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The 5 Best Tummy Time Water Mats — For Less Tears & More Fun

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Tummy time is an essential activity for babies that can help them strengthen their arm, neck, head, and chest muscles, and it should be started soon after they are born. But here’s the thing — not all babies like it. In fact, many babies HATE it, but because it’s so important, parents can rely on the best tummy time water mats to make tummy time a more pleasant experience for all involved.

In recent years, tummy time water mats have become increasingly popular for older babies because they are soft, squishy, and a more engaging experience. To find out what to look for when shopping for the best tummy time water mats, Scary Mommy reached out to board-certified pediatrician Dr. Whitney Casares.

The Expert

Dr. Whitney Casares is a board-certified pediatrician and the best-selling author of The New Baby Blueprint. She’s also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, a podcast host, mother of two, and medical review board advisor for Prevention magazine.

What to keep in mind when shopping for the best tummy time water mats

A tummy time mat provides your baby with a distraction and sensory play that can motivate them to stay on their tummies longer. “Water mats can be a fun way for older babies to practice stabilizing their upper neck and arm muscles with engaging visual input,” Dr. Casares tells Scary Mommy.

The best tummy time mats are made of leakproof PVC and feature engaging designs with vibrant or high-contrast images that appeal to babies. To use, simply fill the outer ring with air and the inner section with water to set up baby to play. Dr. Casares has some important recommendations when choosing a water mat for your baby:

  • Make sure the water mat you choose doesn’t have detachable parts, and that you are constantly supervising your child while they are using it. Follow the specific product instructions to ensure your child’s safety while using the mat.
  • Flat play mats are best for newborns, but squishier water mats can be safe as babies gain more head and neck control and keep themselves lifted while playing. Note: A water mat is not recommended for babies under 3 months old; If your baby can’t keep their head elevated easily while on the mat, suffocation is a real risk and you should hold off on a water mat until baby is steadier.

If your baby is still fussy or continues to cry during tummy time, even with a water mat, Dr. Casares says to “take a break and try again later.” She also suggests, “It might help to get down on your own tummy at eye-level with your little one or provide a baby-safe mirror while he or she plays.”

With all this in mind, here are the best tummy time water mats for babies.

01

The Overall Best Tummy Time Water Mat

The Splashin'kids Inflatable Tummy Time Water Mat is a fan favorite with over 26,000 Amazon shoppers giving it five stars. The mat is wide, so your baby has ample room to explore the eye-catching designs with an under-the-sea theme. Several of the shapes, like a fish and a duck, move in the water once the mat is filled, so your little one can learn cause and effect while experimenting with movement. Parents also appreciate that this one is made of thick, leakproof PVC.

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.”

Dimensions: 26 x 20 inches (L x W) | Recommended Age: 3 months old and up

02

The Best Large Tummy Time Water Mat

If you have the space, this Gebra Tummy Time Water Mat is seriously fun. The large turtle shape will entice your little one while giving them plenty of space to explore and play. There’s even enough space for parents to get in on the water mat action like Dr. Casares recommends above. The mat has eight floating figures that will move when your baby touches them and is made from extra-thick PVC to ensure that it will stay inflated. Pro tip: invest in a hand pump to inflate this bad boy as it’s larger than the others on this list.

Helpful review:“Got this for my 10 month old who is crazy about water. He absolutely loves it. It is durable, well made, and large. It was easy to put water in and it took me about 2 minutes to blow it up with air. We love it.”

Dimensions: 43 x 35 inches (L x W) | Recommended Age: 3 months old & up

03

The Best Portable Tummy Time Water Mat for Travel

If you’re looking for a tummy time water mat to take on the go, look no further than the Infantino Pat & Play Water Mat. It’s small and portable while providing your baby with plenty of opportunities for active play thanks to its six floating ocean figures and squishy whale-shaped body. You can also choose the cute narwahl version. This travel-friendly plastic mat is a great option to keep in a diaper bag or at another caregiver’s house.

Helpful review:My 6 month old loves this! Momentarily keeps her entertained. Love the portability and for us it’s a perfect size, I wanted something small that didn’t take up much space.”

Dimensions: 9.76 x 7.36 inches (L x W) | Recommended Age: 3 months old & up

04

The Best High-Contrast Tummy Time Mat

This Peanutshell Montessori Water Play Mat is one that will capture your baby’s attention with its high-contrast design. The striking black and white images behind five colorful floating shapes appeal to babies, who see contrast more clearly than colors until they’re older. This leakproof PVC’s mat smaller footprint is just the right size so as to not overwhelm your baby and will help their senses develop as they strengthen their head and neck muscles.

Helpful review: “This is the cutest thing someone could gift to a baby following the Montessori lifestyle, it is amazing. Detail is perfect!!!”

Dimensions: 26 x 20 inches (L x W) | Recommended Age: 3 months old & up

05

The Best Tummy Time Water Mat With A Built-In Mirror

If you’ve ever put a baby in front of a mirror you know how enthralled they get. So you’ll immediately see the appeal of the Splashin'kids Inflatable Tummy Time Water Mat with a built-in mirror. What’s more motivating than that cute baby face? The mat is made of leakproof PVC and also features two rattles on each side and several brightly-colored floating fish.

Helpful review: “This is the most unique tummy time mat I have ever bought and the mirror and rattles are a brilliant add-on to this classic water mat. The baby is enthralled with it and it really keeps them happily occupied and moving !! So five stars from this happy mom.”

Dimensions: 22 x 33.5 inches (L x W) | Recommended Age: 3 months old & up

06

Nice To Have: A Baby-Safe Mirror For Tummy Time

Your little one will love looking at themselves in the Sassy Tummy Time Floor Mirror, and it’s a great accessory to add on with any water mat or to use on its own. This one boasts over 11,500 five-star reviews from parents who say their babies are “obsessed” with it. It features crinkle fabric sides, a black and white spinning ball, and a bee that rotates and clicks to capture a baby’s attention.

Dimensions: 10 x 10 inches (L x W) | Recommended Age: 0 months old & up

Helpful review: “Great little mirror. Perfect for tummy time. The bumble has crinkly wings. The ladybug makes a rattling sound when you roll the black and white part. It stands well on its own.”

Experts:

Whitney Casares, board-certified pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest