Imagine an iceberg. The smallest part bobs above the water, and when you dive below the surface the size of the iceberg is mind-blowing.
Children’s play mats are like icebergs.
At the very top, you have the two most common play mats on the market. Dive below the water surface, and you’ll find the iceberg is bigger than you realise. In addition to the material choices, you also have other considerations to factor into your purchase including design, colour, and sizes.
Before diving below the surface, let’s take a look at the two most common children's playmat types - foam and fabric.
FOAM PLAY MATS
Foam play mats are available in two styles.
A single piece - Toddlekind's play rug - that can be rolled out on the floor. This type of foam play mat is limited to the size you purchase, and it can have multiple uses.
For example, you could use it to exercise. The length and width are often wider than a standard exercise mat, which makes it more comfortable, plus your baby can join you which makes it worth the investment.
The other option is an interlocking play mat, which consists of interlocking tiles like a jigsaw puzzle. The way you put it together is why Toddlekind calls it a “puzzle play mat”.
This type of foam play mat is adjustable allowing you to increase the size as your little one grows.
Ideal from birth, foam play mats are mostly slip-proof. Though, Toddlekind always recommends placing a rug pad under your mat to help keep it fixed in place.
Foam play mats protect your floors, and your child with a soft, wipe-clean surface. But they are also a perfect insulator for a space that may need warmth, and noise management from echoes or toys being dropped on your hard floors.
Great insulator for warmth, or noise management.
A lot of Toddlekind’s customers like to layer their foam play mat with a fabric play mat on top, especially for their baby. Toddlekind’s organic cotton mats are perfect for this, and they all have different uses.
The thickness of a foam play mat will vary by brand and style. For example, Toddlekind’s puzzle play mats are 1.2cm (or 0.44”) thick, and play rugs are 1.4cm (0.55”) thick.
The types of materials used to make foam play mats include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane material (PU), or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). We will explore these different materials later in another blog, however, Toddlekind’s puzzle play mats are made from EVA, which is the most common material used to make children’s play mats.
Toddlekind’s founder, Samantha Brückner, shared, “When looking to develop a play mat, safety was top of the list. I realised quickly that organic materials such as cotton were not practical for the wipe-clean function so choosing non-toxic foam became my focus.”
She added, “substances that can harm your baby's health can be used to make foam play mats, and manufacturers are often not forthcoming about what is in their product.
"Children are vulnerable to toxic exposures, and that is why Toddlekind has strict measures in place. Our extra-thick EVA foam is third-party tested to ensure our play mats exceed regulatory safety measures, and we always test for 0+ months because the testing is more rigourous than 3+years”.
Toddlekind’s customers love to layer cotton mats with foam play mats because they add a design element, and offer extra cushioning on the floor.
Fabric play mats can slip so laying them over a foam play mat - like your Prettier Puzzle playmat - makes them safer once your little one starts moving and crawling.
Fabric play mats are often the best option for babies and infants who are not yet on the move.
The main materials used for fabric play mats are cotton (often quilted), wool (real and synthetic) and polyester.
All of these materials offer a soft, comfortable surface for your little one, and have deep padding to protect them from the hard surface of the floor while they play, enjoy tummy (or nappy-free) time and even take a nap.
The best fabric is organic cotton because of its washability, quality, durability and safety (ie toxins).
Toddlekind offers three different styles of organic cotton mats.
All styles - waterproof, luxe and leaf - are made from 100% organic cotton (outer layer) and they are so soft on your baby’s skin. The padded inner layer is 100% recycled polyester.
The Waterproof Play Mat is an ideal travel play mat for when you're out and about. But its multi-usage is a bonus because you can use it at home, and allow your baby to enjoy some nappy-free time. Or for peace of mind, lay it on your couch when toilet training.
Once you’ve decided on the material, you then decide on the style (ie interlocking pieces, one-piece), size, shape, colour, and design.
SIZE & SHAPE
The size and shape of any play mat will vary according to the brand. Only the interlocking, puzzle play mats have adjustable sizes. You can add or remove pieces to suit your needs.
The colour options for foam mats range from primary colours like red, yellow and blue, to secondary colours like purple, orange and green, and shades (or neutrals) black, grey, white and beige.
Toddlekind’s founder, Samantha Brückner explained, “Our colour palette is intentionally designed to compliment your home. You won’t find bright, overstimulating primary colours in our product range but rather classic, timeless colours that offer warm or cool undertones to your space.
Studies show colour can affect the mind and body.
The views and expertise of Colour therapist, June McLeod, were shared in a study about the use of appropriate colours in the design of children's rooms. June believes that babies are far happier surrounded by calming soothing shades. Babies have so much to adjust to, and they thrive in calm environments.
Avoid busy patterns and strong colours ... because they will encourage hyperactivity, lack of sleep and restlessness.
As your baby becomes a toddler, loud colourful environments are best in short bursts. A study found in the National Library of Medicine found there is a threshold where children's surroundings can become excessively stimulating and disruptive.
With her expertise in colour therapy, June advises sticking with calm colours in rooms, and main pieces of furniture to avoid overstimulation and introducing bright primary colours with toys, and other items that can be used and packaged away.
You’ll also find endless design options including letters, numbers and popular themes like animals and space.
Toddlekind prefers to use patterns because they are easier for baby to focus their eyes on, and more stylish in your home adding to the decor.
Reversible foam mats are also a popular choice and usually feature a different theme or design on each side. Some play mat suppliers offer one side with an image (like zoo animals), and the flip side with a pattern.
A key factor to keep in mind when searching for a play mat is: what is it made from?
We will discuss this in more detail here in a future blog.