A play mat is a floor covering that provides a safe, clean place for you to put your little one. They are available in a plethora of sizes, shapes, colours and materials.
After their cot or pram, the safest place to put your baby is on the floor. Putting a play mat on the floor allows your child to settle down comfortably at any age.
To begin with, when you put your baby on the floor they will stay put, and won’t move. But as they grow - and learn to roll, crawl, sit up and eventually walk - keeping them safe from daily tumbles is vital, especially since most of us do not have carpet in every room.
Ideally, children's playmat should be quick and easy to lay out, clean and pack away.
Who needs a play mat?
Every home with a child from newborn age upwards should consider having a children's playmat. It is an essential item for your baby's "must have" list.
When do I buy a play mat?
A play mat can be used from birth, but you’ll get the most use out of it once they start tummy time and wake sessions. A play mat offers your baby freedom to move outside of their crib, and to take in a different environment outside of their nursery, or room they sleep.
Why do I need a play mat?
Children’s playmats allow you to put your child down somewhere safe, clean, and soft. It will protect your child and your home.
A safe space
Around the world, flooring in homes varies. The flooring options are endless, but your flooring will likely include at least one of the following:
- tiles (porcelain, natural stone or ceramic).
Toddlekind play mats are suitable for all flooring types, including those with underfloor heating. They sit best on low pile carpet, rather than high-pile. If your floor is slippery, a rug pad underneath the play mat will help stop slippage.
When it comes to tumbles, carpet is undoubtedly the safest option because it is softer than other flooring types. However, it can be one of the least practical to keep clean, especially in high-traffic areas.
Crawling, rolling, sitting, playing … all of these activities take up a normal part of a child’s day and they do them on the floor. When you’re not looking, they probably lick the floor, and they definitely put their hands (which touch the floor constantly) in their mouth.
Something people don’t often think about when shopping for a play mat is that play mats offer great insulation. Toddlekind’s play mats are warm, cushioned, and provide insulation from cold floors, echoes and noise. They help maintain a comfortable temperature regardless of the season.
You don’t want to put your child on a dirty floor … enter the play mat.
A clean space
If I asked you, “where is the dirtiest place(s) in your home?”, what would you say?
Kitchen bin? Toilet?
Soap dispensers? Door handles?
Taps? …. the floor?
You would be correct in including all of those options.
Would you be surprised if I told you that your carpets are 4,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat? They have approximately 200,000 bacteria per square inch, according to research by Dr. Philip Tierno, Jr, microbiologist and immunologist at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Dr. Tierno, author of The Secret Life of Germs, has said rugs are botanical and zoological parks. When you walk or roll on your carpet the bacteria is disrupted, and some are brought closer to the surface.*
Research tells us that some germs strengthen children’s immune systems, and there are beneficial bacteria. But it’s the bad bacteria we want to be mindful of because children under two years of age are more vulnerable, especially as they build their immune systems.
Laying your baby directly on the floor can expose them to every bacteria you have picked up on your shoes.
The best way to eliminate this is to remove your shoes at the door, and put a play mat on the floor to create a barrier between the floor and your child.
Children's playmats offer a safe, soft place to encourage muscle development.
Tummy time should start from birth by lying your baby on your chest – but only do this when you're wide awake and unlikely to fall asleep.** Tummy time helps your baby develop motor skills, strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles, and also helps prevent them from getting a flat head.
The guide for tummy time is to spend one minute at a time, with 2 to 3 sessions per day. You can even have tummy time on the changing mat, while having supervised nappy free time. If your baby starts crying, it’s time for a break.
As your baby builds their strength you move them to the play mat.
Tummy time aids in the development of your baby’s neck, shoulder and back muscles. The development of these muscles is important because they will use these muscles to roll, sit up, crawl, and walk. A baby play mat offers a comfortable space for your baby to lay on their tummy and move.
Children's playmats encourage sense of touch.
Toddlekind’s play mats are textured to encourage your little one's curiosity as they become more alert. To begin with, you’ll see them looking at the mat, and then touching the texture/bumps. As their sense of touch develops, you can add toys or lay an activity gym on the play mat to encourage them to explore. An activity gym is a fun way of introducing new experiences.
It is important not to confuse a play mat with a play gym that has moving parts, such as hanging toys, crinkly corners, soft mirrors, and hanging toys for reaching and grabbing.
A play mat is a mat that you put on the floor and is available in varying sizes, shapes, colours and materials. When you are searching for a play mat, you will find they are called various names from children's playmat, playmats for toddlers or just play mats.
Ideally, a play mat should be quick and easy to clean and pack away.
Where do I buy a play mat?
Buying a play mat is straightforward, once you know what you want to buy. Every major retailer, as well as baby/child specific retailers, will have a wide range of play mats available in different sizes, materials, designs, styles and price ranges.
The popular puzzle play mats are categorised as a “toy” so these are found in both the toy and baby sections.
Toddlekind has its own website (online store), but its play mats are also stocked by retailers around the world - such as Buy Buy Baby, Bloomingdales and Selfridges. You can shop online with retailers which allows you to purchase other items for your child. Or pop in-store and view the product in person before you buy.
Parents want a play mat to be stylish and not a total eyesore in their home.
Convenient, safe and easy to clean are also key criteria for parents when purchasing a play mat. Play mats are lightweight and easy to pack away, or take on trips to visit grandparents, or holiday.
British mum of two Samantha Brückner was searching high and low for a stylish play mat for her baby. This led her on a journey to create Toddlekind´s prettier play mats in early 2018.
“I founded Toddlekind when my youngest daughter started to crawl. Whilst looking for a rug to protect her head from daily tumbles, I realised how unpractical a rug was with her constantly spitting up, she shared.
"A wipe-clean play mat seemed to be the perfect solution, but I couldn't find anything stylish to put in my new, modern home. This set me on a journey to develop a range of play mats made for children, but designed for parents like you and me.
Samantha designed Toddlekind’s play mats to be versatile. “I wanted them to offer a unique combination of stylish design, comfort, and practicality. But also ensure they are safe to use for baby, and the entire household”, she said.
* PR Web, “Grime Busters Warns Consumers That Germs and Microbiological Hazards Could be Lurking in Their Rugs and Carpets this Spring”, 30 April 2014, https://www.prweb.com/releases/grimebusters/amazingnokoutdist/prweb11810125.htm
** NHS, “How to keep your baby or toddler active”, 18 March 2020, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/babys-development/play-and-learning/keep-baby-or-toddler-active/