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The 11 Very Best Play Mats for Babies and Kids

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A lot of baby gear can be garish — bright colors and eye-popping designs stimulate a child’s development but might not fit your more sophisticated design scheme — and baby play mats can be some of the primary offenders. For those looking for play mats and floor mats that are both padded and nice-looking (and safe for your child to spend a lot of time on), I spoke to 11 editors, bloggers, and fellow parents about the ones they use — and tested a couple out myself with my two kids. Below are the 11 very best (aesthetically pleasing) play mats for babies and kids, any of which would look great not only in a nursery but in your living room. While these mats are not to be confused with activity gyms, which typically come with an overhead structure that holds hanging toys, we included two for their versatility. You can remove the structure and use the mats on their own.

What we’re looking for


Depending on your child’s age, you’ll want to get a mat that is made of either fabric or foam. For babies, I prefer a cotton mat because I like the idea of putting them on something more natural when they’re young. And they don’t necessarily need the extra padding since they’re not mobile yet. Most fabric mats will be machine washable. Toddlers, on the other hand, will benefit from the cushion provided by foam for their more active playing.

Still, using a foam mat for children at any age has its perks. Practically speaking, foam mats are easier to clean than fabric mats because they’re typically waterproof, so you can simply wipe down any spills or spit-up. Most will be perfectly safe for babies and tots to play on as they’re likely made of nontoxic materials with minimal off-gassing, so you won’t have to worry about exposing your little one to harmful chemicals. They’ll be free of harmful chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, lead, latex, PVC, and formaldehyde, but check out each manufacturer’s note about their mat’s composition for details.


Size matters, too. A fabric mat will be smaller and therefore easier to fold up and store, while foam mats are a lot larger and thicker (and heavier), like an area rug, which probably means they’ll stay out. Putting them away takes effort as you’ll have to roll them up and stick them in a closet. Foam mats made out of puzzlelike tiles are lighter with pieces that can be stacked.


I only included nice-looking — or at least inoffensive — mats on this list with designs and color schemes that would work in most living rooms and nurseries. While style is subjective, there are a few other considerations to make, including whether you want something that’s reversible, giving you two design options in one, or something you can put together yourself, like one made out of tiles. A couple of our picks for babies come with activities, if you’re looking for something more interactive.

Best overall play mat for babies

Material: Cotton with polyester fill, machine washable | Size: 40-inch diameter | Design: Reversible

This round mat from Pehr, which was recommended by two of our experts, is made of cotton with a fluffy polyester fill, making it more like a blanket or a quilt. It has a diameter of 40 inches, so it’s compact and easy to pack up. Says Fatherly deputy editor Matt Berical, “This is a very plain, design-friendly play mat with no bells and whistles,” and he notes that “it has a really nice hand-screen-printed design” of delicate line drawings of sea creatures on one side, while the reverse is patterned with stripes. Berical adds that the quilted cotton mat is gentle and available in a few styles, telling us, “A lot of parents like it because it fits in everywhere.” Ashlee Neuman, the Bump’s content director, recommends Pehr’s play mat — she likes the Noah’s Ark pattern that has colorful animals on one side and stars on the other.

Best (less expensive) play mat for babies

Material: Fabric | Size: 5 by 3 feet | Design: Built-in activities

A lot of play mats for babies include a fabric base with an overhead “gym” attached (and are commonly known as play or activity gyms). But for those looking for just a mat, Berical recommends this extra-large one from Tiny Love that features built-in activities and a variety of textures. “It’s a large quilted mat that works as a portable play space for kids,” he says. “It’s made to help kids move around and interact, and it folds up really small, so it’s easy for parents to pack in a bag whenever they go somewhere. It’s also machine-washable.” It comes with a peekaboo tree, a mirror to encourage tummy time, a variety of textures, a crinkly foxtail, a teether, and shiny satin ribbons.

Best memory-foam play mat for babies

Material: Memory foam | Size: 3 by 3 feet | Design: Velcro handles

While the previous two mats are made of fabric, if you’re looking for a baby-friendly one made of foam, I recommend this one from Squishy Mats, which I’ve personally used with both of my kids. (I rotate this with the Skip Hop activity gym below.) It’s made of memory foam and has a supersoft Minky top layer and a nonskid backing that make it plush and comfortable for baby to lie — and play — on. And according to the brand, it’s been certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While it doesn’t come with any bells or whistles in terms of patterns or design, it conveniently folds up thanks to a Velcro handle. Plus its small size — three feet by three feet — makes it perfect for infants and really easy to throw in the wash when it gets dirty. I put a colorful swaddle blanket on top of it to make it look a little more interesting, and the extra protection means I don’t have to wash the mat as often (it helps that the mat is slightly smaller than the average receiving blanket, allowing you to cover the entire thing with one if you please).

Best play mat with removable activity gym for babies

Fabric: Polyester, machine-washable mat | Size: Approximately 4-foot diameter | Design: Removable overhead gym

If you want the dual function of an activity gym and a play mat, check out Lovevery’s play gym, which Berical first told us about and is now a favorite among parents. It was designed by the child-development experts behind the Strategist-approved age-targeted play kits, features a removable overhead gym made of sustainably sourced wooden legs, and has accessories like an organic-cotton Montessori ball, wooden batting ring, and teether — all of which are washable. “It’s comfortable for the baby, and there’s a lot of clever developmental aspects to it,” he says. “It’s just a good-looking and well-designed piece of equipment for your child.” The mat has flaps that open to reveal color tabs, textured ribbons, pockets, and graphic cards, all to stimulate the senses and encourage tummy time. The mat is made from baby-safe polyester materials, and the mouthable accessories are made with 100 percent organic cotton and silicone, and all fabric components are machine washable (you can wipe down the wooden and plastic parts).

Best (less expensive) play mat with removable activity gym for babies

Material: Fabric, machine-washable mat | Size: 3-foot diameter | Design: Removable overhead gym

For a more affordable option, Berical recommends Skip Hop’s Treetop Friends Baby Activity Gym, which he says is another popular choice among parents. It features a cloud-shaped padded, machine-washable surface with a couple of activities as well as an overhead gym with dangling toys that can be set up and removed in two minutes (it’s BPA, PVC, and phthalate free). My toddler used a now-discontinued version of this activity mat when he was a baby, and he especially loved looking at the light-up star and lullaby-playing lamb. I liked its muted color with its pops of (subtle) neon accents and that it comes with a removable tummy-time pillow. It’s durable too. We handed it down to a friend, then got it back when my second baby came last spring. After multiple washes, it always came out looking like new. (Unfortunately, the hanging toys are not washable, but they stayed decently clean.) “It’s a really nice padded activity mat with additions that everyone really likes,” Berical says. “The consensus is that even after kids have passed that stage, there’s still a use for it. It packs up really small, is comfortable, and is made with friendly materials.”

Best overall play mat for toddlers

Material: Foam, waterproof | Size: Customizable sizes | Design: Jigsaw tiles, rug pattern

For older kids who simply need a protective surface to play or learn to crawl on, foam floor mats are your best bet. House of Noa makes play mats that resemble rugs. Instead of being one piece, though, they are made of two-foot square jigsaw tiles that seamlessly interlock and are expandable. The brand’s mat comes recommended by several experts and parents, including former Babylist editor-in-chief Rebekah Otto and Neuman, who describes it as “a durable foam mat that has the look of a beautifully patterned rug.” In other words, it’s a great option for parents who want a more subtle mat in their living spaces. According to publicist Alisa Richter, “It’s aesthetically pleasing, and there’s a great selection of patterns and colors that blend in with most décor.” She adds that it’s lightweight and thus portable: “When we traveled, we often brought some of the squares so our son had a safe place to play.” Speech-language pathologist Ellice Kim Lacerda used the Noa mat for her kids. While she admits it’s on the pricier side, she says it looks nice and that the customer service is top-notch. “We had a few squares start peeling. When I contacted them, they sent us free replacements quickly,” she says. (She adds that the mats may not necessarily be great for households with dogs or cats, as their claws can scratch up the surface.) For publicist Sonya Li Casino, it’s the mat’s adaptability and expandable nature that won her over. “I found it practical, and I have since ordered two more sets because I keep wanting to cover more spaces,” she says. The brand sent me its newest Ula pattern with hand-illustrated designs inspired by Moroccan Berber rugs to test with my second child. The design looks quite sophisticated — even fooling a couple of visitors who thought it was a rug from afar. The foam is thick and on the firm side and has held up well to the shenanigans of my 4-year-old and 9-month-old, who especially loves removing the edge pieces and swinging them around like batons.

Each piece measures 24.8 inches, and you can choose a mat size depending on your space, starting at four by six feet and all the way up to ten by twelve feet It’s made of premium, nontoxic EVA foam with nontoxic dyes and inks, and it’s free of phthalates, lead, BPA, PFAS, PVC, formaldehyde, and latex.

Best (less expensive) play mat for toddlers

Material: Foam, waterproof | Size: 70 by 56 inches | Design: Jigsaw tiles, multicolor

If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, this jigsaw-style play mat from Skip Hop is a hit with parents and comes recommended by Otto, Neuman, and Greenpoint store Flying Squirrel’s owner, Kate Schmitz. “Skip Hop play mats are very tasteful instead of being horrible primary colors,” says Schmitz. They’re the most adaptable, too. Because the pieces are not square, “you can arrange them to create a pattern of your choosing, like chevron stripes,” adds Neuman. Otto calls out the flexibility that the pieces offer: “Because they can be reconfigured, you can change the look of them” depending on your child’s needs, she says, like arranging them into a longer piece to create a hallway for a crawler. “And there’s enough range in the colorways where if you have a gray couch and you want something to match, you can find something,” Otto adds. Speaking of colorways, the mat comes in gray and white or white, peach, and gray combinations. Each set comes with 40 triangle tiles and 32 edge pieces, all made with baby-safe EVA foam.

Best reversible play mat for toddlers

Material: Foam, water resistant | Size: 4 feet 8 inches by 7 feet | Design: Reversible

For a rug-style foam mat that comes in one piece, Los Angeles–based El Abad, the founder of the blog Happy Mom Land, recommends mats from L.A.-based company Ruggish. While she advises looking for mats that are ecofriendly, sustainably made, and have no chemical odors, design is a priority for Abad: “When it comes to home design, I love having things for babies, but I want them to fit into our home décor and furniture pieces and don’t want them to stick out like a sore thumb,” she says. “Even in the play area, I like things to be neutral and kept really clean, so I don’t want anything too busy-looking or too colorful.” The Romy play rug, which is made from nontoxic memory foam that is free of BPA, phthalates, lead, latex, and formaldehyde, has a double-sided design that resembles a rug on one side and has a graphic, interactive toy-car track on the other. “The track is on a gray background and is still very neutral looking,” Abad promises. “It’s not very colorful, but it’s fun. My little boys love driving their little cars on there, and it made them want to crawl along it.” Neuman recommends the Romy play rug, calling it a “splurge but oh so cute.”

Best (less expensive) reversible plat may for toddlers

Material: Foam, waterproof | Size: 83 by 51 inches | Design: Reversible

Registered dietitian Shirley Kim is a fan of Baby Care’s less expensive reversible foam mats, which feature ruglike patterns on one side and more kid-friendly prints on the other. “They are relatively light, so they’re easy to move around,” she says, adding that they’re a cinch to clean and comfortable for kids to sit and crawl on. Mother of two Julie Kim agrees, adding that the mats are low maintenance and durable. “We don’t baby a lot of our stuff — our mats have been folded up countless times in the past four years for all of our moves and still look fine, without creases,” she says. Julie Kim has a dog that walks over her mat daily and says “it has held up with that, too.” Available in a handful of patterns, the mats are waterproof, nontoxic, and free of phthalates, BPA, lead, latex, and formaldehyde.

Best play mat for toddlers (or babies) that comes in multiple sizes

From $55

Material: Vegan leather, water resistant | Sizes: Multiple sizes | | Design: Available in multiple colors and patterns

Gathre’s play mat comes recommended by Claude Viard, the owner of Chalet de la Lune and a member of Mater Mea, a community for Black mothers. The mini is one of the mat’s three sizes. Others are the smaller micro (which doubles as a changing pad) and the larger maxi. While this specific style isn’t padded, the brand does sell padded versions. And whether you go for padded or not, all the mats are made of durable vegan leather and can be used for other activities in addition to playtime. (I own the mat in the mini size and kept it under my toddler’s high chair to catch his mealtime messes.) Viard, who owns a large maxi Gathre mat, notes that even its biggest size is portable: “I can take the mat up to the lake or even just have a picnic on the deck or yard, and it’s comfy,” she says. In addition to a range of sizes, the waterproof mats come in lots of beautiful colors, plus they’re free of toxins, PVC, phthalates, and lead.

Most stylish reversible play mat for toddlers

Material: Foam, waterproof | Size: 6.5 feet by 4.5 feet | Design: Reversible

While all of the play mats on this list are nice-looking, Little Bot’s reversible mats, in our opinion, stand above the rest — at least when it comes to the sides that are meant to look more like rugs. They come recommended by Neuman, who says the “superchic foam mats feature high-contrast geometric patterns in neutral tones.” Little Bot sells a circular mat, too, should you prefer something round. The fire-retardant mats are nontoxic (that is, free of heavy metals, BPA, lead, formaldehyde, phthalates, and PVC), easy to wipe clean, and vacuum safe.

Some Strategist-approved toys for babies and kids

Our experts

• El Abad, founder of Happy Mom Land
• Matt Berical, Fatherly deputy editor
• Sonya Li Casino, publicist
• Julie Kim, mother of two
• Shirley Kim, registered dietitian
• Ellice Kim Lacerda, speech-language pathologist
• Ashlee Neuman, the Bump content director
• Rebekah Otto, former Babylist editor-in-chief
Alisa Richter, publicist
• Kate Schmitz, owner of Flying Squirrel
Claude Viard, owner of Chalet de la Lune and Mater Mea member

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The 11 Very Best Play Mats for Babies and Kids