3-in-1 animal-themed activity center will keep your little monkey occupied, from tummy time to exploring all around later. Infants can lay down on the soft play mat and interact with the musical alligator, while older babies can spin around and explore the entire 360-degrees of exciting toys and activities on offer in the fabric seat. To make things even better, an add-on ramp with shape-sorter bugs to send sliding down is available so toddlers can keep the fun going! This is where the process of development begins.
As they progress from sitting and reaching and interacting with the activities to pulling up to a stand and cruising around the table, their gross motor skills are greatly enhanced. The senses of your baby are stimulated by bright, cheerful colors, as well as playful lights and sounds, as they develop. As baby explores the variety of activities she is introduced to the concepts of cause and effect.
Disney Baby MINNIE MOUSE PeekABoo Activity Jumper with Lights and Melodies
Surprise your baby with hours of peek-a-boo playtime entertainment that will keep her entertained for hours. Twelve toys and activities create a magical world in which your baby can jump and play with their favorite Disney character. The bouncy seat rotates so y our baby will never be bored because there will be laughter coming from every direction! In addition, she won’t outgrow the giggles too soon because the tippy-toes can bounce from precisely the right height every time, thanks to the four adjustable positions on the toy.
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.