New Parent here -- what kind of activity gym do I want?
May 9, 2014 6:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm boring even myself with this question, but I am totally stuck on this -- which activity gym would my two month old like?

Parents of metafilter, help me! I'm looking for an activity gym that will help the kiddo with tummy time, and even better keep him/her occupied for stints of time. I have a gift certificate to use, so I'm not worried about price as I usually am.

Here's the thing -- do I get something simple and pretty looking (for me?) This one comes to mind.

Or something with crazy colors, lights, music, action? Like this?

Or any other mats your child loved?

Not sure if the bright colors/music stuff really does stimulate their brains/senses or just overstimulate them? Or would a simpler mat encourage more creativity or help her learn to play by herself? Any research on this?

I know I'm overthinking this but I rarely buy stuff new and usually pick up whatever is on consignment. But the gift card means choices and I'm agonizing! :)
posted by caoimhe to Shopping (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The simple, pretty looking one will only entertain your two month old. When kiddo is a little older, he/she's gonna like - and be ready for - a little more action. Also I think to our eyes and ears, this stuff seems overstimulating because we have a baseline of 'normal.' To babies, the whole world is stimulating. The mat isn't going to be the thing that tips them over the edge.

I hate the bright craziness of our mat but I also hang it up on one of those over-the-door hooks and keep it mostly out of the way unless we're using it so I'm not looking at it resentfully it all day.
posted by sestaaak at 6:27 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Either one is fine. Really. The best thing for you to do, on whichever mat (or even on the bare rug), is to get down there yourself and stick your face near the kiddo's.
posted by Liesl at 6:29 AM on May 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

We have the Tiny Love activity gym, and our son seemed to like it while he used it (he's 7.5 months now and kinda over it now that he can sit up). He never cared about the music very much, but that is very baby-specific. At two months he just liked looking up at the dangling creatures; the only feature that was important was being able to remove the animals so he could focus on 1 at a time when he was overwhelmed, or to reconfigure them so he didn't get bored. He didn't even notice or care about anything else on the gym at that point, but once he got to be 4-5 months he LOVED the mirror, so that is a feature I would recommend. He also really liked the crinkly parts that he could crunch in his fist, so I would recommend getting one that has some features like that.
posted by gatorae at 6:36 AM on May 9, 2014

We literally had both (one at our house, one at grandmas). Some roll-up and store easier than others, so if you have storage issues you can consider that (bright starts was easier to put away).

Getting a set of rings is key, as you can adjust the height of the toys. And they are good for quick, toss in the diaper bag toys.

Another point to consider -- the baby will mainly be learning how to grasp, roll, focus eyes and listen to you. So if there's one that would be more fun for you to talk up (look at the cool zebra, or owls are awesome, etc), pick that one. Talking to your kid (and in a few months reading to them) is really key, and has been shown to be important. Gaps between kids in learning are usually associated with kids that have heard a lot of language and those that haven't.
posted by typecloud at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

After extensive research, Mrs.Know-it-some picked the Tiny Love Gymini. Kids all loved it.

But really, don't worry so much about the fine distinctions between playmats or other products. Others will be fine. The baby might like another slightly more or slightly less, but the difference will be very small. Any difference in developmental effects will be so small as to be meaningless. Often they will prefer to play with a plastic bowl or cardboard box. For several months as an infant, my son's favorite toy was a cardboard envelope we got in the mail that was blue on one side and green on the other; he turned it a few thousand times.

I often think back to what our wise pediatrician said when we asked if we should give the kids fish oil supplements: "Did you take them when you were children?" "No." "Well, you seemed to have turned out OK."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:38 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I've been torn about the activity mats with my kiddo for awhile. A friend got the skip hop one (and just so you know, there's an undersea model for twenty five dollars less at babies r us) and her son played with it for about two months. When I asked her if they're worth the money, she said probably not. If I get one, and I probably won't now, it'll probably be from a kid's consignment shop or craigslist.

What I do instead is put her down on a quilt with lots of crinkly, jingly, noisemaking toys (Lamaze brand are great) instead, usually in the kitchen. I play some music, talk to her, and hang out nearby cooking or playing around on my computer. We converse now and then, I play with her a bit but not intrusively. Your kiddo is just about to make the milestone leap where they start grabbing and jingling things and a blanket and a toy or two are plenty for that. But then, I'm cheap.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:39 AM on May 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

Be prepared for the possibility that your kid will hate any of those options. My son basically refused to be on the floor by himself for longer than two minutes for like two or three months.

Kids are weird.

Also: my son's current favorite toy is a foot-long end of an unused dishwasher drain hose.* It's got a handle-like bit on the end that fits his hand perfectly. He waves the thing around like a sword and blows into it like a trumpet. Blocks and toys and whatever are great and all, but little dude loves that hose.

*I used the rest of it as an anti-cat conduit for some power cables. Damned cats.
posted by valkyryn at 6:52 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have an older version of this mat which the little one really liked.

The best part of this mat was being able to fold up the sides and know that her toys would stay in reach and she wouldn't be able to roll away at all. She even fell asleep in it a few times, at a time when she would only go to sleep in someone's arms.
posted by keeo at 7:46 AM on May 9, 2014

We, too, enjoyed our Tiny Love Gymini.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 AM on May 9, 2014

The Tiny Love Gymini was quite popular in our house as well.
posted by Silvertree at 9:07 AM on May 9, 2014

Either one is fine. The cool thing about the baby gyms is they have those clips to attach the toys. So if / when your little one starts preferring toys that make noise or flash, you can swap out the existing toys with lightweight ones like these ones - and later clip them to your stroller as well.
posted by Mchelly at 9:50 AM on May 9, 2014

The musical star on the Baby Einstein Caterpillar was a hit for multiple babies in our family.
posted by MrsBell at 11:00 AM on May 9, 2014

I'm with PhoBWanKenobi and Liesl. Someone gave my kid one of those, and he was not interested in it unless I was down on the floor playing with it too, and we could have done that with any old toys (or anything shiny or crinkly, actually). And he grew out of it really quickly, by the time he was ready to sit up at six months.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2014

I have the first one for our 4 week old (she obviously doesn't so much with it yet, besides look confused) and I think it'll suit her just fine later.

The fewer flashing lights and music the better, in this house. You can always supplement with toys if he's not entertained enough by the mobiles.
posted by lydhre at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2014

We have the Fisher Price kick and play piano mat. The arch can be positioned overhead, but also on the mat for tummy time. I do wish it had a small pillow though. It's got the really awesome piano at the end, which my 12-week-old loves. The piano also flips up, so when she's sitting she can play it on her lap.
posted by bizzyb at 2:17 PM on May 9, 2014

I actually really, really loved the Lamaze Space Symphony (YouTube review). The space theme is a nice change of pace from all the jungle and forest animals (how cute is that rocket?!?) and the music it plays was really quite pleasant. I think that rotating motor kept it interesting for my daughter, too.
posted by kittydelsol at 3:03 PM on May 9, 2014

Eh, flashing lights and music are put on these toys for your sake, not your child's. Avoid them -- friends and relatives will already give you more flashy noisy things than you can handle.

Most of these mats let you dangle random things within reach of baby hands, and that's all you need.
posted by swift at 8:03 PM on May 9, 2014

My experience is that, in the end, go with the free one another parent has lying around. Does it have some high contrast stuff with moving parts? You know those moving parts? You can buy more of them -- seriously, any toys with clips can attach to any one of them.

In our experience, they were great from about two months old until maybe 5 months old in several 15 minute increments/day (think:shower, preparing food, getting stuff ready to go out). Then the kids just wanted the toys on them and we took down the structure and the map. Complete interest was lost about 6 months old because of the introduction to solid foods.

I certainly wouldn't spend $75 on one. Probably not more than $30 on one.
posted by zizzle at 5:36 AM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't fathom spending full price on one of these, though we've had a couple of Tiny Love ones and been happy with them.

Music: No. Either your baby won't care, or your baby will figure out how to operate it and then operate it over and over and over on endless repeat until you lose your mind and take the batteries out. Play ambient music in the room, or hang up something musical that you can take away when you get sick of it (see below).

Flashing lights: No.

The most important feature is that it has a lot of grommets so you can hang whatever you want in a variety of positions. You do this with the plastic links linked upthread. This way you can change the toys around as much as you and your baby likes, and you have control over how stimulating it is. (A 2 month old needs one or two things to look at; a 6 month old may like an entire dangly forest.) You can hang things down low so your baby can see eye to eye with the moose, or just out of reach to make him stretch, or whatever.

But if you can get one free or secondhand, do. This is not the sort of thing that babies tend to wear out, so there should be some available via freecycle or consignment sales or secondhand stores or what have you.
posted by telepanda at 8:43 AM on May 12, 2014

We have the forest friends and our daughter seems to enjoy it quite a bit. For 2-3 months, we used it every day and she liked it a lot. Mostly it's a place to hang the toys from so she can interact with them before she knows how the pick things up and grab them. She's now 4 months and insist on being on her tummy, and can grab things, so the dangly feature isn't so useful now, BUT the canopy arch thingies are useful for keeping the mat flat when she grabs and pulls on the edges - blankets get wrinkled up into a ball in about a minute, and then there's your baby on the not so clean floor. I know people say that "they only use it for a month or two" but she used it all. the. time. for two months, and it's still pretty useful now. On a per hour of use basis it's actually been relatively low cost. Either one you linked to is fine. As I said we have the forest friends and it's plenty interactive. If you think the other one is too tacky, you're not depriving your kid of stimulation by getting something else.
posted by annie o at 6:48 AM on May 27, 2014

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