Keeping Baby Busy: Best Baby Activity Center for Your Kiddo

Let’s face it…babies need something to do while you cook dinner or sit down for a second. These activity centers for babies are definitely worth your time to reclaim a moment of peace and inspire baby’s development!

There are some genuinely awesome things out there for babies these days. Kinda makes you wonder what people in ancient times did to entertain them. When I was a new parent, I remember getting an activity mat for my daughter and using it for tummy time. I could have used the bounty of receiving blankets for our twice-daily tummy time rituals, but I favored the mat.

Why?

Because it was colorful and fun! It had different textures and bright colors. Plus, it had gobs of baby-safe detachable toys she could play with. Once she got too big to use the activity mat, she happily played with all the toys that came with it. And then, when I had my youngest, she also enjoyed the mat. We were unhappy to have to give it away when we moved back to the states.

We also had an activity center/chair that made life grand. It was nice to have a place to put my babies where I could run to the bathroom or start dinner.

When my eldest was a baby, as she started getting a little bigger, I remember her getting upset with me, placing her back in the crib while I tried to do mundane things around our small apartment. That’s when my husband and I went shopping and got these things.

While my girls don’t need them now, I fully remember those days. You’ll be happier, and so will baby too if you get a baby activity center. Lucky for you, there are a bunch of different kinds which I’m going to review below for the best bang of your bucks.

Now then,

Are you ready to go shopping for something fun to keep baby busy? Sure, you are! Let’s have some fun! Here are my top 10 picks and honest reviews for baby activity centers (in no particular order), plus a couple of honorable mentions following that!

(Welcome to the Jungle)

This baby jumper activity center arrives from the start without any pain-in-the-butt packaging. You can also recycle that packaging, making it weightless heavily on your mind.

Pull it out, and you get a baby jumper that is for use with babies that can hold their heads up on their own, no more than 32 inches in height, and no more than 26.5lbs. Your baby shouldn’t be able to climb out or walk either.

Now for the fun stuff! You get bright lights, fun sounds, and plenty of music with a rainforest theme that will delight any baby. There are 360 degrees of things to do and friendly little rainforest-themed toys to occupy their time. The peek-a-boo tiger, rattle lizard, and monkey are clear favorites.

For you,

You can easily adjust the height, plus the soft seat padding is machine-washable. Oh, and it’s incredibly easy to fold down and move, so it’s not always in your way. With these conveniences plus the stimulation of visual and auditory senses, not to mention hand-eye coordination, your baby will just love it.

PROS

  • Great fun for babies
  • Lots of activities
  • Potential to jump and move 360 degrees in a stationary position
  • Stimulates development
  • Easy, recyclable packaging
  • Adjustable seat height (3 positions)

CONS

  • A little large
  • Takes up a bit of space

Should You Buy This?

One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about this model is that it’s large. The dimensions are 37 x 32 x 32 inches, and it weighs 18lbs. But do keep in mind this thing does fold in so you can tuck it out of the way or quickly move it to another room or even Grandma’s house.

Still, if you have small rooms or small home, you may want to look for something smaller. Other than that, babies will most definitely love all the fun with this activity center.

2. Baby Einstein Neptune’s Ocean Discovery Jumper

(Under the Sea)

Your baby can make a splash into learning and fun with this sit and play activity center. Honestly, it’s one of the best activity seats for babies that I’ve seen. While I’m not recommending this over any of the others, I do have a soft spot for toys that help make other languages familiar. With the friendly ocean theme, you get introductions to numbers and colors and languages with English, Spanish, and French.

The seat bounces and swivels around 360 degrees, and you can remove the electronic number station too to take along or play with on the floor. The classical music is also a nice touch, especially if you don’t want to be assaulted with typical kids’ songs. Babies should be able to sit on their own to use this, and the max weight for your child is 25lbs.

PROS

  • Soft, colorful flashcards and other stimulating toys
  • Potential to jump and move 360 degrees in a stationary position
  • Adjustable seat height (4 positions)
  • Lightweight design
  • Teaches 3 languages

CONS

  • Must assemble properly to be level and keep from tipping
  • Most of the toys are hard plastic

Should You Buy This?

This one is smaller in size at 32 x 32 x 33.1 inches than the first model I mentioned. It’s also very light at 6.94lbs. Not surprisingly, you need to keep a good watch on your child as they get bigger because they can outweigh it and potentially tip it.

You must assemble this correctly so that it is level to avoid those problems, but again, always supervise. I like that this has 3 languages, plays classical music, and has a removable light-up toy that you can bring in the car or play with on the floor.

3. Battat Wooden Activity Cube

(Fun on the Farm)

Hey, moms of toddlers! I didn’t forget you! Maybe you had an Exersaucer or a Jumperoo, and your little one has outgrown it. Now what? Now, this! This wooden baby activity center is a cube that features smooth wood and rounded corners to prevent ouchies.

Battat has been making classic wooden toys since 1897, so I like the longevity there. I also like that this cube has tons to do. And it has farm animals, and who doesn’t love that? The colors are bright, it’s a sturdy design, and it will keep kids 12 months and up very occupied. Set it up on the floor in front of the sofa, in the nursery, or put it in the playpen with your toddler while you handle stuff around the house.

PROS

  • Sturdy wooden cube toy for toddlers
  • Features 5 sides of activities that little hands can explore
  • Great for hand-eye coordination, cause and effect, and imagination
  • Smooth wood with rounded corners
  • Durable, heirloom quality

CONS

  • A bit bulky which little ones may use to try to help stand up with
  • Takes up space
    Pricey for a toy

Should You Buy This?

While it does cost less than the bouncer activity items on my list, it’s not a cheap toy. However, it is very sturdy and made from wood, making it something that will get passed down from generation to generation. If you’re not done having kids, you’ll get lots of use out of it.

I adore that it has so many fun, animal-themed activities to engage kids with development. I think that’s great, though it does take up room and weighs about 14lbs so you’ll have to make room for it.

4. Skip Hop Explore and More Interactive Activity Center

(Versatile Discovery)

Let your little explorer start discovery at ages 4 months and up. This impressive design allows you to adjust the height of the bouncer easily and even convert it into a table when your baby is beyond the bouncing stages. All told, you can use this standing activity center through toddlerhood. The toys can be placed anywhere on it and removed completely when it’s time for it to be used as a table.

As a mom with kids who love to color and create art, having something that you don’t have to give away or sell when your kid grows out of it is a blessing. So if you’re not sure if you’re going to have more kids, this will ultimately grow with your baby, giving her a whole-body experience.

Some interesting features:

The seat rotates 360 degrees, and the bouncing stand can be removed as she grows. The piano can be placed with the other toys or on the bottom level to be used with feet. All in all, there are over 25 developmental activities for your child to enjoy.

PROS

  • Fun and easy to use toys
  • Toys can be arranged in any way
  • Over 25 developmental activities
  • Gender-neutral
  • Sturdy and versatile to grow with baby

CONS

  • Not very bouncy
  • No springs for jumping

Should You Buy This?

The versatility and stability of this product is terrific. Some of the toys may have a pinch-factor to them, though the thing about this is if you’re hoping for some major bounce, you’re going to be disappointed. If not, you’re going to love it and love that it will be something you can use until your child becomes a big kid.

5. Summer Pop N’ Jump Portable Activity Center

(Hot Fun in the Summertime)

If you need a portable exersaucer, you’ve come to the right place. This version by Summer Infant is really lightweight at just 10lbs and compact at 9.4 x 9.7 x 31.3 inches. One thing it definitely does is make life easy on you by arriving at your door fully assembled. Sometimes, that is the absolute best thing you could ever wish for. No assembly required! 

It unfolds in a matter of seconds so you can set it up anywhere and adjusts to 3 levels of height. The jumping support seat is easy to take out and wash in the washing machine. It has a few toys which are enough to entertain little ones while on the go but nothing to write home about. It’s an ideal choice if you go to lots of places, especially in warm and sunny climates, because it has a UV canopy to protect your baby.

Now while I love the canopy idea, I must insist that you not solely rely on that to protect your baby from the sun. Hats and proper clothing are a must as is baby-safe sunscreen once your little one is 6 months and up.

PROS

  • No assembly required
  • Portable, lightweight, and easy to use
  • UV protection canopy
  • Has a few toys to entertain baby
  • Includes portable carrying case

CONS

  • Capable of scratching hard flooring 
  • Not as bouncy as other jumpers 
  • Doesn’t rotate

Should You Buy This?

If you need a portable exersaucer, this will do wonderfully. It can also be the best exersaucer for small spaces because it’s so compact. But if you’re looking for something that will rotate 360 degrees or have more bounce, keep looking. If not, you’ll love this, though be sure you use it on the carpet and not good hard flooring, or you may find some scuffing left behind.

6. Baby Einstein 5-in-1 Journey of Discovery Activity Gym

(Take it to the mat)

For the best baby activity center mat, Baby Einstein sure checks off all the right boxes. I loved our sit and play activity center (we didn’t have this model though) because it had so many things to discover. It looks like this 5-in-1 has plenty to keep your baby entertained too.

The global theme is excellent for babies with a mat that extends 47 x 40 x 18 inches. You can fold up the sides to make it into a ball pit too. There are 10 colorful balls included, which are great for developing those motor skills.

In the early days, when your child is just a newborn, you can use it for tummy time as we did with both our girls on our mat. It comes with cute little toys that dangle down from the canopy and plays melodies that run 8 to 15 seconds in duration. With songs from around the world like “Alouette” and “Pirulito,” it provides a beautiful soundtrack that doesn’t drone on and on.

PROS

  • 5 different ways to use it
  • Cool global theme
  • Turns into a ball pit
  • Encourages motor skills development
  • Easy to wipe down

CONS

  • Not machine washable
  • Hanging toys are a little heavy and too easy to grab without effort
  • Thin padding

Should You Buy This?

The padding on this is a little thin, so I recommend using it in a carpeted area. As with all baby things of this nature, you should never leave little ones unattended. Even when you flip up and secure the sides into a ball pit when your baby gets a little bigger, you should always be right there. It opens up pretty big, though, but the only thing that would disappoint me is that I’m too big to fit into the ball pit!

7. Evenflo Exersaucer Bounce and Learn

(Evenflo Exersaucer Bounce and Learn)

For the best exersaucer for small spaces, this polar-themed activity center has plenty of chilly-willy fun for little ones. It has over 13 activities that are easy to access with 360-degree rotation. For kids 4 months until walking age, the bouncing and busyness will indeed be fun.

An electronic flipbook plays some sounds and melodies for a cause and effect learning situation while the toys are big to encourage grabbing. Removable toys can be taken in the car for soothing and are easy to clean. It weighs 14lbs, but at 27 x 27 x 29.5 inches, it is easy to move from room to room and takes up less space than other models.

PROS

  • Adorable polar theme
  • Large toys that encourage grabbing
  • 360-degree rotation
  • Ability to bounce
  • Great for small spaces

CONS

  • Thin covering on the seat not comfortable
  • Caution with plastic edges

Should You Buy This?

This is certainly a fun option for little ones that can sit up on their own, allowing them to bounce and explore a polar theme. The seat padding isn’t as thick as some of the others, but you can get around that by adding your own underneath the cover.

Some buyers complained of sharp plastic around the bottom where little feet bounce and play though it was recommended to use sandpaper. While I hope yours will arrive in perfect condition, that’s excellent advice for this exersaucer and any others to ensure all sides are smooth.

8. Bright Starts 3-in-1 Around We Go

(Round and Round)

Are you looking for an exersaucer with wheels? This one by Bright Starts might just be for you! It’s a bit of a walker and an activity center in one. It allows your baby to go from sitting to standing so you can use it from 6 months on up to 36 months.

If you have an older child, this is ideal, too, because they can play with their younger sibling using the more than 15 activities available. It includes a piano station that plays silly sounds and plenty of music. Unlike other exersaucers and jumpers, though, it rotates around the activity center, not within it.

And once your baby gets too big (over 30 inches) to use the seat, you can set it up as an activity table. You’ll get a lot of use out of this one!

PROS

  • Unique design that rotates around the activities
  • Great to play with older siblings
  • Can be used as an activity table after baby outgrows walker part
  • Over 15 fun activities including a piano

CONS

  • Takes up lots of space
  • Baby can drag it across the room
  • Doesn’t bounce

Should You Buy This?

If you have a large room for this activity center, you will really love it. I think the innovative design is great, especially if you have a slightly older little one around who will love to play with their little sibling. You should keep a keen eye on baby, though, as once she gets bigger, she can easily drag this thing along across the room and get into trouble.

There’s no bouncing on this one either, so if you want the baby to bounce, this won’t be ideal for you.

9. Tiny Love Meadow Days Baby Walker and Activity Center

(4 Ways to Play)

For a baby activity center for a 3-year-old, you might really like this exersaucer with wheels. It has 4 ways to use it so you can get more use out of it as the baby gets bigger. Use it as a stationary activity center, jumper, push along toy or a walker.

There are also over 20 different activities to help babies thrive. They encompass language skills, senses, cognition, gross motor skills, emotional intelligence, and creativity. The toys are fun for babies and easy to wipe down, too, because we all know how messy babies are. You can adjust the height to 3 different settings, the seat rotates 360 degrees, and it offers a championship of activities that allow the baby to swivel, bounce, push or walk.

PROS

  • 4 ways to use it for stationary or mobile activities
  • Tons of ways for baby to play with the toys
  • Touches on the 7 vital developmental cornerstones
  • 360 rotation
  • Cute meadow-scene toys easy to wipe down

CONS

  • Very stubborn wheels
  • A little bulky
  • Not the best for bouncing

Should You Buy This?

You know what they say about a jack of all trades, right? They aren’t a master of one. While this does have the capacity to convert in 4 ways, it’s not the best when it comes to rolling.

If you don’t care about using it as a walker, then that won’t matter to you. Those with hard flooring had an easier time rolling it along, but if you plan to use it on carpets, you may want to invest in a walker instead that can glide along with more ease. If not, you’ll be pleased with this fun toy.

10. Baby Einstein Neighborhood Symphony

(Music and Motion)

For those of you looking for a baby jumper activity center, you’ll find it here. This one evokes the musician in your baby and allows you to adjust to 4 different heights to grow with your child from ages 6 months up to 12 months. There are 15 activities, and with the 360-degree rotating seat, music surrounds your little angel.

It’s a bouncy jumper for active babies, so if your child can’t get enough of grooving to the beat, this might be your best choice!

PROS

  • 4 height adjustment
  • 15 musically-themed activities
  • 360 rotation
  • Great for jumping

CONS

  • Must be assembled correctly for stability
  • Can’t use for babies above 30 inches

Should You Buy This?

If your baby isn’t very tall and has lots of energy, this activity jumper will be great. While it can grow with your baby, you only have a limited time of use (ages 6 to 12 months), so it does lack some versatility but can still be a fun option that fits your lifestyle.

Honorable Mentions

There are a couple of baby entertainers that hit my radar that didn’t make my top ten that I think you should also know about.

Oribel PortaPlay 4-in-1 Foldable

Oribel makes a cool 4-in-1 that makes for a portable baby activity center, one that you can add matching stools to as an add-on accessory if you so choose. It can be taken outdoors and is designed for smaller modern spaces.

It folds flat so that you can roll it away under the bed or a sofa. Nice to take to Grandma’s or out for an adventure, though be cautious as there is no canopy to protect your baby from the sun when you use it outdoors.

Evenflo Exersaucer Triple Fun

My other honorable mention is the Evanflo Amazon Exersaucer. It looks like sensory overload a bit when you see the photos, but that’s a bit like the Amazon itself, lush with life and ripe with activity. It allows for use as a mat and activity table too. The developmental toys and versatility make it a great choice though it is a bit large and requires a whopping 9 AAA batteries.

The battery life doesn’t last long either, which is why it’s an honorable mention. You’ll be spending a fortune on batteries to power this one up, but it sure looks fun!

FAQs About Baby Activity Center/Exersaucer

Now, let’s knock some big questions out of the way.

What age can my baby use an activity center?

According to Consumer Reports, most of the activity centers I’ll show you below are a better option than walkers or jumpers because they stay in one place while keeping your baby occupied with safe activities. This prevents things like toppling down the stairs or smashing into furniture or even navigating toward that precious china cabinet.

But remember that..

Your baby must be between 4 and 6 months and capable of sitting up all on her own for the ones that have chairs. For others like wooden activity stations or mats, it depends on the product. One of them on my list is for ages 12 months and up, while another can be used when your baby is a newborn.

As a general rule, though, follow the advice of Consumer Reports for seated activity centers and what the manufacturer recommends on the other baby activity entertainment stations you might choose.

Is an Exersaucer or Jumperoo better?

Honestly, these are both mildly the same. And pediatricians aren’t too wild about them. Your baby’s legs are developing, and the way the seats are can put hips in a compromised position.

The thing to remember, though, is this: these aren’t meant for you to shove your baby in for loads of time.

You can most definitely put your baby in one of these styles of activity centers if you are 1) supervising always and 2) limiting the amount of time. Even too much tummy time isn’t a good thing! What we can learn here is this…no baby playstation is a substitute for parental supervision. So, if you need to keep baby busy for 20 minutes while you cook dinner, go for it! Put her in there and keep her nearby the kitchen without being in harm’s way.

Are activity centers or Exersaucers safe for babies?

Yes, they are, which I was just touching on a bit above. Consumer Reports favors them over walkers (I talk about those here) and doorway jumpers because these stay in one place. While leaving your baby in any chair or activity center for hours on end is not advised, using these sparingly to get a moment’s peace or not burn the house down while you make dinner is a godsend, believe me.

 

And if you’re totally not comfortable with putting your baby in an entertainment station or your baby is closer to toddler, or even just a wee thing, I have options for you on my list, so keep reading.

Things to Look at When Buying a Baby Activity Center

Ready to get a baby entertainer to keep your baby busy? I’ve included a mat and chairs similar to what we bought though I’m not going to tout one over the other. Every mama has a lifestyle and needs that are different from the next. As long as you are using these products as directed and intended, they will be safe for your baby.

How do you make the right decision?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your purchase:

Movement

You’ll find exersaucers, jumpers, and stations that either move or remain in one fixed position. Some will swivel while others have springs that make for bouncy fun. And some will rock too. You may find that with an active baby, ones that create more opportunity for movement might serve your baby best.

Stability

Every entertainment chair has an anchored frame and the ability to keep it from moving too much. You might find this is the ideal place to feed your baby a little snack rather than a high chair. Other moms might not agree with that, but regardless of if you want it to be a snack-time spot or not, you should think about how stable it is. Even babies don’t want to be bouncing ALL the time!

Ability to adjust

When an activity center for baby has an adjustable height or seat configurations, it means you get more out of your investment. Be careful how you adjust the seat, though. Your baby’s feet should be able to touch the floor with her legs straight when she’s sitting in it. If just the tips of her toes touch the floor, it’s too high, and if her knees are bent, it’s too low. Be prepared to adjust this as your baby grows. Ease of being able to adjust it to is a crucial feature for many parents.

Cushioning

You do NOT want a rock-hard seat or lack of support in the back with babies that are new to sitting up on their own. Not only will she not be comfortable, but she’ll also lack the help she needs.

And mom-to-mom, trust me when I tell you that things with those cushy pads that can be removed are the best. You can toss them in the washing machine when accidents happen from poop explosions or spit-up.

Batteries not included

Many of the entertainment stations for babies these days feature fun sounds and lights. Those need to be powered with batteries. Some of them can require an awful lot of batteries to keep things running. You’d be wise to keep plenty of those on hand at all times.

Poor him! 🙁

My husband can tell you all about the time he had to run out in the snow to get more batteries for our activity center. From that moment on, we bought them in bulk and never had to worry about batteries dying on us at the worst times. Of course, we spent a fortune on batteries, so there is a trade-off. You don’t *need* all those bells and whistles though, so do keep this in mind when purchasing.

Conclusion

And there you have it for baby entertainment stations. I’ve reviewed a bunch of different options to fit your lifestyle and home size. Some of you will definitely prefer a smaller or more portable version. Others of you won’t want an exersaucer or jumper, but rather a mat or activity area to use, and that’s fine too. You might already have a baby chair or a walker that you’d instead use to keep your little one occupied.

What I will say about the exersaucers and jumpers is this – make sure you’ve assembled them correctly before putting the baby in them. Inspect any edges as these things aren’t handmade. Even when companies take the best care to manufacture safe and quality products, excess plastic can linger on the sides, making for sharp spots.

This is to remember that..

With all of these activity centers for babies, though, you should never use it as a substitute for supervision. If you need to do something while the baby is on a mat, move her to her chair. Even the few minutes it takes for you to run to the bathroom could result in disaster if you leave her unattended. And with the exersaucers, stationary systems, and jumpers, always be where you can see your child.

None of these items are intended for prolonged use, so after a little time playing in them, take your baby out. Babies, especially little ones, have a limited attention span. Overstimulation can absolutely make for an ultra-cranky baby, so be forewarned!

Other than that, I think these 10 options plus my honorable mentions really give you a lot to work within the way of baby entertainment. You may find something that evolves with the baby is best, or you may prefer something that they’ll grow out of so you can hand it down to the next baby you have. There are no wrong answers here, so pick the best fit for you and be sure to have your camera ready to record those beautiful baby giggles and smiles!