The 8 Best Toys For Tummy Time — So Your Little One Doesn’t Protest The Mat

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a baby laying on his tummy at home
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Did you know that it’s almost never too early for babies to begin a tummy time routine? According to Dr. Laura Purdy, MD, babies can begin practicing tummy time “as soon as the umbilical cords fall off! Babies this young may not be awake much during the day but when they do have small windows of awake time, tummy time is great to start!” In fact, an early introduction to tummy time encourages gross motor skills right from the start — strengthening their muscles and building towards crucial developmental milestones. And the best toys for tummy time up the fun factor to help keep them engaged longer.

The Expert

Licensed in all 50 states, Dr. Laura Purdy, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician and the Chief Medical Officer of OpenLoop Health. Dr. Purdy’s in-depth digital health expertise comes from more than a decade providing and directing primary care for patients of all ages. She attended medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

How Long Should Tummy Time Be?

While a soft and safe surface like mommy’s chest will likely be baby’s favorite place to experience tummy time in those early months, the truth is many babies protest tummy time. And who can blame them? It’s tiring work! That’s why building up from short to longer sessions is key.

“[Infant tummy time] sessions won’t be long, it may only be a minute or two! Your baby won’t have as much strength in the early weeks as they will as they grow. By the time baby gets to be 3 months old, you may find that they have enough energy for up to one hour of tummy time per day!” explains Purdy. It should be noted, however, that that 1-hour goal is the total amount per day — you can certainly break up that hour into smaller intervals throughout the day if your baby responds better to shorter times on the mat.

How Do I Entertain My Baby During Tummy Time?

Longer tummy time sessions will ultimately prepare your baby for crawling and walking, so it’s important to keep at it even if it’s frustrating for your baby. If your baby seems to absolutely hate tummy time, an engaging toy could be just the motivation they need.

Water mats are a great option for babies 3 months and up, since the squishy play surfaces usually have vibrant, high-contrast designs that appeal to babies. Just make sure your baby has good head/neck control before introducing one for safety.

Mirrors are also a great way to motivate baby while on the mat since infants are drawn to faces (especially ones they can reach out and touch!).

While you’re shopping, it’s also helpful to keep in mind what your baby likes to play with off the mat. If he or she loves crinkle books, adding a mat with crinkly or textured elements could be the answer. Similarly, if they love music, choosing a toy with few songs or sounds will be right up their alley.

Shop The Best Toys For Tummy Time

In a hurry? Here are the top picks for the best toys for tummy time:

1. The Best Water Mat: Splashin'kids Inflatable Tummy Time Water Mat

2. The Best Tummy Time Mirror: Sassy Tummy Time Floor Mirror

3. The Best Light-Up Sound Bar: Baby Einstein Glow & Discover Light Bar Activity Station


The Best Tummy Time Activity Center

For a one-and-done purchase, it doesn’t get any better than this Baby Einstein 4-in-1 Kickin’ Tunes activity center. Not only do you get a soft cotton mat (that’s machine washable), you also get a tummy time prop pillow to make baby more comfortable, as well all the toys you’ll need to keep them entertained. There’s seven different toys in total to add to the entertainment factor, including a piano that can be detached for on-the-go music fun, as well as a crinkle toy, a mirror, and more. Just add 3 AA batteries and you’re ready for a fun tummy time session.

Helpful Review: “My son loves it, tummytime became a success after I bought this for my three month old. I love being able to take the piano everywhere. Great buy!”


The Best Water Mat For Tummy Time

Designed for babies 3 months and up, this entertaining and squishy baby water mat may feel familiar to babies (aka boobs)! Yours may not be ocean-themed, but babies will love tummy time on this soft surface while “chasing” the bright sea animal friends as they float by. Just inflate the outer ring and add tap water to the inner mat, and you’ve got a tummy time station that promises hours of fun.

Helpful Review: “Our 3 month old is the calmest baby ever...until tummy time. She becomes a rabid werewolf. She screams, howls, and acts like you are forcing her to do something awful. This mat has changed that. At 3 months we are able to get her to have tummy time in 15-20 minute stints now. She stares at the mat, pushes on it, and when she spits up on it the thing is easy to wipe up :) Filling it with water for the first time is a bit messy, because when you push down the plug water comes out, but after it's closed it doesn't leak.”


The Best Baby Floor Mirror

Dr. Purdy says this was her fourth child’s favorite toy, adding that “It is small and very budget-friendly, but my infant spent many hours looking at himself in the mirror and playing with the spinning ladybug during tummy time.” The easel-back design of this baby floor mirror helps it stay in an upright position, and the high-contrast border and adorable bugs promise to capture your baby’s attention. More than 14,000 Amazon reviewers have left it a glowing rating.

Helpful Review: “Love this for tummy time!! Purchased for my 3 month old and she loves it. It encourages neck and upper body strength as well as hand eye coordination. She lifts her head up further to look at it and started reaching for the lady bug and bee. It’s also very lightweight so if it gets knocked over on baby it won’t hurt them. I highly recommend.”


The Best Tummy Time Light & Sound Bar

With a near-perfect 4.8-star rating after 12,000 reviews, this tummy time light-up activity bar is a favorite among parents (and babies!) for its simple yet mesmerizing design. Babies can touch the rainbow of keys for a light-up effect and there are three sound modes to choose from — animals, colors, and xylophone. There’s also a spinner drum in the center that’s perfect for some tummy time motivation.

Helpful Review: “[...]My baby girl is 4 months old and loves to spin the circular musical dial in the center to make the whole rainbow light up. We love that there is a variety of music as well. This is an affordable toy and very easy to travel with. It is also very easy to wipe down and sanitize. I am excited for her to learn how to say the colors and animals using this toy. I recommend to a new parent!”


The Best Crinkle Book Set

This set of eight cloth baby books brings tummy time and story time together! Place baby belly down and watch as they engage with the colorful graphics and squish the crinkly pages. Because the books are also made for bath time, they are waterproof and washable. A must-have for tummy time and teething.

Helpful Review: “Buy these for the brilliantly colored pages, fun clear graphics, solidly stitched construction, crinkly fabric pages and grabbable size that young babies love. At least my granddaughter does. Plus perfect to stick in your purse of stroller when you go out and need something lightweight for the baby to hold. [...]”


The Best Tummy Time Pillow & Toy Set

Sometimes a little leverage can take the frustration away from tummy time. This cute sensory-filled llama tummy time pillow helps prop babies up and keeps them busy with removable toys that include a watermelon rattle, self-discovery mirror, and textured carrot teether. The plush llama is machine washable and also extremely versatile: Your toddler will love playing with the llama as a lovey as the grow.

Helpful Review: “I love this llama! Its super cute & its helped my girl get better at tummy time for sure. I see a difference when I take it away & she does it on her own, her strength has gotten a lot better.”


The Best Baby Tissue Box & Scarves Set

Baby — and even bigger kids — will have a blast pulling out the bright scarves in this sensory tissue box toy that’s perfect for tummy time. The “box” is soft and cushiony with a roomy slot that makes it easier for infants to access the eight included scarves. Grabbing and picking up the scarves makes for an excellent fine motor skill challenge. Plus, the set also comes with three crinkly sheets — because babies and crinkle always go together.

Helpful Review: “Awesome for my 5 month old! My son doesn't always pull out the crinkle sheets, so sometimes I just hand it to him. He loves how they crinkle when they move!”


The Best Crawl-Along Toy

All that tummy time eventually leads to the strength babies need to crawl and walk. And this transparent jumbo baby rolling toy with rattles and a light-up ball is ideal for encouraging babies to move and follow it around. And the three LR44 batteries required are included with your purchase so your little one can start enjoying it right out of the box.

Helpful Review: “My little one hates tummy time, but when I have this little toy for him to play with, he seems to enjoy it a bit more. He has fun reaching and grabbing for it.”


Dr. Laura Purdy, MD, board-certified family medicine physician and the Chief Medical Officer of OpenLoop Health.