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Best Baby Activity Centers

Updated November 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
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.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
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.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 15 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 543 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    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.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    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.

    Shopping guide for best baby activity centers

    Last Updated November 2018

    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 walker or 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.

    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.

    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.

    Big fun for baby

    With music, toys, and three adjustable heights, the Evenflo Exersaucer is a highly engaging activity center. Baby can bounce, baby can spin 360 degrees, and baby will definitely be entertained by all this toy has to offer. Setup may take a little time, but satisfied parents say it’s worth the effort.

    Baby activity center features to consider

    Convertibility

    You can find versions of any of the three types of activity center 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 into the preschool years. Convertibility adds months and sometimes years to the useful life of an activity center.

    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.

    Music and lights

    Activity centers that play music might be entertaining, but for some parents the noises can make life miserable. It all depends on your outlook. 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.

    EXPERT TIP

    Most activity centers are made of lightweight materials, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to move. The size can make one awkward to carry and difficult to fit in a car. We recommend a foldable or collapsible model if your plans include frequent travel.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Even if your baby loves music, you might want to skip the music feature on an activity center. It quickly bumps up the price, and the tune selection is limited. If you have a phone or stereo nearby, you can play more varied music for you and your baby.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Some activity centers have loops that give you the option of attaching other toys.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    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.

    Affordable fun

    With well-dispersed toys and jump-activated music, the Jumperoo offers great entertainment at an affordable price. Toy placement – above and on all four sides – makes this activity center one of our favorites. The toys keep babies exploring while the smooth jumping action keeps babies in constant motion.

    Tips

    • Think about theme. Some baby activity centers have a jungle, ocean, or other 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. Play mats and seat covers might be machine washable, but read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
    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. Are there any activity centers with screens for videos or cartoons?

    A. There aren’t any activity centers with built-in screens, but there are models that include a smartphone holder positioned so your baby can watch it. However, know that the phone might be within grabbing distance.

    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.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Erica
      Erica
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer

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