BABY PLAY MAT AND MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
The purchase of a play mat may be one of the most important pieces of gear that parents can purchase or receive as a baby shower gift. Available in various colors and patterns, shapes and sizes, textures and styles, a play mat reserves a space in the home to devote to baby play and motor skill development. The minutes that baby spends playing on the floor, known as floor time, is essential for achieving motor milestones. Through pushing her hands and legs and against the floor she discovers that she can move. Skills of locomotion such as the motor skill of rolling or crawling emerge during this play time. Tummy time is another infant developmental activity that is perfect for floor time. Here are our tips for parents on how to choose a play mat:
5 TIPS FOR CHOOSING THE BEST BABY PLAY MAT
- SIZE: Choose a play mat that is large in size so that as her motor skill of locomotion develop, such as rolling and crawling, she will have plenty of space to move and explore. Some mats, such as the one in the above photo, are created with interlocking pieces of foam. This allows you to expand the size of the mat as baby’s motor skills develop. For the first three months baby’s motor skills such as kicking occur without traveling in space. Soon, however, she learns to roll and needs more space.
- SOFTNESS: Remember Goldilocks? Keep in mind her careful choice of a bed: “This bed is too hard, this one is too soft, and this one is just right!” A play mat that is too soft and squishy will not give baby enough proprioception as she pushes her hands and knees down into the floor. The mat needs to be a bit firm. Although babies learn their motor skills on tile or hardwood floors in various cultures around the world, a play area too hard may make mom nervous that she will hit her head as she learns to sit or roll. A mat with just a bit of cushion will be “Just right!”
- PORTABILITY: Do you like to go to the park, beach, or overnight visit to grandma and grandpa’s house? Some play mats fold up easily for babies on the go. Travel styles include play mats made from interlocking foam pieces, quilts and blankets that are easily foldable and lightweight, and mats that roll up into a carry bag.
- EASY TO CLEAN: A play mat should be easily cleaned with a non-toxic cleaner or readily laundered in the washing machine. Part of maintaining a “green” home includes regular cleaning to remove dust that contains toxic particles.
- NON-TOXIC: Baby will spend hours on her play mat, so choose one made of non-toxic materials such as a cotton quilt. Remember that the skin is one of our largest organs and baby’s skin will be close to the mat for hours every day. Toxic baby products made of plastic may off-gas harmful chemicals for baby’s developing system and it is recommended to avoid them. Two cotton quilts placed one on top of the other works quite well as a natural option.
Remember to bring your body down onto the play mat as well so you can be at eye-level with baby. If she can see your face when she learns to lift her head it will be a wonderful reward!