“ Brand: Early Learning Centre / Type: Musical Play Mat / Age: 6 months + / Type: Play Mats & Gyms „
I purchased this play mat for my son when he was about 8 months old because, at the time, I was unable to get the ELC sound and lights drum I had wanted (which I have since purchased & reviewed!). I felt that my son would benefit from a toy that he could hit and make a noise and this seemed like a good toy for that.
I can't remember exactly what we paid for this, I know we purchased it in the sale and it was around the £10 mark. The mat is suitable from 6 months of age and can be used to encourage tummy play. The mat comes folded up in a cardboard box and there is a purple semi circular cushion that can be velcroed to the bottom of the mat as a support for younger babies. The mat is purple in colour with a giant black and white keyboard pictured on. Each of the keys can be pressed (or hit) to make a slightly different sound. There are four 'instruments' that the keyboard can play and these are pictured along the top of the mat. To select each instrument, you press the associated picture once and then the keys will make the sounds of that instrument. The instruments are drum, piano, trumpet and violin. There are also 6 demo songs and 3 rhythms that the mat plays - using the sliding switches on the control box which also contains the speaker.
The mat is really easy to use and my son loved it, even at an early age. The keys do need to be tapped quite hard to make the noise, and sometimes they do not make a noise at all - this was very frustrating to him. We found the mat great for tummy time but the cushion provided as a support just got in his way, so we stopped using this pretty much right away (only after he had been sick on it already - incidentally, it washes up really well in the washing machine). My son loved the rhythms and tunes this plays and soon developed a favourite instrument - the trumpet. When my son became mobile, he lost interest in this toy as he had little desire to sit still at a toy. We tried to use it as a walking aid when he was learning to walk - hoping he would enjoy the noise the keys made as he walked across them. This, however, proved unsuccessful for us but I maintain that this could be used in this way (with a child that enjoyed this!). We have packed the mat away for now but I think he may again enjoy this when he is a little older and learning a bit more about music.
Overall, I would say that this is great for young babies as it is stimulating and a lovely way to introduce them to music. However, for us the toy has not quite had the use that I would have expected when we purchased it.
Music is a big part of our life and we wanted to introduce that to our little girl as soon as possible. There are various musical toys on the market for kids and babies but one of the really good ones we have found is the first percussion playmat. If you have ever seen the movie Big staring Tom Hanks then you will know how exciting a piano on the floor that you can step on to play the notes is and to be able to have one in your own home is even better. Ok, this playmat is not quite the size of the one in the movie Big but hey, who has that kind of room anyway. Incidentally, you can actually buy a version of that piano that was featured in Big. You will find it in the New York branch of the toy store FAO Schwartz but it costs about a quarter of a million dollars so at £20 I found this one from the Early Learning Centre a lot more economical!!
The mat lies on the floor and is in the shape of a semi circle. There are 8 white keys and then 5 black keys spanned out in front of you. When you press or step on the keys they play a note. They are quite sensitive so even the slightest touch will play the note which s quite fun when you roll over onto it and music plays. There are also four pictures of musical instruments on the mat, a violin, trumpet, drum and piano. If you touch one of these pictures they will play a demon song with that particular instrument as the main instrument. They do sound quite good and fairly like those instruments if not a bit mechanical, as all baby toys that play music do in my opinion.
There is a control panel at the top of the mat which allows you to play some demo songs as well as just single notes so you can hear what the mat can really do. The mat rolls up and came rolled up in the box when we bought it. I think the only problem with this is that it is a little bit bent still on one side where it was rolled and this manes it a little hard to play that note on the fold but I think once it has been laid flat for quite a while it should do ok. The mat also comes with a removable cushion which is nice to lay your head/chin on if you are on the floor.
ELC recommend this toy is for ages 6 months to 3 years and I would probably say that this is fair. They say that this is hands on music that baby can make music when they crawl on this. It's a great way of helping your baby to discover music and enjoy the fun tunes and rhythm and I would agree, a lovely way to introduce music and making music yourself!