13 Best Baby Activity Centers for Endless Entertainment
October 13, 2020
Babies need stimulation to learn about and adapt to their environment. They also want it—your curious kiddo is keen on exploring the world around them. Parental interaction of course plays a huge role on that front, but we all know you can’t be their only source of entertainment. (Dirty laundry is piling up, plus you’re running on very, very little sleep!) Play mats provide ample distraction for infants, but as your child gets older, it’s time to up the ante. Once they’re more mobile and ready to sit or stand upright (starting around 6 months), invest in an excellent baby activity center.
First things first: What is a baby activity center? In short, it’s a play station equipped with attached toys that expose children to new textures, sounds and other sensory experiences. What sets it apart from an activity gym or play mat? You place your child inside it or let them walk around it, rather than having them play lying down. The best baby activity centers have another important feature: They’re stationary. Skip the wheeled, walker-style versions, which the American Academy of Pediatrics deems dangerous.
There are three main categories of baby activity centers that meet the general description above:
• Baby activity tables: These standing, stationary structures don’t have seats, so they’re actually best for toddlers. They’re shaped like a small table and have various toys attached all over their surface, so children can walk around them and play from every angle. You may have seen one at your pediatrician’s office! (FYI, standard kids’ tables are often labeled as “activity tables” too, since your child can do, well, activities on them, but those aren’t what we’re talking about here.)
• Baby activity saucers and jumpers: Unlike with baby activity tables, children get placed inside these baby activity centers. There, they can spin around to explore all the attached toys. Typically, the seats are also designed to help them bounce up and down for extra fun.
• Baby activity chairs: Some baby activity seats don’t accommodate swiveling or jumping, but they’re still ultra-stimulating thanks to the fascinating attached objects. Like baby saucers and activity jumpers, they keep children safely harnessed in so they won’t slip out of sight during playtime.
Ready to shop for a baby activity center? Peruse the plentiful options below—we’ve found the perfect picks for any need, style or space. Add one to your registry or buy it on the spot. Trust us, you’ll so appreciate the option of freeing up your hands every now and then.
Best Baby Activity Tables
Searching for an awesome baby activity table? These hands-on play stations (well, hands-on for tots) are ideal for active children.
Let your kid branch out with this tree-shaped baby activity table. It’s covered with beads, gliders, flaps and more to help develop their fine motor skills. Plus, it doubles as cute nursery decor!
Buy it: Manhattan Toy Tree Top Adventure Activity Center, $98, Amazon.com
Looking for something even cuter? Try this wooden toy made by a chic French brand. It’s bright and colorful, has engaging puzzles and beads, and also includes absolutely adorable animal figurines. Proof you don’t have to sacrifice style just because your home is filled with kids’ stuff.
Buy it: Janod Activity Table, $77, Maisonette.com
Give baby an early STEM introduction with this science-inspired activity table. It’s got movable gears, buttons to press and plays music and sounds to boot. How’s that for interactive?
Buy it: Baby Einstein Curiosity Table Activity Station, $70, BuyBuyBaby.com
Best Activity Jumpers and Saucers
Got a kid who loves to move but isn’t ready to do it on their own? These baby saucers and activity jumpers will let them bounce and twirl with ease—all from the comfort of a safe, contained space.
We’ll kick things off with this baby activity table and baby saucer hybrid. The seat is attached to the play station from the side so it can rotate around the toys, but it can also be removed once your kid outgrows it. So smart!
Buy it: Bright Starts 3-in-1 Around We Go Activity Center, $80, Amazon.com
This Best of Baby winner earns high marks for its transitional design too. Babies love the swiveling seat, which can also be removed to make a standard activity table. But that’s not all—take off the toys for a regular ol’ toddler eating and craft table. Fully assembled, it has all the baby activity center features we love: lights, sounds and other multisensory items.
Buy it: Skip Hop Baby’s View 3-Stage Activity Center, $120, Amazon.com
This baby saucer comes in a few sweet themes, like the “Polar Playground” version pictured. We like the cool color palette, cute animal accents and plentiful sensory experiences it provides. There are soft, squeaky and singing toys to play with. Plus, it lets baby bounce.
Buy it: Evenflo Exersaucer Bounce and Learn, $77, Amazon.com
Keep the cute animal themes coming! This baby activity jumper has toy critters that bobble, rattle and “fly” overhead. It’s adjustable to three different heights based on your kid’s (ever-growing) size. Bonus: The soft seat is conveniently machine-washable.
Buy it: Fisher-Price Jumperoo, $105, Amazon.com
Need on-the-go entertainment? This portable baby activity center unfolds in a snap. It’s also equipped for the outdoors courtesy of a shade-providing canopy and rust-proof materials. Backyard BBQs finally just got fun for the whole family.
Buy it: Summer Infant Pop N’ Jump Portable Activity Center, $67, Amazon.com
This baby activity center is a little more minimalist than other models; we appreciate the sleek-but-still-adorable design. We also appreciate that the baby saucer is foldable for travel (score); has a bouncy, spinning seat and—best of all—is sold with optional kids’ chairs so it can fully convert into a play table.
Buy it: Oribel PortaPlay 4-in-1 Foldable Travel Baby Activity Center, starting from $129, Amazon.com
Love all things Disney? This baby activity center is a must-have for parents who want to sprinkle some magic into their child’s life. The electronic baby saucer is decorated with Minnie Mouse motifs. And, as with many of the best baby activity centers, the rotating seat doubles as a jumper.
Buy it: Bright Starts Disney Baby Minnie Mouse PeekABoo Activity Jumper, $100, Target.com
Best Baby Activity Chairs
Keep things simple (and stylish) with our favorite baby activity chairs. Because your kid can still have oodles of fun facing forward in one, easy-to-keep-an-eye-on position.
Consider this a super-cool baby sofa. The soft-but-sturdy seat includes a tray adorned with a captivating mirror, toys that softly rattle, squeak and crinkle (for parents who just can’t with electronic singing) and sensory textures to stroke. Overall, it’s fashionable and functional.
Buy it: Crate and Kids Busy Baby Activity Chair, $139, CrateandBarrel.com
This creative baby activity seat has a rotating tray instead of a rotating chair. Our favorite part? The fact that it’s a multipurpose product. It converts to a booster seat and you can swap the toys with the included snack tray (complete with cup holders!) to turn it into an eating area.
Buy it: Summer Infant 3-Stage Deluxe SuperSeat, starting from $37, Amazon.com
This stowable seat is soft and supportive, comes with beloved-by-babies linking toys and the attached animal paws make noise for even more entertainment. It’s a compact, easy-to-transport option in the baby activity center space.
Buy it: Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat, $40, Amazon.comPublished July 2019
Plus, more from The Bump: