When can my baby use a play mat and what are the benefits? {Sponsored Post}

I recently talked a bit about play mats in my 0-6 month toy round up post – mentioning how we have used a small play mat (slowly graduating to the larger ALZip Eco Color Folder mat by Wunderkids) since James was a newborn. Let’s explore any evidence behind play mat use, what you can use a play mat for at each stage and how it might be beneficial for baby’s development!

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post by Wunderkids, but this does not affect my opinion of the product or what I have written here. Please be advised that this post is not medical advice nor should it be interpreted that way. It is for informational purposes only. Please seek medical advice from your healthcare professional.

Tummy Time and Floor Time

The best use for a play mat in the early days is as a tummy time spot or just a safe spot to lay baby down on their back. A small play mat or a large one like the Wunderkids option which provides lots of cushion and support, are both options here depending on the space you have and your preference. I will mention, like I did in my recent instagram reel of the mat, that it folds up easily and can therefore be stored in between uses if you have a smaller home space like us.

Why is tummy time important?

If you talk to an expert – which in my eyes for this subject would be a pediatric physiotherapist (PT) or occupational therapist (OT); and of course your paediatrician – you’ll soon hear about the benefits of tummy time. Tummy time helps to prevent positional plagiocephaly, which is a flat spot on the head due to baby being in the same position with pressure in the same area of the head too often. It also helps baby develop needed muscle strength to achieve future milestones like rolling, crawling, sitting and so on; and promotes motor skill development in general.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 2-3 rounds of tummy time per day for about 3-5 minutes to start. It is common for babies not to enjoy this – Safe to Sleep has some tummy time tips here and the AAP also recommends some play options during tummy time to keep baby entertained which can be found in detail here.

Beyond tummy time, it is also important to give baby just general floor time – especially as they grow. It allows them to explore their environment and learn about it, which aids in their development. It is also a big sensory experience. A play mat can provide a safe space for both these activities- just make sure both activities are always supervised by an adult.

Rolling and Sitting

As baby grows and develops, they will be able to do more things – this usually starts with rolling and then eventually moves into sitting up (usually between 4-6 months with support and 7-9 months without). Once again, having a play mat is great for these activities because it provides a softer surface for a baby who is learning to move.

I have found with both my kids (and most babies) that both these activities come with tumbles. Rolling can be surprisingly rough at times – especially when baby is first learning and maybe moves with too much force. It’s nice to provide them with a soft surface for this. If your baby is having a hard time with rolling – tummy time may be the answer and they may need more of it! A play mat is the perfect space for baby to practice and learn this skill. However – if you do have concerns about your baby’s development (ideally they should be rolling between 4-6 months), please see your paediatrician or family doctor, or a pediatric OT/PT for assessment.

Sitting is another one where baby takes some time to figure it out – they may fall over from a sitting position often in the early days. Having a play mat gave me comfort during this phase – because I knew they were usually landing on a softer surface. Once again – if baby is struggling to sit, tummy time helps with strengthening for this skill too. You can also support baby to sit comfortably on a play mat by either using a pillow behind them or sitting behind them yourself. If baby is not sitting by 9 months, see your healthcare professional.

Crawling

After rolling (and usually after sitting) comes the crawl! What a fun stage for a first time parent to experience (but maybe not as fun for us 2+ time parents haha!!). This is a skill babies typically pick up around 7-9 months (it is a large range of time for most milestones, so don’t sweat it in the early period!). Whether baby is army crawling or reciprocal (knee) crawling a play mat continues to be a great option for comfort and safety. An added benefit to the Wunderkids mat is that it is very sturdy and supportive while being comfortable. It makes a great crawling surface, as you can see in my reel.

Tummy time continues to be important to encourage crawling. You can also try other encouragements like doing push up motions with baby on the play mat or show them how to rock on their knees. Our parent knees aren’t what they used to be – so doing this on a play mat has the added benefit of also being more comfortable for you!!

Bonus: Promote Sibling Play

An unexpected bonus of our play mat is that my toddler loves it too – even at almost 3 years old! It is a safe space for her to jump and play with her toys in comfort. It also allows her and her brother to play together (mostly happily) which I love to see. She always asks to put the mat down because she loves to play on it!

The Wunderkids EcoColor Folder

I mentioned above that we had switched over to a larger play mat in recent months, the ALZip Eco Color Folder mat by Wunderkids. I previously shared it on Instagram and we love it. The mat came at exactly the right time for James, as he was just starting to sit independently. I discussed above how a play mat can provide a softer surface for baby’s learning to move – and this is exactly what this mat did for him! Those early sit, crawl and stand days are full of lots of tumbles and bumps, and I felt so much better once we had the Wunderkids mat because at least when he was on it – all these things were happening on a softer surface!

James has now been crawling for some time and uses the mat frequently. However, we use it for more than a play mat – my kids love this thing. It really can be a part of imaginary play too. Like I said, my daughter loves it just as much if not more than her brother! It’s soft, easy to clean (big bonus for me and my kids who seem to make a mess on every surface they come into contact with) and super supportive for early movers.

Another huge selling point for me was that it folds up – we have a small home and mats that roll up have not worked for us in the past. They’re hard to store and move. The material of many mats was not good for our pets who would walk across them if we left them down. I love this mat because when the kids are done using it, I just fold it up and can stack it right against the wall. You could even put it away in a designated area.

Highly recommend if you’re looking for a play mat to support your child’s development!

Additional Resources

Babies Need Tummy Time – Safe to Sleep

Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play – American Academy of Pediatrics

Tummy Time Activities – American Academy of Pediatrics

When Can Baby Roll Over? Tips to Help baby Roll – Pathways

When Will Baby Sit Up On Their Own? – Pathways

You Can Encourage Your Baby to Crawl – Pathways

Studies to Learn More

Randomized controlled trial of an early child obesity prevention intervention: Impacts on infant tummy time by Gross et al. (2017)

Moving into tummy time, together: Touch and transitions aid parent confidence and infant development by Palmer et al. (2019)

Weekly group tummy time classes are feasible and acceptable to mothers with infants: A pilot cluster randomized controlled trial by Hewitt et al. (2020)

One thought on “When can my baby use a play mat and what are the benefits? {Sponsored Post}

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s