Life with a newborn and a preschooler can be pretty busy. I’ve found that ensuring this new babe gets plenty of developmentally-appropriate activity time to be a bit more difficult with a 4 year old to also look after, but we’re trying to ensure she has ample opportunity for exploring the world around her and lots of free play. Today I’m letting you know about the many benefits of activity time for babies as well as giving away a great toy from B. Toys.
Why is activity time so beneficial?
Babies really need solo activity time to not only explore their surroundings, but to also work on developmental skills. Simple stations with minimal bells and whistles work best. A few simple toys that encourage gross motor development and stimulate the senses are the best for babies. A simple activity mat is what we chose for both kids and it worked well. Play mats also allow babies to use both their hands and feet when exploring. Activity mats are also great since they can easily be packaged up and take up minimal space for travelling. If the mat detaches, they can also be used as a simple play mat. There are some wonderful benefits of activity mats for babies, including:
- Gross Motor Development: Most activity mats or gyms are meant to be educational and encourage a baby’s development. An activity or playmat encourages crawling as well as the use of hands and arms and legs, helping to build muscles. Using them for tummy time can also help strengthen the neck back and arms. The mats also encourage development of skills like rolling and crawling. Lastly, they help babies work on hand-eye coordination.
- Visual Development: Activity mats encourage visual skills with the different objects that normally have constrasting and bright colours. Once they start shifting their focus from item to another, this is the perfect place to do it.
- Sensory Stimulation: Most playmats have bright colours and different textured fabrics. Smooth plastic, rubber or soft toys or animals, as well as a mirror to see their reflection. Some also have crinkly fabric, which little ones seem to love. All of these help stimulate their senses.
When you’re looking for an activity mat, make sure it:
- Has a wide range of positions to hang the toys. When they are really little, it’s great to have the toys right above them to stare at while on their backs, but as they grow, you want to be able to move them to the bottom and sides so they can work on turning their heads, or for tummy time.
- Has removable toys. Make sure you can remove the toys so you can just dangle one or two at a time if you like. This way, you can only use what is needed for the baby’s development at that time. Highly visual but simple toys like a mirror, bell or rattle are great.
- The mat separates from the activity bars. This will allow you to use it for tummy time, practice rolling, or just let you get down for face-to-face playtime.
CanDo Kiddo has some more really helpful information on the importance of playtime and activity mats in general.
Wonders Above Activity Mat
This baby girl is loving her B. Toys Wonders Above activity mat and so are we. It meets all of the recommendations for the best activity mats to look for. The thick quilted bottom makes it nice and cozy and we can easily remove the activity bars to make it a cozy mat to move around on. The activity arch has some great toys, including her favourite, the mirror. I am a big fan of mirrors for babies as they love to look at themselves.
There are also two rattles, a teether toy and a plush balloon. It’s the perfect mix of simple toys that can be used for all stages of development from birth to 18 months or so. The mat is also washable, which is perfect (and pretty much necessary) for babies. The toys are easy to hang up and detach so you can move them around or use just one or two at a time. We’re always rotating the toys to different spaces or switching them out so she can focus on just a couple at once. There’s a great variety of toys that will grow with her developmentally as well. Plus, the fact this mat is so plush is great for tummy time as it provides her with a cozy surface. This mat is used SO much in our house. It is normally the first place we put baby K on after her morning change and feed, and we use the cozy quilt when we’re having outdoor activity time as well. I’ve already written about B. Toys as I love their commitment to sustainability and focus on simple toys that encourage the imagination.
Another one of our favourite baby toys that big K used for quite a while (and still sometimes plays with) are the One Two Squeeze Blocks. These are also one of the best toys for travelling since they are lightweight, have their own bag made out of recycled materials, and are great for learning, plus fun and safe for little ones. Teething babies love to chew on them, too! I’m excited to be able to give away this great block set from B. to one of my readers. Just check out the B. Toys website and let me know what other item you’d love to try.