The 10 Best Activity Centers

Updated June 23, 2018 by Sam Kraft

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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

9. Taf Toys Toe Time

8. Fisher-Price Woodland

7. Evenflo Triple Fun

6. SwimWays Float

5. Infantino Gym

4. Fisher-Price Rainforest

3. Fisher-Price Step N' Play

2. Skip Hop Explore

1. Oribel PortaPlay

...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 23, 2018 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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