Puzzle play mat ideas – types, materials, advantages and disadvantages
In recent years puzzle play mat ideas have become widely popular and it is not a surprise that this is one of the most often purchased and beloved household items for the children’s room. The market offers all kinds of puzzle mats for every taste and color. In the effort to give the child the best and most friendly environment, parents try to provide comfortable and beautiful items to surround their child.
When a small child begins to explore the surrounding space, he is faced with different surfaces where he can crawl, walk, and then play. The safest place where babies will not fall and get hurt and at the same time will not limit their movements is the surface of the floor. We want to focus your attention on puzzle mats as a flooring option for nursery, kids’ rooms and playrooms. We shall give you detailed information for the different types of mats, their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages, so that you have all the important information before heading to the store to buy one.
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Pros and cons of puzzle play mats
What is a puzzle play mat? By definition, this is a modular floor covering. In simple words, these are floor mats made of interlocking individual pieces. These accessories for the children’s room are truly multi-functional and have many pluses. Puzzle mats are ideal for the children’s room and kids of any age enjoy playing on such a surface. These mats can be used both indoors and outdoors and you can take it in a bag when going on a picnic or your vacation home and the child will play on this safe and warm carpet, while parents will be able to relax and do other things. Maybe you have noticed that such mats are also used in gyms and playgrounds as well but they can be used in the bathroom or kitchen as well. Due to the variety of colors and themes you can choose a rug for almost any interior style. Let’s have a look at the advantages of puzzle play mats.
- Heat insulation – this is one of their most important advantages. They perfectly insulate the child from a cold floor and comfortable temperature is maintains regardless of the time of year. The child will not catch a cold while playing and crawling.
- Safety – this is another hugely important feature for any furniture piece or accessory designed for children’s rooms. Play mats are soft, springy and have anti-slip notches. Therefore, they provide the necessary safety for even a small child who is just learning to walk which makes them suitable for babies from one year old. In addition, basic models have no small parts so babies will not be able to put them in their mouth and eventually swallow them.
- Soundproofing properties – the elements have very good sound insulating properties. Your little one can jump on the floor and the mat will absorb all sounds.
- Mobility – As we mentioned, these mats are mobile. In order to assemble and disassemble it, you do not need much time. The coating is not difficult to transport or store.
- Easy transformation – you can purchase a small puzzle play mat first. Later on, when your child needs more area to play on, you can buy additional elements to increase the covered area and the mat will grow with your child.
- Durability – puzzle mats will retain their shape, bright colors and a beautiful presentable appearance for a long time.
- Environmental friendliness – you need to choose environmentally friendly materials which do not emit volatile substances that can cause poisoning and allergies in children. The composition and method of production of these materials make them hygienic, preventing the emergence of various bacteria and fungi.
- Puzzle play mats are considered to be a great educational toy. You can find different models with a variety of subjects – from animal images to world maps. Properly organized games contribute to the development of the child.
- Nursery room decor – the variety of textures, materials and models allows you to create an original decoration in the child’s room.
- Easy cleaning and maintenance – this is especially important for all types of flooring when used in a room for children. Modular rugs do not absorb liquids and are easily cleaned from stains which may appear as a result from playing with watercolor paints, glue, clay and other materials. Puzzle play mats are composed from identical sized parts. Therefore, if a module is damaged in any way it can be easily replaced with a new one.
- Price – last but not least, the affordable price is a great advantage. The parent needs to measure the area that he wants to cover and calculate the number of elements which means that you will save money and not overpay for extra elements.
On the downside we can point out the following considerations:
- Most newly-bought puzzle mat have an unpleasant smell which disappears in 2-3 weeks.
- The insufficient thickness is another consideration that you need to know. Typically, these mats are about 1 cm thick which is not quite suitable for protecting older children from accidental injuries. Keep in mind that at some point you will have to replace the mat with another carpet suitable for kids’ rooms.
- Insufficient strength is another con. Parents need to realize that the material is not intended for long mechanical stress. You should not place large and heavy furniture pieces on the mat. In addition, daily wet cleaning may result in washing off the protective and decorative layer of modular elements.
- Small puzzle play mat pieces may fall out and get lost.
What are puzzle playmats made of?
The main requirement for any item from a child’s environment is its safety. The mat should be made of non-toxic materials and dyes. If the mat is made of two parts, base and top layer, the glue used for manufacturing must comply with the safety requirements for products for children. Parents need to check the description of the product and make sure that it does not contain BPA, phthalates, lead, latex, formaldehyde, or formamide.
The choice of material matters greatly and here are the most popular options:
- Rubber – this is a popular material often used for flooring. Like any material, it has its pros and cons. Rubber is dense and absorbs noise very well. Choose mats made of natural rubber. Such mats are easy to clean as well. However, genuine rubber flooring in general costs more than foam flooring.
- Polymers, foamed or with a dense texture, and if you see that the mat is made of EVA, this means that the material is Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). If the seller has a certificate of compliance, you can safely use the product in your nursery. Foam mats are lightweight and more convenient for the child. It feels great underfoot and due to the fact that it is soft and absorbs impact, it is a great choice for kids’ rooms and playrooms. Foam flooring is also easily cleaned with a damp mop and gentle soap. Foal play mats come in a huge range of colors and are more affordable than rubber floor tiles.
Puzzle play mat design and functions
Puzzle play mats can be divided into different groups depending on their functions, size, materials, etc. Depending on the function, these mats can be used to develop different knowledge, they can be used for zoning the game area in the room, they can have a purely decorative function or a massaging function.
The educational function is, perhaps, the most popular one due to the fact that a puzzle mat is not only a beautiful and soft floor covering but it helps the child to learn. For example, a model with an alphabet is designed for a child older than 3 years. Cognitive mats with various patterns, for example, with numbers and animals are also suitable for younger children.
In addition to the educational function, the individual elements are universal for a variety of games. Children can use the elements to build different three-dimensional shapes, lay out a horizontal plane or a small house.
Some models have a special coating that has a massage effect. Walking barefoot on such a surface improves blood circulation and even helps prevent flat feet.
Puzzle play mats are perceived by the child as a toy, and not as a subject for learning. In terms of design the models are divided into three groups:
- Single colored – the mat consists of pieces of the same color or different shades, arranged in a checkerboard or linear pattern. Such models are good for studying colors and appropriate for decorating interiors in the same color scheme
- With an image on each element – These can be letters, numbers, geometric shapes, vegetables, fruits, animals, birds, fish, insects, flowers, household items, transport vehicles, favorite cartoon characters, etc.
- With a large image on the entire mat – world map, roads, plot from a fairy tale, cartoon, comic book, etc.
How to choose a puzzle play mat for your child?
When choosing a puzzle mat for your child, you need to consider the size, color, thickness, etc. Find below some useful tips.
The thickness of the foam tiles varies from 0.5 to 1.9 cm, and the dimensions of individual parts are from 15 cm or more, depending on the specific model. Depending on the size, the mats are divided into three groups:
- small mats- 6-8 parts, designed for newborns, children from one year old as a toy or older children instead of a bedside rug;
- medium-sized mats designed to cover a certain area;
- large sized models, designed to cover a large area.
As we already said, you can start with a small set and then, as the child grows, add tiles with different images – numbers, letters, geometric shapes, etc. For example, you can place one set in the center with a picture and tiles with animals, numbers, letters, etc. on the sides. You can buy rugs in the form of a board for chess, or other games and several children of different ages can play together.
Pay attention to the composition of material. Make sure it does not contain harmful elements and chemicals.
The product must be ergonomic, its thickness and density should be selected in accordance with the weight of the child. A proper mat will help to avoid injuries and will protect the kid from bruises.
If you choose a rug with moving parts, make sure their size is appropriate for the age of the child.
The mat should be durable and wear-resistant, with good sound-absorbing properties. It must not be susceptible to temperature and humidity changes and should not absorb liquids.
All elements of the mat should be easily assembled and disassembled, folded compactly or rolled up.
Choose the theme of the mat so that it is appropriate for the age and the abilities of the child as it develops thinking, color perception, taste and creativity.