Play mats are available for a variety of age groups, from newborn to eight year old. Most people are familiar with the roll out play mat made of a stain resistant washable carpet. Many have a skid-resistant backing designed for indoor or outdoor use. These play mats are covered in roadways and trees. There are open spaces ready for your preschooler to build a city and drive cars across town to visit the school, zoo, or police station. Some play mats are permanent and portable versions of hopscotch, mazes, and other letter or number games.
Play mats, as toys designed for babies, are not quite so elaborate. Baby play mats are brightly colored and made of a soft, cushioned fabric. Many are reversible, offering brightly colored pictures on one side, and black and white patterns on the other. Many play mats include activities with flip up covers revealing pictures or unbreakable mirrors underneath.
Different areas on the play mat reveal interesting noises when touched—a crinkle, a rattle, or a squeak. Many mats include detachable soft toys that crinkle when squeezed or rattle when shaken. Rigid, textured plastic attaching rings double as toys and textured teethers. Some play mats have reinforced corners of firm, nubbly rubber perfect for your baby to rub their sore gums on when teething. In many ways, play mats can be your baby's first introduction to cause-and-effect, tactile stimulation, and body awareness.
Play mats designed for older babies can be quite elaborate. Many incorporate electronic lights, sounds, and music. Some play mats are oversized pianos offering brightly colored, tactile areas that act as piano keys. Your baby can switch between piano, bell, dog, chick, or cat sounds. Other play mats are filled with water to promote balance and muscle development.
Most play mats roll up and store in a bag with a carrying strap making it easy to tote around. Others have a spring open edging which collapses in on itself when you want to put the play mat away. Play mats are extremely portable when traveling. They provide an easy, clean, soft play area for your baby, any time, any where.