Around 6 months of age, babies get the strong urge to get mobile. Crawling and scooting around with both arms and legs, it won’t be long before they’re on two feet on their own. Some parents like using baby walkers, but I personally don’t recommend them due to dangers and developmental delays (and neither do a lot of professionals); activity centers are a great alternative! These are also often known as “exersaucers”, but those are actually the name of Evenflo’s brand of activity center, much like how we refer to tissues as Kleenexes.
The basic activity center has a swivel seat for your baby to be upright in, and rock and bounce to their little heart’s delight. They’re a great source of entertainment and can give you a short, much-needed break when you need to do something but can’t keep your eye on them. However, please don’t leave them too long in the play center; they’re not supposed to be babysitters!
Mommy Buyer’s Guide: Baby Activity Centers
What do you look for when shopping for an activity center? Here are my suggestions:
- Cost: You can expect to pay about $50-100 for a good activity center. The more you’re willing to pay, the more fully-featured the center will typically be. For example, some of the higher-end models have music, built-in toys, and the ability to convert it into other things.
- Check out the toys: Ah, the most important part! This is obviously hard to do unless you look at them personally in-store. While you can’t exactly get in the exersaucer yourself and play with it, you can spin the toys and try out the electronic features (if any). Pay attention to where the toys are placed, too. You might be tempted to get one where the toys are in easy reach, but actually having them out of reach gives them more motivation to reach for them!
- Check how adjustable it is: Ideally, the play saucer will be adjustable so they can use it over time as they grow and get taller. It should be adjusted so their tiny toes are just barely touching the ground. Some saucers also allow you to change settings such as the seat depth and angle.
- Convenience: Will you be taking the play saucer with you anywhere? If so, one that can be folded up and has a handle for easy transport.
- Easy-to-clean: Look out for tight angles and places where crud can get stuck. The ideal baby play center will be easy to clean with a wet cloth, and if the toys are removable and the seat pad is machine-washable, you’ll be in the money.
- Longevity: The average play saucer will only be used for 4-5 months, from the time they start to get mobile up until when they start to walk on their own. Some parents find it hard to swallow the fact that they need to shell out money for something that won’t get much use! Some centers are adjustable like the Exersaucer Triple Fun Jungle, which transforms from a play mat, to an exersaucer, to a play table for kids who can stand up on their own two feet. You’ll get way more use out of something like this as opposed to a straight-up play center.
MomTricks Picks: My Favorite Activity Center
Hands down, my favorite activity center is the Evenflo Exersaucer Triple Fun Jungle (click here to read our review). Not only is it awesome as an activity center in its own right, but it also converts to suit your child as they grow, so it’s a great bang for your mommy buck.
The first step is a play mat that your child can use pretty early on. In play mat mode, it’s suitable for ages 0-4 months. When your child reaches about 4 months old, that’s when you can set it to exersaucer play center mode. Finally, when they reach walking age, it can be converted to a play table!
Be sure to read our review for even more information in this exersaucer!
Please Don’t Leave Your Child Unattended
While we all need to get away and take the trash out or have a shower sometimes, please don’t leave your child in their activity center unattended if you can absolutely help it. While there isn’t a lot of danger associated with them, things can go wrong, especially if you’re not keeping an eye out.