Play gyms are perfect for inquisitive babies who are always exploring their surroundings. A play gym not only keeps babies engaged for hours, but also helps in their growth and development. This AptParenting article lists some amazing benefits of this infant toy.
It is important to limit the time the baby spends in a play gym. Some overstimulated infants can get cranky and irritated. It is best to let the baby play only till he/she remains contended and happy.
Play gyms, activity mats, or play mats are ideal for firing the imagination of your infant, and will keep him/her entertained for hours by engaging his/her senses. The play gym is basically a soft mat with arches to hang various toys overhead. Some have extra features, such as baby-safe mirrors, lights, and music, to keep the baby entertained for long hours. The baby can relax on the soft, comfortable mat while playing with the attached toys.
Although this mat can be used for newborns, it is only when a baby is around three months old that he/she starts to enjoy battering and grasping toys. The play gym with its interactive features can encourage and promote the baby’s physical and mental development. It can provide numerous benefits including external sensory stimulation and vital ‘tummy time’ for babies. In this AptParenting article, we look at the baby play gym advantages that aid in the child’s growth and development.
Provides an Engaging Play Area
Play gyms are a fun and engaging toy for an infant. The bright mat coupled with some amazing colorful toys, such as teethers, rattles, and baby mirrors, keep the baby engaged for hours. They can soothe and calm a cranky baby, and also keep him/her entertained while you go about doing your household chores. Some play gyms have computer-generated tunes and nature sounds or bright lights that keep an infant hooked for a long time. Many play gyms have detachable toys that the baby can play with even when he/she is not on the play mat.
Stimulates Visual and Tactile Senses
Infants are near-sighted, and anything too far away can seem blurry to them. When they are around two to three months old, they can shift their gaze or focus from one object to another that are about 6-8 inches apart and 1 foot away from their chest. They are also attracted towards bright contrasting colors. The bright, contrasting-colored toys in play gyms enhance the child’s visual senses and help in developing his/her visual awareness skill. Apart from the bright colors, play mats have textured fabric and crinkly toys for sensory stimulation and tactile development.
Improves Hand-eye Coordination and Fine Motor Skills
The grasping and holding skills of a newborn is dominated by reflexes. This is the reason they tend to reflexively grasp your finger when you press it against their palm. Babies, aged 5 to 6 months, learn to grasp things voluntarily. They are able to control their reflexes, and learn to reach out for objects. When a child reaches out, grasps and swings at the overhead toys, it helps in improving their grasping skills and hand-eye coordination.
Enhances Gross Motor Skills
This is probably one of the most important benefits of a play gym. It provides the baby an incentive to use and develop his/her muscles. Moreover, it gives him/her important ‘tummy time’, which not only prevents flat spots, but also helps in strengthening his/her back, arm, and neck muscles. This is especially vital for an infant who has just learned to rollover. This ‘tummy time’ also helps in development of other gross motor skills such as standing and walking.
The small baby-proof mirrors in play gyms promote self discovery in babies aged three to five months. At this age, they notice themselves in the mirror. At around five to eight months, they respond to their mirror images by smiling, laughing, and making faces. Baby gyms are extremely helpful in developing these self-awareness skills.
Safety and Portability
Baby gyms provide a safe and comfortable environment for your baby to play. The padded cushion mattress provides a safe spot for the baby on the ground, as they learn to roll over and play. Some models have tummy time pillows that the baby can lie on. Most play gyms are easy to clean and require little space for storage. They are portable and can be carried easily while traveling.
Grows with the Baby
The best part about play gyms is the versatility that they offer. For a newborn, the overhead toys can enhance his/her grasping skills. When he/she outgrows the play mat, all you need to do is remove the arches and use it as a normal play mat for a toddler.
Some amazing play gyms for babies are:
★ Fisher-Price Rainforest Melodies and Lights Deluxe Gym
★ Bright Starts Petals & Friends Activity Gym
★ Baby Einstein Baby Neptune Ocean Adventure Play Gym
★ Infantino Explore & Store Activity Gym – Owl
★ Skip Hop Treetop Friends Activity Gym
Parents should also keep in mind certain safety guidelines and tips. It is advisable not to leave the child unattended in play mats for long periods of time. Never place the play gym on a bed or table and leave the child unattended in it.