Life was so easy when my son was in the “potted plant” stage. He was happy to sit on a blanket and play with the toys that he could reach. If he couldn’t reach a toy, he would just play with his toes. I didn’t have to worry about him venturing off somewhere if I needed a few seconds to grab laundry or feed the dog. Of course, this phase does not last forever. Eventually, he began to work on crawling and moving around. We have hard floors in the living room, so we needed some kind of soft surface for his play space. I started searching for the best kids play mat. There were a ridiculous number of options, so we came up with these criteria and excluded any play mat that didn’t fit.

  • Size: at least 25 square feet, but the bigger, the better for us.
  • Border pieces: some mats include them, others don’t. They had to be included.
  • Price: there are so many options under $40 that something higher isn’t worth it.
  • Colors: something colorful but not too loud or crazy for the living room.
  • Foam: we wanted a foam play mat because it offers padding on our hardwood.
  • Blocks: we wanted a mat that converts into blocks for older kids to enjoy.

Best Kids Play Mat

After a lot of research, I chose the Tadpoles ABC Floor Mat as the best kids play mat. The Tadpoles foam play mat offered the largest area coverage for the best price. It came with the full alphabet, as well as the numbers zero through nine. Each piece is one square foot. With 36 pieces in total, it covers an area of 36 square feet. This was the perfect size for our living room. It gives plenty of space for a baby to play and crawl around. It also includes matching border pieces to give a finished edge to the whole mat.

The best kids play mat comes in a variety of colors. If you want something uniform to match your color scheme, you can choose a mat that only has two colors, such as blue and brown, pink and brown, or green and brown. After talking to my husband, we decided to get the multi-color variation. We can use the foam play mat to teach our son about colors, as well as numbers and letters. I wasn’t sure at first, but I like it now that we have it in the house.

Best Kids Play MatThe colors are pleasant and not loud enough to clash with our living room decorations. It makes it obvious where the play space is, and any kid who comes to our house goes right over to it. Check out our photo of the foam play mat. The colors look slightly different from the photo Amazon uses. If you read about our favorite toddler car toy, you may have already had a peek at the best kids play mat.

The price for the Tadpoles foam play mat varies; however, it typically stays under $40. There were many mats for up to $150, but I was not willing to spend that much (shocker). We don’t think our readers would be interested in spending that much either. This product is meant to be used and mistreated, but it’s survived just fine even with a toddler tearing it apart. The best kids play mat is reasonably priced between $28 and $40 on a regular basis. If you see it higher than $40, we recommend waiting a day or two; its history says it’ll come back under $40 pretty quick. At the time we published this article, the price was $29 with Prime shipping — steal if you ask us. Since it covers 36 square feet and we’ll be able to use it for years to come, this is definitely the best deal around.

A note about pets: We have an Australian shepherd in the house, as well as a cat who always wants to be in the middle of everything. Our best kids play mat has small claw marks from the animal’s nails. They are not large enough that pieces come out of the foam, but they are noticeable when I am sitting on the mat. That’s the reality of using foam, though. I don’t think there’s another material that would serve its purpose as well as this.

If you are looking for the best kids play mat for your baby or toddler, look no further. The Tadpoles foam play mat will do the trick. Once our kids are old enough to not need a mat on the floor, they will be able to use the pieces to build blocks and learn colors, letters, and numbers. My favorite purchases are the ones that last for years, and this absolutely fits that category.

As with all our reviews, we hope our best kids play mat works well for you. We’re open to feedback and product suggestions from our readers. If you’ve used something else you think is better than our main pick, please let us know in the comments or via the email link in the sidebar. We’ll check out new items and replace our main pick if something better comes along. Until that time, we believe that the Tadpoles ABC Floor Mat is the best kids play mat for most people.

Update: Cleaning the Play Mat

Now that we’ve had our play mat for a while, we are still loving it! My son is now 21 months and beginning to point out the letters and numbers. We have also had to figure out how to keep it clean. Because of our pets and my son’s love of the outdoors, we end up with dirt and little rocks on our mat. I went to work looking for the easiest way to clean the mat and found the Dirt Devil Simpli-Stik Vacuum. It is a 3-in-1 hand vac, stick vac, or hand vac. Our regular Dyson was too powerful, so we needed a lightweight option. This vacuum has the perfect amount of suction and floor attachment to easily and quickly clean the floor mat. Bonus: my son is so proud that he can use it on his own! It’s lightweight enough that he can run it over the mat and pretends to vacuum it all the time. Teach ’em young!

Laura Carr
Laura is a work-at-home mom with a passion for children. She wants the best for her children -- which requires the best equipment -- so she came on board as our lifestyle and family editor with a focus on product reviews for new parents... you know, baby stuff. She's not as much "geek" as the rest of us, which makes her our voice of reason.