Elly: Before anyone queries Cath’s sanity for blogging when she’s just got home from hospital, rest assured the following was written before the big event – consider it a treat for you all so you can escape my witterings for a day!
In the quest to mentally, intellectually and emotionally stimulate our baby we decided to acquire an activity gym. An activity gym, or mat, is typically a soft base with arches full of baby-friendly toys and activities that may have different colours, sounds, textures etc.
The first one we picked out was chosen rather quickly as it was just so lovely I couldn’t be bothered to look at any others. It was from JoJo Maman Bebe (below) and having duly ordered the mat, it then went out of stock forever, although it’s still on their website! Ah well. The search was back on (yes, I know I could have probably sourced it from Ebay, but I’ve never used Ebay in my life…) This time I looked into it properly and explored all their features, before presenting Mr Cath with a shortlist. There are so many out there to choose from, with a range of prices and features. Here is just a small selection of the different types of mat available…
1. Budget but cute
Tesco sell this basic mat – no arches – which includes a tummy time pillow (good for babies’ back and neck development, don’t you know). Not many features, and it’s tiny, but for £6.90 what did you expect? And you still get the pillow, two toys, a teether and a “bead chaser” whatever that is.
2. For budding Mozarts
Mothercare stock this Fisher Price Piano Gym for the princely sum of £26.50, which includes hanging toys with various sounds and textures as well as a mirror. The USP, however, is the playable piano keys that the baby can kick with their feet. I like this idea in theory but in reflection we decided the sound might get a bit exhausting after a while, rather like hearing a child practice a recorder (unless our baby really is a budding Mozart, which is doubtful with our musical genes!)
3. Luxury (or for the accident-prone)
At John Lewis you can purchase this very comfortable looking snail mat, which looks so cosy that if Mummy fit on it she might want to use it for a snooze. In terms of activities, the toy arch – full of toys that can “squeak, rattle and chime” – can detach and you can fix it on a car seat, cot or buggy. That’s a lot of versatility for £54.95.
4. For budding Einsteins
Mamas and Papas offer this Magic Stargaze activity mat, which enables your baby to contemplate the solar system. Yes, really. As you would expect from a mat at the top of the market (£89), it includes all sorts of gadgets and gizmos such as an interactive touch pad, lights and sounds triggered by the hanging toys, a “magic card” pack, teething toys and a mirror. The mat is even MP3 compatible so you can play your own music through the speakers if you get tired of the tunes provided.
5. The one we went for…
In the end, we decided to stick with our original choice of shop, JoJo Maman Bebe. This was the cutest gym I found and also seemed to tick all the boxes of things you might want in an activity mat: a detachable pillow, a variety of features, the ability to fold it flat and it’s also easy to clean. At £69 it’s on the expensive side but with a 15% off voucher it came to £58.65 so not too outrageous! It’s of the more traditional low-tech ilk, but we love the animals and think it will look perfect in our living room. And more importantly, it should hopefully provide hours of enjoyment for our baby…