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As you baby becomes more mobile, it’s time to consider activity centers and mats! Here are our top picks for activity centers/mats—plus safety advice and comments on doorway jumpers and walkers.
Here are our top picks for stationary play centers and activity gyms. We do not recommend doorway jumpers or walkers for safety reasons. See the Buying Advice tab above for more info.
Good. Skip Hop is probably better known for their diaper bags, but their Treetop Friends Activity Gym ($75) gets good marks from readers for its overall design. We like the oversize mat and 17 toy loops that can be adjusted to hang high or low on the mat.
Better. The Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo ($74, right) is a hybrid of a jumper and an activity center. Since it doesn't attach to a door, it's a safer option than regular jumpers. It still offers the toys, music, sound and lights you expect from an activity center, plus the seat can rotate.
Best. Our top pick in this category is the Evenflo Exersaucer Triple Fun Active Learning Center ($99, left). While it comes with the standard plastic saucer, the Triple Fun also includes a playmate and will convert to a table, extending its use. It includes 11 toys, a removable washable pad and three position adjustable height. Parents love this activity center particularly for very active babies, but we did hear some complaints that toys were too easy to pull off, creating a safety hazard. As with any activity center, keep a close eye on your little one when using this center.
We know, you'd just like 15 minutes to take a shower . . . or make a sandwich . . . or whatever. Those activity centers (Exersaucer is the most common brand) look like a good option. They rock and spin plus they have tons of toys to play with. Unlike activity gyms or bouncer, your baby will be sitting up in the seat with feet contacting the bottom of the center. This allows for bouncing and spinning.
Activity centers do seem like the answer to parents' prayers, but we have a few caveats. Your child shouldn't sit in an activity center more than 15 minutes at a time and one hour a day total. Why? The seat on these centers can cause hip issues when overused. So remember–this is a limited solution. Enough time to wash your hair or the dog, not enough to watch an episode of Downton Abbey.
Doorway Jumpers and Walkers
We don't recommend using either doorway mounted jumpers or walkers. Both these items are extremely dangerous, in our opinion. Both these items accounted for 3,300 injuries requiring hospitalization from 2009 to 2011. Our best advice: stay away from walkers–stick with bouncers activity gyms and activity centers.
See the Recommend tab above for our favorite activity centers.
A EXCELLENT-our top pick!
B GOOD-above average quality, prices, and creativity.
C FAIR-could stand some improvement.
D POOR-yuck! Could stand some major improvement.