The 10 Best Activity Centers

Updated June 14, 2017 by Sam Kraft

10 Best Activity Centers
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Childcare experts often say that by stimulating your baby’s mind and body early in life, you’re preparing your offspring for success once he or she enters school. Not only will these activity centers help youngsters improve motor skills and promote auditory and visual development, they’ll provide hours of reliable fun and entertainment. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best activity center on Amazon.

10. Manhattan Toy Tree Top

The Manhattan Toy Tree Top is best for older toddlers between one and five years of age. It’s an expertly crafted solid wooden play table that offers hours of exploratory fun and learning using a colorful tree theme and a variety of interesting gadgets.
  • bead runs and gliders
  • ideal height for a sitting baby
  • assembly can be difficult
Brand Manhattan Toy
Model 212280
Weight 11.5 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

9. Taf Toys Toe Time

Instead of a boring chore, time spent in the car will be fun with the Taf Toys Toe Time, which keeps babies safely occupied in the backseat while you focus on driving. It includes three hanging toys with a variety of textures and sounds.
  • easy to adjust height and angle
  • soft lights and gentle music
  • charms can get stuck on velcro
Brand Taf Toys
Model pending
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Fisher-Price Woodland

Designed with a baby's safety in mind, the Fisher-Price Woodland features a soft-sided overhead toy bar that won't inflict any pain, even if your baby bumps its head while jumping. It comes with a variety of additional moving toys to keep kids occupied.
  • light-up piano with rainbow keys
  • soft frog for teething
  • not the most exciting option
Brand Fisher-Price
Model CBV62
Weight 12 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Evenflo Triple Fun

Compact and versatile, the Evenflo Triple Fun can be adjusted to three heights so that it grows with your baby. It converts from an activity table to a play mat and helps children achieve 10 developmental milestones, including fine motor skills and tactile development.
  • machine-washable seat pad
  • folds down for travel and storage
  • 11 age-appropriate toys
Brand Evenflo
Model 62311422
Weight 23.6 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. SwimWays Float

Pool time, which is already a blast for young children, gets even more exciting when you add the SwimWays Float to the mix. It’s covered in a durable fabric, and is designed with mesh sides so parents can keep their eyes on their kids at all times.
  • octopus- and lobster-themed options
  • removable canopy for sun protection
  • includes squeaker and stacking rings
Brand SwimWays
Model 11566
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Infantino Gym

You won’t have to take your young kids to Chuck E. Cheese's next time they want to play in a ball pit if you have the Infantino Gym at your home. This model helps babies develop fine motor skills as they reach, grab, kick and rattle different objects.
  • comes with 40 colorful balls
  • pop-up mesh sides for safety
  • turtle head stores the balls
Brand Infantino
Model 206-747
Weight 3.5 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Fisher-Price Rainforest

The Fisher-Price Rainforest rewards babies for jumping with colorful toys and amusing music, which helps stimulate visual and auditory development, enhances movement skills and builds muscle. It also easily folds up for storage and travel.
  • comfortable rotating seat
  • helps teach cause and effect
  • only requires 3 aa batteries
Brand Fisher-Price
Model K6070
Weight 15.8 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Fisher-Price Step N' Play

A thought-provoking, interactive playtime experience, the Fisher-Price Step N' Play allows babies to step on four keys to generate fun music and lights. The seat slides, which allows babies to move back and forth, and it also spins 360 degrees.
  • seat can be removed for more space
  • foot piano can be turned off
  • helps babies learn to walk
Brand Fisher-Price
Model V4357
Weight 23.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Skip Hop Explore

The Skip Hop Explore takes a full-body approach to engaging babies, encouraging them to swivel and bounce in the seat, learn about cause and effect through interacting with the discovery window, and use it as a sturdy table for coloring and playing with toys.
  • clip-on toy attachment system
  • peek-a-boo owl pops up and hoots
  • legs detach for simple storage
Brand Skip Hop
Model 303325-US
Weight 17.3 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Oribel PortaPlay

The innovative four-in-one design of the Oribel PortaPlay allows babies and toddlers to bounce, turn, and play as they interact with its features. This model's legs fold in for easy portability and for saving space while in storage.
  • extendable legs to grow with baby
  • quiet and inconspicuous
  • smooth table with no sharp edges
Brand Oribel
Model 16-45-001
Weight 21.7 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

...and the Cow Jumped Over the Moon?

Designed to teach children under one year old to respond to different types of sensory stimuli, stationary activity centers come in many shapes and sizes, each with its own special theme. There are island themes and insect themes and music themes. And all for good reason.

You see, it's not about which toy is cheapest or strongest or cutest. It's about which toy is best for learning.

Take another look at #2, the Summer Infant Superseat. A monkey hangs from a tree. A toucan perches in a tree. A giraffe stands on the play tray. All of these animals are precisely where they should be.

Now take a closer look at #5, the Fisher-Price Woodland Jumperoo. Why is there a fox floating overhead? Why is there a raccoon in the sky?

One may argue that babies don't care about such things, but think about this: What's the point in learning something if you're just going to unlearn it later?

No, You May NOT Drop Yourself on Your Head!

Remember those baby walkers we used to cruise around in, back when we still wore wooden shoes and had to walk a hundred miles in the snow just to find out that school was closed for the day because the teacher broke her yard stick whipping Bobby's bottom for the umpteenth time?

Well, the times are finally changing.

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both issued warnings against the use of baby walkers.

Not only that, but as of April 7th, 2004, baby walkers are officially banned in Canada, complete with hefty fines and jail time for anyone caught owning or selling one, bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase "possession with intent to distribute."

Lo and behold, parents in the eighties and nineties suddenly realized that enabling a baby to self-stroll its developing skull straight into the corner of a dining room table or down a flight of hardwood stairs was, indeed, not a good idea, so parents stopped buying them and retailers voluntarily stopped carrying them.

Why it took hundreds of years of baby-walker popularity for parents to arrive at this conclusion, I have no idea. What matters is that now we know, and knowing is half the battle.

So take note of the lack of wheels on the Top Five activity centers featured above.

Regardless of which activity center you choose, you're in the clear!

From Baby Cribs to College Dorms

Just like Jeffrey McGill says in his book, White Darkness, "From the time a person leaves its mother's womb, its every effort is directed towards building, maintaining, and withdrawing into artificial wombs, various sorts of substitute protective devices or shells." Be they sleeping bags or cubicles, the intent remains the same.

And so it comes as no surprise that we take it upon ourselves as caring parents to manufacture artificial wombs for children who are little more than four months out of their mothers' wombs.

From swaddling clothes and cribs, to car seats and college dorms, this is what we parents do: we reinsert our children every chance we can possibly get.

Thus, as far back as the 1440's, even baby Jesus is depicted in a baby walker courtesy of an anonymous Dutch artist we know only as Master of Catherine of Cleves.

It wasn't until 1910 when Susan Olivia Poole of Ontario, Canada, had her first child and invented the Jolly Jumper, a bouncing swing she made with a cloth diaper, an iron spring, and an axe handle. Originally designed to hang from a tree branch, the Jolly Jumper's widespread distribution in 1957 eventually led to the addition of door clamps and musical mats.

Since then, the Jolly Jumper has evolved into the kind of immobile activity center we know and love today: a 15-minute standing crib the likes of which can only be compared to 15 minutes at work before we feel the need to surf the internet again, or crawl around on the floor, if that's your thing.

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Last updated on June 14, 2017 by Sam Kraft

Sam is a marketing/communications professional and freelance writer who resides in Chicago, IL and is perpetually celebrating the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory.

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