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On having a baby one if the phrases that gets banded about is "tummy time" and another is "independent pay". Having no clue whatsoever and being totally green behind the ears and totally petrified about being responsible for this new little life we were advised to buy a baby gym, and so we bought the fisher price rainforest gym, mainly due to the good reviews it received on amazon, with little clue as to what we would do with it!
*WHAT IS IT?*
It's a colourful mat, with a rainforest design through which 2 bars are arched over with hanging activities to entertain your little darling. Recommended from birth to 6 months but we have found that we still use this most days with our 10 month old, possibly not in the way originally intended but we are certainly getting our monies worth.
It comes in 3 parts, the 2 arches which clip together and the mat where the arches slide through and anchor. It's simple to put together, however be warned once you have clipped the arches together there is really no going back as every time I've gone to pull them apart you have to wrench which such force you fear you are going to break it. As such this has meant it has stayed connected!
The mat, which is machine washable for when you have the inevitable sick incidents (or in our case the little poop accident during nappy off time) is brightly coloured which has always caught my little ones eye. It is a satin feel to the middle of the mat, which has various pictures of rainforest animals (monkey, frog, parrot, zebra, cheetah) and a big sun which has ribbon sewn on in a taggie form for little fingers to pull and play with as they get older. Around the edge of the mat is a silky border offering a different texture. And of course there is the obligatory crinkly sound in the form of a felt leaf which can be lifted up and down. The variety of textures have been fascinating to my little one and I often used to find him stroking the edge, especially when he was tired. When he was around 3 months old one of his favourite games was to sit on my knee and look at the mat and have me point out the frog, and the parrot, and the zebra, the bright colours really caught his eye and it gave me an extra 10-15 minutes out of the toy before going back to its original use of lying under the arches. Now he is older we still use this everyday, he now plays peekaboo with the leaf (for hours I might add!). The mat has several fabric loops sewn round the edge, this is to attach the toys which come with this to the mat to encourage tummy time, we did this at the very beginning (0-6 weeks) but soon stopped as he couldn't move to the toys and was more interested in just lying on his tummy.
Other uses we've found with the mat is if you remove the arches it makes a great peekaboo sheet! We also took it on plane journeys (before he could move) so he could lie on the floor and we wouldn't be so worried about him lying on grubby dirty floors.
Bad points on the mat; it is very thin so if you have hardwood floors I don't think it would be particularly comfortable for the baby. We have always had to put it on either a rug or the foam tiles you get. And although it is advertised as suitable for tummy time from birth, it is really no different to putting the baby on a towel on the floor as no extra support is offered to help in the very early days as they learn to use their arms. To combat this on occasion we rolled a small hand towel to pop under his chest to help him lift his head, however it would be a good feature to be included as it is on so many other gyms.
2 brightly coloured arches with hanging toys attached. The centre point of the arches is the control panel which comes with 2 volume options (loud and louder) and 3 musical options, music, rainforest sounds and what I think is music when you kick the bars. These play for 20 minutes continuously which is plenty of time in my experience, my little man is well and ready to leave the mat after that.
Directly under this are 2 hanging butterflies which look as though they should be on a mechanical rotation, unfortunately these have to be turned by hand and it is certainly beyond my babies ability, let alone reach t turn them. These have come into play a lot more now he is bigger and more mobile and it is his first port of call to reach and grab as he loves the silky material they are made of. For littler babies they are something to look at but I think when smaller all attention is on the flashing lights behind the butterflies which flash in time with the music. We found that trying to swing the butterflies and have the lights on (which happens automatically when you switch the music on) was far too stimulating when he was little and often resulting in mass hysteria, never fun.
Across each bar are the same fabric loops to hang toys from. This means that each toy is interchangeable and can be moved higher or lower to suit your babies needs. The other great thing about this is that you can remove most toys if your baby becomes over stimulated from too many toys. And again as they get bigger you can add other toys from your ever growing collection to the gym.
Arches now he's bigger; are a tool to try and pull up on, are a great source of entertainment to shake and pull down on himself, are more fun to kick, provide an obstacle course to get round while crawling. I probably get more use now than I did when he was little as he will also circle the whole thing as if to see which space is best to go in through!
Bad points; once they are clipped they are clipped. While they can still be folded in on each other so they aren't in a square formation but you still need a lot of space to store.
The interchangeable toys are a mirror, a toucan soft touch rattle, an elephant with a spinning ball, a parrot with a spinning paddle and a soft monkey. My sons absolute favourite is the mirror, now this is probably because his favourite thing to do is to look at himself and lick his reflection. It has also acted as a wonderful teething tool!
The monkey; didn't last long on the arch and has been relegated to the toy box. This is because it attaches by its tail and is very easy for even the youngest of babies to pull off. My son still likes this, again to suck on the tail, but all in all its probably not palsied with very often.
The toucan rattle; my son has not been interested in once! The poor little toucan just bobs along and looks at my son in hope each day. Each day the edge of the mat has more appeal for him topics up and put down than poor mr toucan. Again, this is of 2 different materials, felt and satin so great for little hands to explore and makes a lovely rattle sound. I think It blends too well and can be overlooked by busy babies.
The elephant; my son loves to kick this with his feet to make the balls spin!
The parrot and paddle; this is the one that I play with most when playing with my son on the mat. He's not quite got to grips with the spinning rather than putting in your mouth but he loves to watch it spin, and it is the easiest for me to spin.
We have used this nearly every day for my son and it has been a marvellous buy. Above I have outlined some of the ways that we have used this, especially now he is past the recommended age limit.
In the early days it was a great way to grab a 5 minute break as this kept him occupied and happy. Even now I use this while I'm in the shower, this holds his attention on his back for all of 5 minutes before he crawls off, but still that's 5 minutes in the shower for me! I'm probably lucky still though as my son will lie on his back still for short periods of time, for babies that sit and stand I can imagine that the arches would become tools to pull up (as my son is desperately trying to do now but can't quite work it out) and to hit and push over.
The music is catchy and not too annoying though it will get stuck in your head!
We bought ours off amazon for £50. Which is a lot of money. However we have had constant use from this mat and will continue to use both the mat and toys if not the arches as he gets bigger.
I give this 4 out of 5, stars lost for storage issues as you can't unclip the arches, and the hefty initial layout as I think in part you're paying for the name (and to keep up with the joneses) however my little one loves this and I can see use continuing to use this for a while yet!
Suitable from birth to 6 months. The activity gym's comfy floor quilt has a soft silky border and colorful arches supported by a friendly giraffe. Includes a soft monkey, jingly toucan, elephant and parrot with spinning paddle. General information: Batteries required 3 x C batteries not included. EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 0027084414998. WARNING(S): To prevent possible injury by entanglement remove this toy when the child starts trying to get up on its hands and knees into a crawling position.