As a parent you’re going to love having a baby playing mat also because it’s very easy to use, clean, it is portable (you can easily fold it and take with you on a vacation) and can also be customized (you can always hang extra or different toys) so you won’t have to worry about activity and entertainment away from home. Although designed for babies, it’s suitable for toddlers as well and it’s safe to say it grows with your little one.
As mentioned they’re appropriate for newborn babies, but at early stages, babies are only able to focus on the nearest toys meaning at this phase the playing mat is helpful with the development of visual understanding plus strengthening the grasping and reaching reflexes. In case you’ve got musical toys and accessories attached, there’s also stimulation of the auditory skills.
As they grow and their eyesight develops, the colors become more clear and their focus sharper, it becomes easy to play with all toys, not just the nearest ones. Other than engaging the facial and neck muscles, they’re going to rely on their legs and arms as well, crawling and walking.
Therefore, a baby mat ‘forces’ babies to use hands and feet to explore the mat and reach out for toys which is what contributes to their physical development. There are, of course, additional benefits you’d highly appreciate.
Baby play mat allows babies to learn the basics of cause and effect. The mat stimulates ‘primary circular reactions’, meaning it encourages babies to repeat an action they did by chance (for example, hitting a toy by mistake).
As babies grow, they pull on, grab or kick a toy intentionally (secondary circular reactions) and repeat them because they find them fun. Simply put, the mat in some sense ‘forces’ babies to interact with dangling toys, teaching them how to play while helping develop their reasoning and spatial awareness.
Playmats for toddlers to support a baby’s visual perceptual skills. This is because babies prefer objects with highly contrasting colors and play matt design usually is a contrast of bright colors and textures (e.g. soft fabrics, smooth plastic), more so when you combine it with different types of colorful toys and accessories, from rattles to teethers.
Gross Motor Development
A baby play pad stimulates a baby to crawl and use his/her legs, hands and arms crucial for building muscle and core strength. More importantly, it encourages lying on the stomach which strengthens the neck and back, and also supports the development of gross motor skills (e.g. crawling, rolling and walking), dexterity, hand-eye coordination, speech, sensory and even feeding skills (a stronger neck better supports the jaw essential for talking and eating).
You’ve probably heard this before: don’t hold your baby too much or you’re going to end up spoiling it. Truth is, a parent’s embrace is necessary for the proper growth, physically, intellectually and emotionally, knowing it can calm them immediately and there’s no limit as to how much or how long you should or shouldn’t hold your newborn.
This being said, you would know when the time comes to encourage independence all with the help of a crawling mat since all the toys, colors and textures it abounds in would spark your baby’s interest without you needing to motivate it.
It wouldn’t be long before time spent in your arms reduces as opposed to increasing playtime and activity, crucial for the growth of a confident individual. There’s no need to point out you’re going to love having some time off yourself to do your chores around the home and finish up the work tasks while keeping your little one busy.
A word of caution though, never leave the child unattended for a longer period!
Communication and Interaction
The aspect of communication shouldn’t be overlooked either because each and every toy on the mat, the patterns, colors, shapes, sizes, and sounds offer the chance to enlarge the vocabulary of a toddler, even more, when you join in the game occasionally.
Furthermore, this is related to stimulating the curiosity that we all have since infancy, and set the grounds for problem-solving skills that are vital for critical thinking later on in life.
When babies reach the third month, that’s when they start noticing themselves and this is where the baby-safe mirrors can prove to be key in promoting self-discovery. From the fifth month onward you can expect to start seeing some fun faces and be treated to contagious laughter when your baby looks at himself/herself in the mirror, enough to brighten any day, even those really bad ones.
Article Credit: Olivia Hammonds