When you have a baby, it all becomes so real and heavy that YOU are their protector from all of the world’s dangers. No pressure, mama! But seriously, I fell down a cyber rabbit hole a few months ago when looking for a non-toxic play mat. I realized that most foam play mats– even those labeled as “non-toxic”– contain dangerous materials that can harm your baby! There is so much greenwashing which is so easy to fall for, especially as a busy mom who is expecting for brands to be transparent and watching out for your little one’s safety. But the truth is: many of the brands don’t care about anything except sales. And no one is regulating these labels, so it is up to us to do our own research. Luckily for you, I’ve done it for you– and found the best brand! (FYI they are not paying me to talk about them! But upon researching different brands I DID reach out to them to see if they’d extend product so I might be able to try it myself before reporting about it to all of you, and they kindly obliged.)
Some background on why so many mats are toxic, and what to avoid
Many play mats contain PVC, which is the most toxic form of plastic. Other super common components of play mats that can be detrimental to your health (think hormone disrupting, cancer-linked, and more) are: formamide (harmful when off-gassed by foam mats), flame retardants, EVA foam (which many brands argue is safe, but much evidence points to the contrary), BPA/BPS, Phthalates, glues, lead. I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THAT EVEN IF A PLAY MAT IS LABELED AS NON-TOXIC (brands are aware that parents are on the lookout) YOU NEED TO RESEARCH ALL THE MATERIALS.
So, when searching for a non-toxic play mat, I was looking for a few main things:
- The play mats needed to actually be large enough. So many out there are adorable, cloth, little circles or squares… But once you get past young infancy, they need MUCH more room to crawl around and actually play.
- Shock absorbency and padding. My little guy is starting to try and walk, so he’s taking daily spills, and I need there to be adequate protection as he uses his head as a battering ram. So, even though it was going to be difficult, I really did want a “foam” material mat that didn’t pose the risk of off-gassing VOCs.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: NO SCARY MATERIALS OR INGREDIENTS!
- Not hideous to look at. I can’t. I can’t with the super busy, primary-color-heavy aesthetic that seems to come hand-in-hand with having a child… especially not when it comes to something so big and eye-catching as a huge play mat in the center of a room. Nope.
The mat I chose for us:
Comfort Design Play Mats, made out of TPU foam. **This will not be the mat for you if you are avoiding anything plastic! If that’s you, you’ll probably want to find a washable rug mat made out of organic cotton, cork, or hemp. So, why is this particular foam safe? The TPU material has been proven not to off-gas, and requires no phthalates in order to be functional and flexible.
Also, they are so pretty. I got two mats- one for the nursery and one for the playroom (which used to be a dining room, but due to some unexpected construction on the house, is now the designated play area for the baby… But I digress.). The dining room is huge, so we ended up using both mats in there in order to fill the space. I got a solid color as well as a subtly patterned option (both are on sale now for $150) so I could report back about both to you. They are both neutral and gorgeous and could easily pass as tasteful area rugs. Note- there are bolder patterns available if you’d like something fun and trendy, and lots of color options! These simpler ones just go with my aesthetic a little more. When I took the mats out of the box, there was no plasticky smell to them or anything. They are clean feeling, clean looking, durable, cushy enough to soften all falls, and big enough to cushion the whole play area. They are also SO easy to clean– something I wasn’t initially thinking of as a criterion, but turned out to be majorly important.
So, in summary
Comfort Design Play Mats are made of non-toxic foam and are hypoallergenic, non-flammable, waterproof, flame retardant free, BPA free, latex free, phthalate free, formamide and formaldehyde free, and PVC & EVA free. They are gorgeous to look at and won’t break the bank the way some other large, non-toxic options will. Durable, but cushy enough to protect your babe’s noggin. And big enough so they can actually play!
I hope this helps you find the perfect non-toxic play mat for your little one. As always, let me know if you have any questions, I love talking about anything baby!