The 10 Best Activity Centers
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Not only will these activity centers help youngsters sharpen their motor skills and promote auditory and visual development, they’ll provide hours of fun and entertainment for both you and your child. Just be certain to never leave babies unattended while they play, and throw away any parts that become worn with use. Also, be aware that jumpers should only be used for twenty minutes at a time. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 07, 2020:
Like we've stressed in our previous notes, no toy is completely infallible, and parents need to be prepared to supervise children with these activity centers at all times and routinely inspect them for broken or worn parts.
After our main priority of ensuring safety, we wanted to select units that help tots develop a plethora of skills and favored items that grow with them so parents can feel good about spending their money. We also did our best to curate selections that won't totally drive the adults in the room crazy with overly loud or obnoxious sounds, but of course, this can come down to preference and no toy in this category will please everyone in this respect.
For those who want something less ostentatious, the minimalist Oribel PortaPlay and newly-added Skip Hop Interactive should fit the bill. The Skip Hop model also incorporates the feet into playtime and converts to a regular crafts table once your baby grows into a toddler, adding to its value.
We said goodbye to the Splashin'kids Water Mat, a popular toy, due to repeated complaints regarding mold growth. Many people find that even despite adding vinegar or another cleaning solution to the water, mold crops up quickly and is hard to get rid of. We used the vacancy to bring on the VTech Sit-to-Stand, a solid budget option that keeps babies and toddlers well entertained. It converts to a walker and rolls, but be aware that the wheels don't lock and if your little one is just learning to walk and pulls back on it, it can tip over. Many tots don't have this issue, especially once they've got their footing down.
If you're looking to pair one of these activity centers with another toy as a gift, consider bundling one with an educational game to keep toddlers on the right developmental track.
July 19, 2019:
Our primary focus when building this list was child safety. Any option that posed a clear potential threat to a little one's well-being was immediately disregarded, no matter how worthy it was otherwise.
That being said, it's impossible to make a toy that's 100% safe, which is why it's essential to always supervise your child while they play. Children will always find new ways to abuse products, so you need to be there to step in should they try to damage, climb on, or otherwise misuse the activity center.
Several of the models on this list can be modified to grow with your baby, so that they can continue to be used once your child becomes a toddler. While this versatility is fantastic (and certainly makes those toys a cost-effective investment), you also need to keep a watchful eye on how your kid plays with them. Some methods of play — such as sitting in, leaning on, or bouncing on the activity center — may be perfectly acceptable for newborns, but could pose a hazard to larger children who should instead channel that rambunctious behavior onto toys that are built for it. We felt that the responsibility for curbing such behavior falls on the parents instead of the manufacturers, so we did not penalize those toys for potential misuse.
Playscapes Mini Discovery Table Another one ideal for kids past the infant stage, the Discovery Mini is made in the United States from baltic birch plywood and comes with two reversible tops that provide four distinct play surfaces. One has blue Lego and Duplo-compatible and green train track surfaces, while the hardwood top has Tinker Toy-compatible and flat surfaces. An integrated shelf holds the unused top so it's available when you need to change activities, and the storage area has room for toys and games. It also sports durable locking casters for mobility and is sized to fit through any doorway. playscapes.com
Zoomie Kids Fabiola For older children, there's the Fabiola table, a surprisingly attractive, minimalist option that facilitates a plethora of activities for young ones. It sports a flip top that has one side that's compatible with Lego toys while the other is Duplo block-ready. It includes storage bins plus a cover that converts it to a play table or space for arts and crafts. wayfair.com
Three Pears Bobbin Triple Play If your child simply must have the finest designer equipment, this stylish model will make an attractive addition to any nursery. Made of leather and timber, it can transform from an activity center to a toddler table before ultimately becoming a regular end table. thetot.com