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Updated October 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Skip Hop Explore And More Baby’s View 3 Stage Activity Center
Skip Hop
Explore And More Baby’s View 3 Stage Activity Center
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Grows With Baby
Bottom Line

An innovative activity center with an adaptable design that grows with your baby; one of the few options that can be used well beyond the toddler years.

Pros

Converts from an entertaining and educational activity center to a sleek little table that can be used for years to come. Viewing window contributes to this toy's whole-body approach, which helps promote spatial awareness and teach cause and effect. We're also impressed with this activity center's foot tray, which allows babies to keep their feet flat rather than stress the tiny bones, ligaments, and muscles of their feet.

Cons

Some parents were disappointed by the lack of bounce.

Best Bang for the Buck
Bright Starts Around We Go 3-in-1 Activity Center
Bright Starts
Around We Go 3-in-1 Activity Center
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Walk and Play
Bottom Line

This activity center features a walk-around seat that encourages little ones to take their very first steps without allowing them to wander off; a safer alternative to a traditional walker for homes with stairs.

Pros

Seat rolls around the activity center as little ones learn to walk. Comes with 10 highly entertaining toys to encourage exploration and interaction. Requires natural weight-bearing strength, so it's recommended for babies ages 6 months and up. Older siblings can play as well. Seat can be removed once toddlers find their feet, so this toy grows with your child nicely. None of the safety concerns of a traditional walker, and ideal for smaller homes.

Cons

Can shift around on hard floors when tots take off at high speed.

Baby Einstein Neptune's Discovery Ocean Jumper
Baby Einstein
Neptune's Discovery Ocean Jumper
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Best for Bouncing
Bottom Line

This captivating activity center is packed with fun activities, but for many tots, the bounce is by far the biggest draw; a highly entertaining pick for the jolly jumper in your life.

Pros

Delivers both an activity center and a jumper in one. Comes with a host of activities to stimulate cognitive and physical development. Removable play elements and adjustable sides make this toy more customizable than alternatives. Suspended toys offer eye-catching movement and a different level of interaction. Strengthens leg muscles and helps prepare little ones for walking. Swivel seat rotates 360 degrees. Four adjustable height positions.

Cons

Could do with more moving pieces for fine motor skill development.

Fisher-Price Sit-to-Stand Activity Center
Fisher-Price
Sit-to-Stand Activity Center
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Convertible Convenience
Bottom Line

A convertible activity center set that covers everything from tummy to toddler entertainment; caters to kiddos of all ages and makes a thoughtful baby shower gift.

Pros

A good value for an activity center that's essentially a 3-in-1 toy for different stages. Comes with a play mat and a musical alligator for babies who are still working on tummy time. Features a swiveling seat and plenty of moving toys to assist with motor skill development. Lights and sound teach cause and effect. Transforms into a play table for toddlers by replacing the seat with the bug ramp.

Cons

Doesn't offer adjustable height, which can be a concern for growing kids.

Fisher-Price 2-in-1 Baby Activity Center
Fisher-Price
2-in-1 Baby Activity Center
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Most Versatile
Bottom Line

A fairly priced activity center that provides hours of entertainment for babies as they grow; our expert loves how it converts from a sitting table to a full-on activity center as tots are able to stand and have more motor function.

Pros

Has a detachable alligator that includes 20 minutes of unique music that inspires creativity and fun. The seat has 3 different height positions to accommodate growth. The center area can be converted from a sitting area to a ramp toy that includes a car. Multiple animal-themed spinning toys to play with. Easy for parents to set up and clean if needed. Our expert enjoys the number of activities this offers for growing babies. The seat is machine-washable.

Cons

Many users noted that they wished the entire playset was height-adjustable.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best baby activity centers

As a parent, you’re always looking for ways to keep your baby safely entertained while you fold laundry or make dinner. Baby activity centers with lights, sounds, and strategically placed toys provide the security parents want with the entertainment and independence babies need.

Some baby activity centers have a seat that doubles as a jumper, while others convert into a play table for use as your child gets older. You can find models with everything from music and lights to smartphone holders and removable toys. There are many options on the market, so finding the right one for you and your baby might seem a bit overwhelming.

You’ve come to the right place. We at BestReviews have provided this shopping guide with an overview of the types of baby activity centers available, as well as the features that might make a difference to you.

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The fabric and padding used on the seat keep your baby comfortable. Some models have extra padding, which you really only need if your baby can’t sit up very well. Otherwise, a soft fabric with a thin layer of padding is enough.

Types of baby activity centers

Stationary

A stationary activity center has a fabric-covered seat centered in a frame with toys attached. The toys can be on one or all four sides, depending on the design. These models might play music, have removable toys, and/or include legs whose height can be adjusted as your baby grows. Stationary activity centers don’t have a base that a baby can push off of, leaving the baby’s feet open to the floor.

Exersaucer

Exersaucers are similar to stationary activity centers except they have a plastic base between the baby’s feet and the floor. They can have all the same features as a stationary center, too.

Expert Tip
Babies should not be placed in these activity centers until they are naturally pulling themselves to standing. The tiny muscles and ligaments of their hips, knees, and feet are not ready to bear their weight until they naturally pull themselves up.
BestReviews Baby and Child Expert

Stationary jumper

Stationary jumpers have seats that are attached to springs so your baby can jump. These activity centers also have toys and might include music and lights like other stationary activity centers. Some have high supports for more stability, while others are designed for 360° rotation in addition to jumping. Jumper models work well for active babies but usually cost more.

Baby activity center features to consider

Convertibility

You can find versions of any of the three types of activity centers that convert for a second or third different use. Some turn into a play center with a mat for newborns, a stationary play table, and/or a walker when they start toddling. There are some models that convert into an art table for use in the preschool years. Convertibility adds months and sometimes years to the useful life of an activity center.

However, it should be noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend using activity centers on wheels as walkers are a hazard to babies. The AAP has called for a ban on baby walkers and many studies support this ban. 

Number, type, and location of toys

Some activity centers have only a few toys on the front, while others look like your baby has been swallowed by a toy store. We suggest examining what the toys do and their location rather than their number. A few well-designed, easily manipulated toys can keep your baby happy for hours. Toys that move, shake, spin, and twist are often favorites. Some activity centers also include mobiles that encourage your baby to reach and grasp, which is great for fine motor skills. Some of the most versatile activity centers have toys that can be moved into different positions. These enable you to change things up so your baby doesn’t get bored.

Expert Tip
Babies should not bear weight on their toes. They should be on the activity center's lowest settings so that they can have their feet flat.
BestReviews Baby and Child Expert

Music and lights

Activity centers that play music might be entertaining, but for some parents the noises can make life miserable. Child development experts recommend avoiding toys that play music and other sounds as these sounds take the place of important human interactions that help with bonding, attachment, and language development.

Some centers play as many as a dozen songs, which means you’re less likely to get tired of them. Others only play one or two, which could leave you grinding your teeth by day’s end. Of all the features, music usually adds the most to the price of an activity center. Lights can be fun, but they certainly aren’t necessary. Keep in mind that both music and lights take battery power, adding to the lifetime cost of the activity center.

Seat rotation

A seat that rotates a full 360° is not only entertaining but also provides a way for your baby to track you while you move around the room. Look for activity centers with smooth rotation because some have been known to get stuck in one position.

Height adjustability

Babies grow quickly. An activity center with adjustable legs enables your baby to use it longer and gives you more bang for your buck.

Portability

If you plan to take the activity center while you travel or on weekend trips to grandma’s house, portability is an important issue. Foldable or collapsible activity centers are easier to transport. Models with removable toys enable you to make everything even more compact when on the road.

Baby activity center prices

Depending on quality and features, you can expect to pay from less than $50 to $100 and more for a baby activity center.

Inexpensive

For under $50, you’ll find baby activity centers with a lot of perks like adjustable height and seats that spin 360°. These activity centers might have toys on all sides with a mobile above.

Mid-range

In the $50 to $100 range are convertible models that can be used as an activity center, walker, and/or play table. There are also plenty of stationary jumpers. Collapsible or foldable models also start in this price range.

Expensive

For over $100, you’ll find convertible activity centers, jumpers, and some models that have foot pedals to activate music and sounds. Some models have multiple mobiles and toys that can be moved, removed, and adjusted.

Expert Tip
Walkers with wheels should never be used. They are a safety hazard.
BestReviews Baby and Child Expert

Tips

  • Think about the theme. Some baby activity centers have a jungle, ocean, or another theme. While the theme won’t matter too much to your baby, you might want to consider one that matches the other items in your baby’s room.

  • Err on the side of caution. While activity centers provide a great way to keep your baby entertained while you do dishes or fold laundry, you still need to keep a watchful eye on your baby. Activity centers have been put through extensive testing and trials, but you never know what could go wrong.

  • Keep the activity center clean. Activity centers are made of plastic that can easily be wiped clean (be sure to check any cracks or crevices). Toys should also be periodically wiped down. Playmats and seat covers might be machine washable, but read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
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An activity center that comes with a play mat is useful even before your baby can walk or crawl. These models have a detachable toy frame that can be placed over the mat for your baby to play with while lying on the floor.

FAQ

Q. When is my baby too big to use the activity center?

A. Once your baby can stand flat-footed when the activity center is at its maximum height, it’s time to put it away or convert it to a different configuration. For the sake of safety, you should also stop using the activity center if your child starts crawling out of it. As your baby gains mobility, a stationary activity center could prove frustrating. Even if your child is still small enough to fit inside, he or she might lose interest.

Q. Do baby activity centers come with a safety harness? Do they pose a tipping hazard?

A. The seat depth of activity centers makes a safety harness unnecessary. Most activity centers have a wide enough base that tipping isn’t an issue. However, the wider the base, the sturdier the activity center will be. As you adjust the height of the seat and the play area gets raised, it’s easier for your baby to push the activity center over. That’s one reason why it’s best to keep an eye on your baby.
 

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