Baby activity centers are some of the most reliable, safe and interactive toys to entertain and distract babies and toddlers that money can buy.
The greatest appeal to buy activity centers over other toys is how engaging they can be and babies can genuinely learn and improve their motor skills through their use.
However, not all activity play centers are created equal nor do they cost the same either which is Best For Mums have reviewed many and created a shortlist of which ones we recommend and would call ‘the best’.
Baby activity center reviews
- Baby activity center reviews
- 1. LeapFrog Get Up and Go Activity Centre
- 2. Chad Valley PlaySmart Wooden Activity Centre
- 3. Baby Einstein 5 in 1 Journey of Discovery Activity Gym
- 4. Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play, Mat & Activity Gym
- 5. MyChild Twizzle 360 Activity Centre
- 6. eastsun Early Education Multifunctional Musical Activity House
- 7. Bright Starts Mobile Entertainer Baby Activity center
- 8. B Toys – Zany Zoo Wooden Activity Cube
- 9. VTech Play & Learn Baby Activity Table for Toddlers
- 10. VTech Crawl & Learn Baby Activity Ball
- Baby Activity centers Buyer’s Guide
- What is an activity center for babies?
- Benefits of baby activity centers
- When can a baby start using an activity center?
- What to look for in an activity center
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In this section, you’ll find our shortlist of baby activity centers we feel are worth considering before making a purchase – they are a collection of 10 we feel offer the best experience, have a great design and overall provide babies from 3-6 months onwards with easy fun that they’ll love.
This is not a sequential league table list with the best baby activity centers at the top and worst at the bottom. Instead, consider this a shortlist that should cater to parents with different tastes and budgets and babies with different needs. We wanted to make sure there was something for all parents.
1. LeapFrog Get Up and Go Activity Centre
With the ability to grow with your child (which will come in handy for any parents who are despairing at the ever-replacement of clothing and other products), this is a great investment piece which will keep them occupied for years.
It can be transformed from a baby gym, to a floor play area, to a walker, and features lots of lighting and sounds to keep their attention. When a walker, you can also set the speed control for safety.
The interaction ability will encourage fine motor skills and includes five piano keys, a phone, bead spinner, two dangling toys and more. It ca be used by children aged 6 months and over, and is even great for any kids still a little unsteady on their feet.
2. Chad Valley PlaySmart Wooden Activity Centre
Kids have so much to do, see and learn, so an early introduction is ideal.
With five sides, this play centre is full of ways to keep them entertained and developing. A spinning 1 to 9 grid gives them an intro to numbers. The beads on the top help them with addition and subtraction. A movable clock will assist with telling the time, and they get a blackboard for their language skills too.
Because it is made from wood, it will withstand any knocks or over-exuberant playing. It will also be great if you feel a few children or even generations will benefit from it over the years.
Everything is great quality, and even the colours will help them with speech and learning.
3. Baby Einstein 5 in 1 Journey of Discovery Activity Gym
Combining all of those essential skills with a love of animals, globetrotting and music will catch the attention of many a parent out there.
Your newborn can travel the world without a plane ticket, thanks to the 20 minutes of global-themed music, puppets and toys, and Earth-themed design.
They can lie down on a pillow and reach up to the hanging toys, as well as using the colours and animals to help their vocabulary come along in later life.
It is a playmat sure to catch their attention, but is also much more than that – the sides will fold up to make a ball pit, which will encourage play even further. Thanks to the adjustable settings, it can cater to five different development stages so will see them through from a few weeks old to a few years with a couple of extras.
4. Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play, Mat & Activity Gym
This is a great mat which can be altered to create a whole lot of fun!
As it is walled in, it acts almost like a whole fun filled little world for a baby to play and explore – it also adds a very minute amount of safety for a newborn as they won’t be able to just roll out like they would with a regular play mat. The walls can be flattened into a 48” mat as well though if you are after that.
The activity gym has toys on all of the struts to entertain them and improve their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The walls and mat itself are also beautifully decorated. The toys are a bit basic and not much better than any other play mat, so be aware you’ll need to supplement this with the baby’s existing toys or else they could eventually get bored.
Included in the box are 35 colourful balls transforming it into a fun ball pit which pretty much every newborn and toddler will love. Ideal for a baby 6 months and up and a toddler.
The whole mat is machine washable and believes us it will get dirty, especially if they are allowed to eat snacks in there. This is easily foldable and highly portable making it brilliant for parents who go on regular days out and holidays.
5. MyChild Twizzle 360 Activity Centre
Colourful, with multiple surface types and a full 360 degree play area, this play centre is great for little ones who need somewhere secure to play but need variation to keep things fresh and interesting.
The height adjustable rotating seat and lockable bouncing footpad provide safety and allow them to access everything around them. The detachable play tray has lights and sound, to keep their attention and help them learn. There is also planty of scope for them to make their own music with lots of rattles – sorry about that.
A teething area finishes off, and toddlers from the age of 6 months can use it. When you want to give them something a bit different, it all converts into an exciting play table. The three years guarantee is a nice bonus, and will see them right through the appropriate age bracket.
6. eastsun Early Education Multifunctional Musical Activity House
The name of this product is a bit of a mouthful when they could have just said baby activity centers. If you think the product is a little on the foreign side because it’s not household name well put that prejudice to one side because this is a not so hidden gem you need to consider.
It’s shaped like a house but it is most definitely not a doll house. Instead, the sides of the house and the roof have 7 different activity areas for loads of toddler activity.
This includes a fun and fascinating scene changing window, an actual working microphone for them to practice their speech, driving car steering wheel to give them some thrills, flashing drum to give them audio-related fun.
Throw in some holes and shapes for hand-eye coordination, hammer beads, a rotary gear to really work those motor skills all packaged with some fantastic flashing lights.
This is an activity center package in an original design and contains pretty much everything you could want in a center at a very reasonable price (under £20). What’s not to love?
The one drawback we found with it includes a lot of loose pieces which go along with it and if they’re lost then the toy just isn’t as good as when you first got it so be careful after every use.
7. Bright Starts Mobile Entertainer Baby Activity center
The Bright Starts Mobile Entertainer Activity center is a colossal product which stands quite tall and costs more than the average activity center. It is a rotating seat and mobile baby activity centers which can be taken out to become a floor baby activity center that can also adjust as they grow and fold down neatly making it surprisingly portable.
The increased cost comes from the quality of the product and its versatility. You can keep this activity center in any room in the house and you can use the seat whenever you need to focus on something else knowing your baby is secure.
The toys on the play table are serviceable yet fun and colourful, perhaps not the best but certainly not poor. However, we should point out that we felt the toys were strong and engaging for our babies – when seated the 360 degrees element adds a new dimension that they seemed to love.
Similar to other multi-purpose activity centers is that there are better alternatives for individual uses but not many that do them all at this level. Mind you, the extra cost is the justification for that. This is a stunning activity center and one of the best design on the UK market.
8. B Toys – Zany Zoo Wooden Activity Cube
The first thing you notice, of course, is that it’s made out of wood and held together with hidden screws, the wood doesn’t splinter and it’s much warmer to the touch than hard plastic. It feels old school and you genuinely get the impression that you’re giving your child or infant a taste of days gone by when fun was gained from simple and easy toys.
5 sides have toys on them with the top side having multiple. Toys include: loops, zig-zags, open doors, abacus style balls, turning images with animal alphabet – what you won’t find is anything electrical whatsoever. This will improve their motor skills but not much in terms of audio. Like we said; old school.
The Zany Zoo Wooden Activity Cube is charming and a lovely gift to get for your child as they get a little closer to old-style toys while still having fun. The product is a bit on the heavy side, however, and the wood is somewhat porous so it can get dirty and it’s tricky to clean. It’s not cheap, either, so you’ll have to pay a little bit extra for the craftmanship and more expensive materials.
This product is a rarity and for any parents who are actively shying away from exposing them to too many electronic devices will be absolutely delighted that activity centres are still made of wood in this day and age. A top product that we ourselves rate very highly as do hundreds more on Amazon who claimed this to be the best for kids.
9. VTech Play & Learn Baby Activity Table for Toddlers
If you’re looking for a modern design for the activity table for toddlers with a design focus on electronic audiovisual toys for your baby then look no further than the VTech Play & Learn Baby Activity Table. It’s a bright and colourful table which stands alone on four sturdy legs which allows a mobile baby to easily get around to roughly 6 different toys.
Piano keys, flipping books, telephone dial pad, spinner and a click in the middle is what’s on the menu with absolutely loads of sounds to accompany them. Colours, numbers, animal shapes and of course the sounds are what are being used to help your baby identify things as they play – it’s a smashing product to help motor skills, puzzle-solving and communication.
The table also speaks to help them associate words with what they’re doing which is great!
It’s an ideal gift for toddlers and early walkers and sits neatly in a living room. It isn’t as great for storage as some of the others as the main table can not be reduced in size but the legs can come off to make it a little easier. Can not be adjusted for different heights, unfortunately.
Includes 2AA batteries (thank god) and it will bring a lot of noise to the home. It’s best feature could arguably be the price as you can often grab this for less than £40 and you’ll keep it for life.
Overall, as far as digital and plastic-based activity tables go, this is one of the best and approved by Best For Mums as well as hundreds of reviews from real parents up and down the country as a product that provides a lot of fun and as long as it never breaks you’ll keep forever.
10. VTech Crawl & Learn Baby Activity Ball
Last but not least is an activity ball. The reason we’ve included this is that it is unlike all of the others and it’s dirt cheap. It has some basic electronic toys on it and it can run around a bit. It’s probably the best activity ball, not that it’s a saturated market.
It’s very basic but it can do the trick to help your child develop during play. Has activities including sliders, buttons, music and obviously, it can roll around making it one of the best activity centers for babies who are crawling but can’t walk yet. There aren’t many which cater to that specific audience.
It’s been reviewed an absolute tonne and it’s a very safe bet to be a good return on your hard-earned cash, does need 3 AA batteries but these are included but will last you a good while to be fair.
Baby Activity centers Buyer’s Guide
Welcome to another Best For Mums buyer’s guide. Here we discuss everything you could ever want to know about finding the best baby activity centers for your child.
We’re going to look at what they are, why parents would want to buy them, how they benefit your child, what to look for in a quality product and a few other key details.
At the heart of the buyer’s guide is you. The mum or dad. If you’re confused with the number of products out there without a clue which one might be the best for your unique child then this is the right place for you.
Let’s crack on.
What is an activity center for babies?
Everyone can have their own definition of an activity centre for babies and we will explore the different kinds a little later. As a broad term, we at Best For Mums see an activity center as a product which can be seater or stationary and has several different kinds of toys and games attached to it. Essentially, an activity center is not a single toy or game but a collection of them.
Here are some different kinds of the best baby activity centers that are out there
Seated Activity jumpers for babies
Also known as an activity saucer, seated activity centers are more than just a baby bouncer or activity jumper because they are surrounded by toys whilst being able to bounce around the play table 360 degrees. Some seated activity centers do not bounce, either, instead, it’s just a static seat and no room to move around.
A seated baby activity center allows parents to know that the baby is safe and can’t go anywhere which can be handy when you are alone and need to do some jobs around the house if you get one with a bouncer they can exercise at the same time as being entertained by the 360 degrees activity table surrounding them. Even when they’re strapped in it’s still a lot of fun and babies love it.
Seated activity centers are typically not cheap and they’re not particularly portable and can take a bit of space in your home but they are very popular and effective.
The perfect activity jumper in our opinion is one with sounds, music and a rotating seat.
Baby Activity mat
An activity mat is a simple piece of fabric with four struts with dangly toys floating above. Typically, it’s designed for newborns who are unable to hold their own heads yet to be able to train their hand-eye coordination as they try and grab the toys. Older babies who can crawl and especially toddlers who can walk lose interest very quickly as laying down flat is no longer enough to keep them busy.
Activity mats are a relatively cheap product and one most parents will probably buy if not gifted with a new arrival. It is a precursor to other activity centers.
Baby Activity cube
Activity cubes are wooden or plastic cubes with various toys on each side. It’s a static product but has a wide variety of toys and puzzles that give the parents something less expensive than a seated center.
The benefits of purchasing one of these is a greater variety to test their motor, hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills without dominating the room they’re in. They’re more portable and easy to put away when not in use.
Ideal for babies and toddlers who enjoy sitting quietly playing as opposed to kids who like to be physical during their playtime.
Baby Activity table
An activity table is designed for toddlers who are able to stand up. Tables can come in many shapes and sizes with some having a circular designed with toys moulded into the table whereas others can just be a plain table with a cute design for them to play with their toys on instead of the floor.
The only real difference with a table is the fact that it’s not designed to be sat in. It can be quite large so it may be a bit cumbersome to lug around so what our staff at Best For Mums do is have the table permanently in the baby’s room or a playroom.
They range from £30 to £100 depending on the materials with wooden products more expensive.
Benefits of baby activity centers
According to the center for Parenting Education “play is children’s work”. What they mean by that is by doing new things and taking part in developmental activities whilst having fun with it they will improve a whole spectrum of skills such as motor function, hand-eye coordination, listening, communication and problem-solving. We are a strong supporter of letting children play as much as they possibly can as it’s the strongest conductor of growth.
You will soon find out why it really is worth doing the research to find the best baby activity centers, as we did.
Helps with fine motor skills
A baby’s growth goes much further than walking and moving (gross motor skills), speech and weight. Fine motor skills are just as important to help them develop and best baby activity centers provide a fantastic way for them to test and improve these skills every day through developmental activities. Babies are not born being able to grab, twist, stack blocks or even grab their toys and food properly.
Although they will eventually get there without intervention, they can get there much quicker and gain the manual dexterity they need to play easier and better through play. Parents put it “ “It’s through her hands that your baby demonstrates the link between thought and action”.
Activity tables includes a wide range of different toys to encourage all sorts of hand-related actions to strengthen their muscles and improve the link between the hands and the brain.
Feeds their curiosity
The more curious a child is, the more they learn says Zero to Three. Babies are sponges that want to learn and feed that curiosity and an activity center is a perfect toy with that as it contains multiple toys which all need a different action to earn a consequence. Feed your babies curiosity so that they always want to be able to do the next thing which is, of course, paramount to ensure they hit all their milestones with ease.
Improves cognitive development
Baby activity centers help with your child’s cognitive development by helping them understand distances, colours, textures, understanding the concept of actions and consequences when moving objects, putting objects in and out. Moreover, activity centers with puzzles will help with problem-solving and the confidence to think for themselves.
This sounds more like work than fun for your kids but remember that “children’s play is their work” and if they seemed to be enjoying it and keep at it you’ll be astonished at the speed a baby develops over time.
In the study titled From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development it is summarised beautifully with “Play is important to healthy brain development”.
Encourages independent and collaborative play
Activity centers allow children to play with them on their own, with friends and with their parents and each has different benefits to them. Show them how to use each toy and watch them try and have a go themselves. In time, watch them use activity centers to boost their confidence and learn all about teamwork and independent play.
Once they get in the groove they will keep wanting more and more which is a wonderful thing and the best feeling in the world for a parent.
Toys need to be fun to be effective to keep a child’s attention and these centers do just that. Entertaining toys help distract a child in a positive way which from time to time can help mum and dad have a much-needed sit-down and a brew. What’s not to love about that!
Obviously, it goes without saying that toys should not be used to distract them and then to be ignored as adults should always observe and even join in as much as possible during playtime.
When can a baby start using an activity center?
We recommend the optimal age for their first activity center to be 9-12 months to get the most out of the product.
Each product we’ve reviewed in this article have their own age ranges which should help a lot more than we can. However, activity centers can be somewhat advanced a baby younger than 6 months probably won’t get much out of them.
With most, they will need basic motor skills, cognitive development and some mobility, therefore, the youngest they should be with their first one is 6 months, 9 months even better and at their most perfect age at 12 months and above.
What to look for in an activity center
Not all activity centers are created equal. Some are different to others, provide different kind of experiences whilst others are just better. New research and design techniques are constantly improving so it’s also important to keep yourself up to date.
Here, we give some information on what we think you should have on your checklist before you click the add to basket button.
Safety is paramount when it comes to ANY baby product. All toys must meet a list of safety requirements to be sold in the UK – they need to carry the CE mark and meet toy safety standards as set out by the British Toy Safety Standards and EN71. Specifically, they need to meet British toy safety regulations 2011.
You can do half of the job by only purchasing from reputable vendors such as Smyths, Argos, Amazon and so on.
Wide range of features
To be a ‘best’ activity center, it should have at least 4 different toys to class as one. Your baby will not get much out of a toy that only has two different activities – look for one with as many as these as possible: open and close, twisting, grabbing, pressing, in and out shapes, sounds, lights, spoken word, pulling and pushing.
Never ever get toys which are not designed for the age of your baby. It can cause serious problems and may even hurt themselves. As advanced as you feel your baby is, there are age recommendations on them for a reason.
Best For Mums always push for safe playtime for all ages.
Adaptable to your home
Some activity centers can be huge and others only work well when there’s enough safe space for it to be placed. Have a think about whether or not this product will fit your home whilst allowing enough space for movement and for people to walk around.
For an exersaucer and jumpers, will there be a problem for bouncers causing damage on your floors?
How comfortable a product is also something to consider, especially for the seated variants and the mats – if you have hard floors do they provide enough squish?
We say this in every single product guide we create. Don’t just take our word on whether a product is the best or not – check third party reviews on Amazon, Argos and even other personal blogs to see if the consensus agrees that it is a cracker!