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The Tiny Love gyms are great, I know I blessed the day I got one as it kept my hyper baby quiet for up to half an hour (precious time indeed). However, it doesn't really last as long as they say it will. I mean, by 4 months, my baby had outgrown it. She no longer finds it interesting and instead, either pushes the arches down with a little foot, or pulls them down using the toys. So it's really good but only for a short period of time. I would say it may not really be worth spending a great deal on a gym. Just get a cheap one that will last 2-3 months.
Im really impressed by the Tiny Love range of colourful, developmental toys for babies. And if youre looking for a playmat, the Gymini Super Deluxe Lights & Music model has to be one of the best (though not the cheapest) on the market. Described by the manufacturer as a multi-sensory play environment, it lives up to its promise. We received this as a gift when my daughter was born, and Im really glad we did although shes only 2 months old, shes already started taking notice of many of the features, and Im sure she will get plenty of use out of it over the coming months. The playmat is recommended for use from 0-10 months. It consists of a colourful, well-padded square mat with various features (described below) and two arches, from which hang a number of toys. There is no assembly required, as it simply pops up when removed from its sturdy plastic bag and unfolded. The mat itself incorporates a range of fabrics and textures, with an animal theme. Theres an elephant, giraffe, lion, zebra, monkey, birds and dragonfly, all brightly coloured with many details to catch a babys attention. For instance, the elephants ear which has a crinkly texture when squeezed - lifts up to show a bird underneath. (Apparently, this helps with the concept of object permanence!) The zebras mane is textured (do zebras have manes? Well, this one does) as is the giraffes tail and the dragonflys wings. A little bird squeaks when pressed. One corner of the playmat represents the Lights and Music element. Three textured flowers play music and flash lights when pressed, and there is also a control pad to set the music playing. The music includes 10 minutes of Mozart (Sonata for Piano in F) and 10 seconds each of various nursery rhymes. Apparently, these particular pieces have been carefully chosen for their structure, to contribute to language development, although Ill have to take the manufacturers word for this. The music certainly attracts the attention of my little girl, who always stops to listen. In one corner is a large mirror,which can be moved to various heights and angles. My daughter particularly loves this and will stare in fascination at her reflection, although obviously has no idea who it is! The mirror is also helpful in encouraging babies to lift their heads. The two intercrossing arches have various toys hanging from them, which can be removed and moved from place to place as desired. They include a parrot, which rattles and has crinkly wings; a monkey, which also rattles and has springy legs; a cute rattly giraffe and a colourful elephant with crinkly ears. Theres also a brightly coloured bead rattle which could also serve as a teether. The hanging toys encourage babies to reach for and touch them, stimulating the development of gross and fine motor skills. The mat is a brilliant place for young babies to lie on their backs or tummies, with a wealth of interesting things to look at, listen to and touch. According to the website, the arches effect helps relax baby, providing the security of a comparatively enclosed space. The arches can be removed once babies are a bit older, enabling baby to sit on the mat and play with the toys which were previously hung over his/her head. The manufacturers provide helpful advice on how best to use the mat at different ages; this, along with other information, can be accessed via their website, www.tinylove.com. Babies grow and learn incredibly fast during the first year and the playmat is marketed largely on its developmental benefits, including sensory stimulation, gross and fine motor skills, cognitive development (such as learning about cause and effect and object permanence), and language development. Apart from all that, its a fun play space which is attractive to adult eyes too. The lights and music feature requires 3xAA batteries. The mat can be cleaned with a damp cloth, or machine washed in cold water if the sound unit is removed. Available from various retailers including Mothercare, where it is priced at £44.99, or Amazon for £43.95.
I was a bit superstitious about buying anything for my baby while before she arrived safely, but I couldn't help smiling when my husband brought home an award-winning activity gym when I got to twenty weeks pregnant. It was the Tiny Love Gymini Deluxe, which consists of a brightly coloured soft squarish playmat (80cm x 88 cm) with two crossing diagonal arches over it, from which hang several toys. The hanging toys that come with the mat are: a monkey with springy legs that rattles, a parrot with crinkly wings that sits on a perch, a giraffe with beady feet, a jitterpull purple elephant with crinkly ears, and there is also a colourful rattle with beads that move which Leah loves. There are other toys available that you can buy to hang from the arches, and several holes in them so that you can add toys of your own, or move the toys around (or even take them off completely and use them as toys elsewhere like in the car or buggy!) These hanging animals are great for grabbing, bashing and playing with, and help with hand and eye coordination. The cloth mat itself has bright, vivid pictures of animals: a lion, a black and white zebra (younger babies love black and white!), a giraffe and an elephant. It's not just a plain cloth - there are some interesting touches, like the lion's felt tail, and the elephants crinkly ears, as well as places that squeak. There are three flowers which light up when you play the music (choose from a ten minute Mozart session to relax your baby, or some nursery tunes.) Sitting upright in one corner of the mat is a large mirror, which provides much amusement for Leah and was her favourite thing when she was too young to be able to hit the toys with her hands or sustain any interest in them. It moves with flexibility when she kicks it as it sits in an elastic pouch. The mat has also helped her with head and neck control when lying on her tummy, and there is so much to see and do that it encourages her to try rolling over. The light and sound system is well hidden in a corner of the mat. It runs on 3 AA batteries, but little fingers can't get to them as the unit is safely secured. There is a switch to turn on in order to play the music, but baby can also touch the pad to get the same result. My batteries ran out after only 2 months, as the gym has been well used! The mat is secured to the arches that are suspended above by poppers. It is very easy to detach the arches, remove the sound unit, and pop the rest of the mat into the washing machine (it needs to go through a delicate cycle.) I've washed the mat several times and the colour hasn't faded. To fold it up you simply fold in half by securing two poppers, and then I slide mine under the sofa, and hey presto! Gone! It came in a plastic pocket, so it would be possible to store it, folded, in that. It's easy to store because it folds up flat and would be a suitable toy for taking in the car on a family holiday. We started putting Leah on the mat aged about 5 weeks (prior to that it didn't interest her.) Gradually we have watched her with fascination as she has become so much more aware of the toys and the mirror, and has now mastered all that she can do with it! It's most suited for a baby from 0-6 months, but most babies would probably lose interest after that point. It claims to be suitable for babies up to 10 months, but it would be a little optomistic to hope they would still get as much use out of it at that point. It's a good way for baby to get some exercise as well as have fun. Since we have a growing number of obese children in society, it won't do any harm to start young! And with this playmat, exercise is certainly fun. Although mothers do quickly become adept at doing things with one hand, it also works as a great, safe, place where I can put her down for five minutes to be entertained when I have to go to the loo, answer the phone, or run around rescuing baby rabbits from the cats! Price (approx) £44.99
I really enjoy the time I spend playing with my 5 month old baby girl, but unfortunately there are other things I have to do (such as eating, getting washed and dressed, and housework, to name but a few), so I have to find some ways of keeping her occupied and happy for a while. This combined Activity Mat and Gym is ideal for just that. She started to show interest in it from around 1 month, and from about 1.5 months I could leave her for 5 minutes or so at a time. Now, if she’s in the mood, I can leave her for up about 10 minutes to play quite happily on her own. (NB. When I say ‘leave her’, I do stay in the vicinity, don’t worry!). The mat itself is padded, although you’d need a carpeted floor underneath it as well to make it comfortable, and has a brightly-coloured Noah’s Ark design. Even when my baby was 1 month old, I would prop the mat up near her bouncy chair and she’d love to look at the bright colours. When she’s a few months older, it’ll be ideal for naming the animals, the colours and the differences between the pairs of animals (I have started already but I don’t know how much of it is going in!). There are also two peek-a-boo flaps, one with a crinkly sound and the other with a squeaker. It’s a really well-designed mat, because it provides visual stimulation as well as activities (i.e. the flaps). It is also machine-washable – very important! I have no criticisms of it whatsoever. The gym is comprised of two arches that cross over in the middle and fix to the mat with press-studs. There are holes all along them, from which hang the toys. A good point is that you can reposition the toys wherever you want for variety, and even detach them to give them to an older baby to hold and play with. Because of the design, the whole thing folds flat really easily without any dismantling. It’s a very well-thought and practical design. It comes with 5 toys, all so ft: a seahorse that plays a tune, a rattley whale, a rattley rainbow, an octopus with stretchy legs and one foot that rattles, and a tortoise with a mirror. You can handwash all of them except the seahorse. The good points are that the toys look lovely, are brightly-coloured, are soft so they won’t hurt the baby and are quite diverse in appearance. The negative points are that three of them make a similar rattley sound, I think they could have thought up something a bit different, and also the seahorse’s tune-playing device broke after just 3 months. On the packaging, it does say that you can order different toys if you want to, which is good for when baby starts to get bored with them, but no price is mentioned, which always annoys me. I am really really pleased with this Mat and Gym. It cost £29 (from John Lewis), which I don’t think was that expensive because you get the mat and gym together. It is also one of the best designed ones that I have seen, and has had a great deal of thought put into it. Most importantly of all, my baby seems to love it, and that’s why it deserves a 5 star rating.