Thursday, July 21st, 2005
Review: Foam Play Mats
All play mats are not created equal. I wanted foam mats to line the bottom of my new (OK, this was six months ago) play yard so that Little Miss would have softer falls as she toddled about. The foam would also prove effective at keeping our hard floor warm during the winter.
I learned that foam mats sell for radically different prices and vary widely in squishiness (squishy = better shock absorption).
- Bought 12-inch interlocking foam alphabet floor tiles. These were a steal in the toy section at Ross (which is more than a clothing store, apparently). The tiles were very squishy, but a pain to clean. Each tile has a pop-out foam letter in its middle area. The seams around the letters and between tiles are a haven for dust and dirt particles. Plus, if you try moving the tiles, the letters fall out.
- Bought four black 24-inch interlocking mats at a sporting goods store (also available at K-Mart and Target). They were labeled as exercise mats designed to sit under and around heavy equipment. They were way too firm.
- Considered gymnastic mats. They have the ultimate squish factor, but are damned expensive.
- Found 24-inch foam play mats at Amazon.com. These look like exercise mats, but in a drab blue and are actually labeled as being play mats. Are they squishy? Are they firm? I wasn’t going to buy them to find out.
- Scoured web sites for play mats using Google and found web prices to be quite, uh, pricey. I requested a free sample piece from one vendor. Gah! The sample was as firm as the exercise mats.
- Discovered that Ross — the clothing store that sells toys and other junk — sold 24-inch interlocking mats in red-yellow-green-blue combinations that were very squishy and dirt cheap ($12 for a pack of four). Unfortunately, they seemed to sell out the same day as they are unpacked and Ross staff couldn’t say when they would receive more. “Visit every day,” was their advice. I had Grandma snatch up play mats at several Ross stores in her area. Though, the dye lots didn’t always match (e.g., one red tile is darker than another, etc.) Sorry, I don’t remember the manufacturer and I couldn’t locate them on the web at the time.
- One caution: Play mats from various manufacturers do not necessarily interlock. You’ll notice in the photo that my play mats have an odd center tab that is shaped differently from the surrounding tabs, thus rendering it incompatible with my black exercise mats.
The 24-inch mat size makes cleaning easy. Little Miss loves them. Our cats love them. Visitors want to know where we bought them. My knees thank me on a daily basis when crawling and playing with Little Miss. If Mom would let me, I’d probably go wall-to-wall with these suckers.
Update: Joel from Little Bun Blog reports finding similar foam mats at Sam’s Club in September 2005. I spotted $20 foam mats at Target in the children’s furniture aisle in October 2005.
Update #2: Greg’s post on Daddy Types spurred additional memories. I had enough mats to make our living room Christmas themed (red and green mats) and our family room Hannukah themed (blue and gold/yellow).
A commenter on Daddy Types pointed out that cat claws shred these mats fast. Brown, one of our two cats, did claw several of our mats one day. A little clawing is a blemish. Repeated abuse would ruin the allure and probably create lots of tiny pockets for dirt particles. So, your mileage may vary.