It may seem excessive with all the baby-holders, but you will want something safe to contain (and entertain) your baby on each floor or separate area of your home where you’ll be spending time. Trust me! Swings and bouncers are not essential, but VERY nice to have. Your baby shouldn’t spend the majority of the day in a “baby holder” because it is important for them to lay flat and freely move their arms and legs — this is where the activity mats are wonderful! Baby holders are great for times where there isn’t a safe space for them to freely play on the floor, like the kitchen when cooking, or the bathroom when taking a shower, or if/when your baby does not like laying flat.
Your need for a bouncer will depend on the size of your home and what other “baby holders” you have. You can spend anywhere from about $30 to almost $300 on a bouncer. The more aesthetically pleasing bouncers also come with a high price-tag. Here are some good ones with a range of prices:
BabyBjörn Bouncer Balance: I love love LOVE this bouncer. I love that you don’t need to worry about battery life or being near an outlet. It moves with baby’s movements. I also love that it has a simple modern sleek look, and easily folds flat for portability. I bought one used, so that is a more affordable option. The color slips off effortlessly for washing. You can buy a wooden toy bar separately, that is pricey but worth it. It provides baby with much-needed stimulation. Read more here where I list the reasons I love the BabyBjorn Bouncer Balance.
Nuna Leaf: This is another one that does not require batteries or cords— important criteria for bouncers in my book! One push will keep it moving for two minutes. For an extra $99, you can buy a battery operated attachment to keep the Leaf moving continuously. It is also stylish, which is a nice change from so much baby gear.
Bloom Coco Lounger: These have a really nice contemporary look.
Skip Hop Uplift Bouncer: The list price for this is $150, but I’ve seen it for as cheap as $100 on Amazon. The price is always changing there. You can adjust the height on this to keep it low like a traditional bouncer, or even raise it to be level with you while you eat dinner.
Fisher-Price Deluxe Bouncer: This is a very popular bouncer, and at an affordable price.
Bright Starts Bouncer: This is a solid budget option.
Honorable Mention: Stokke Steps Bouncer
Many babies either love or hate these. I want to say to wait until post-baby to test out a friend’s before you purchase something. But, having been there myself (and having received the same advice that I ignored), I know that isn’t likely. So, I’d say buy what YOU like and hope your baby loves it too! Here are just a few of the many swings out there:
4moms mamaRoo: The mamaRoo looks better than most swings and takes up less space. Aside from the great design, the mamaRoo has four different motions, can be controlled with your phone, has built-in sounds, can play music from your phone. We initially got a Fisher-Price swing and a separate bouncer. I returned both and used the money to buy the mamaRoo because it fit much better in our small space. Too bad my daughter never liked it (or any swing). Fast forward a year and a half, my son didn’t like this or any swing either. So, I’m holding out for a future kid loving it as much as I do!
Graco DreamGlide Gliding Swing + Sleeper: This is a swing seat that reclines flat to a sleeper. Since babies often fall asleep in the swing, I would feel a little better with my baby sleeping in this one lying flat.
Graco Glider Elite Swing: The seat can come off to be a bouncer, so it is two products in one.
Fisher-Price Cradle ‘N Swing: This runs about $90-$160, depending on the style you choose.
Playards / Pack ‘n Plays
These are great to have as a safe place to contain and entertain your baby. Since they also can be a safe place for baby to sleep, I write my thoughts on those in the Baby Sleep Spots section. You’ll also find a comparison of my two favorite travel cribs.
***MUST HAVE*** You’ll use this a lot for the first 7-ish months, and often even past that. Young babies love to look up at the different shapes and colors. As they improve their hand-eye coordination they eventually grasp the crinkle and rattle toys. Activity mats come in a variety of styles and themes. They are also great for tummy time. Look for one with a mirror because that definitely helps encourage tummy time! Babies need to spend time freely playing where their movement is not restricted.
I am torn because I love the more neutral colored ones for the aesthetics of my home. On the other hand, I know newborns prefer bright contrasting colors.
I really want to check out The Play Gym by Lovevery. It’s developed by child development experts, has five different developmental play zones. twenty-four different activities, it looks nice and it converts to a play fort for toddlers! This is definitely on my wishlist for any future baby. The mat includes a variety of shapes, textures, colors and (non-annoying) noises. The mirror is essential for tummy time!
Pottery Barn Kids and Crate & Kids have some really nice looking activity mats. Some of them are a little more neutral in color, but you can always add colorful hanging toys to appeal to newborns desire for sharp contrasting colors. Here are a handful that I love:
Wooden Activity Gym Frame: This one has a simpler more neutral look and uses organic and non-toxic materials.
Keep your baby interested and learning by switching up the toys hanging from your baby’s activity mat. Bright colored hanging fruits:
Underneath you could lay a nice-looking mat like the Nook Lilypad:
You don’t need this type of activity center until about 5 months-ish. However, once they are crawling around it is so nice to be able to contain and entertain them here while you run around the place getting things done. I regret registering for it and receiving it while pregnant. By the time we needed it, I had changed my mind about what I wanted (based on what other toys and baby stuff we had). But, they are kind of pricey so if you need to add some things to your registry, choose one of these!
Evenflo Triple Fun ExerSaucer: We have this one. It has three stages and we only used it for the second stage (ExerSaucer). The kids loved it but it a little bulkier than others – so keep that in mind if you have a small space. I’m not a fan of it as a playmat – a normal infant activity mat is preferable. We never used the activity table, but I’m sure that would have been a hit with the kids. A lot of people do love this though. You can get different themes and change out the toys. In hindsight, I wish we got one that was less of an unsightly jumbo piece of plastic!
Fisher Price Jumperoo: This is a very popular one.
Evenflo ExerSaucer Jump & Learn: This is a less clunky ExerSaucer by Evenflow
Oribel PortaPlay: This one has a much nicer look to it.
Bright Starts Around We Go: If your baby has an older sibling, they can easily play with this one together! Baby can be in the seat while your toddler stands around the activity table.
Skip Hop Explore and More: This is definitely the most aesthetically pleasing of them! It’s on my wishlist for baby #3!
This Evenflo 2-in-1 Activity Center and Activity Table just came out, and I really like the look of it. Many people have complained that the suction isn’t strong enough to keep the toys in place, so hopefully, they fix that issue.