Sunday, 31 August 2014

Test Drive Tuesday: Fisher Price Kick 'n' Play Baby Gym Mat

We haven't blogged about him yet, but he's been busy working behind the scenes.... Our newest precious addition to the Jones family, Baby Hero, arrived on July 3rd this year and for the past two months we've been getting to know each other, growing together and learning more and more about being a family of five (plus fur kids).  And when I think about the growing, learning and playing, there's only one brand that immediately springs to mind; Fisher Price.

Although I'm a primary school teacher, I had no real understanding of the pressure to reach milestones until my first son was born.  The competition was unbelievable, and having seen more than my fair share of the baby race since 2010, I'm more than delighted to promote Fisher Price's launch of their "Discover Your Way"campaign, celebrating natural and individual child development through play.  

Children are naturally curious and Fisher Price understands that children need to be free to develop at their own pace through exploration, stimulation and most importantly, through playing.  The memories (and photographs) I have of my boys' faces when they have first discovered that they have hands (Hero has yet to realise this) make my heart explode with happiness. As a parent I need to be reminded to slow down and celebrate the little things...because those little things are huge in reality.

This week Hero has had the privilege of test driving a very special baby gym mat, the Fisher Price Kick and Play Piano Gym.  It's his first review, and has been so much fun that all of the Jones boys were keen to be involved.

Baby reviews are extra special; since he can't tell me with words whether he likes a product, he can't fabricate his answers or say what he thinks I want him to say (like when I ask my boys whether they like Momma's cooking).  Their reactions are genuine and unbiased.  


Let me start by saying that I put this together.  That should give you a very clear indication of how simple it was.  There were no ties in the box that needed wire cutters to get through, just slots in the cardboard that acted as restraints for the parts.  Putting it together took me 7 minutes, even with two "helpers".  The arc slots into the arms, the arms screw to the piano and the mat ties to the back of the piano and the arms.  Hook on the toys, velcro the mirror and you're all set!  Even the crankiest baby (and nosiest brothers) can wait for that.

What's Included

The gym mat package is comprised of a folding mat, fabric covered plastic arc, plastic arms, a kick and play piano, a sunshine mirror and four toys for your baby to play with.  The design is a cross between the Precious Planet and Rainforest series that I've had with the other Jones boys when they were little, except this gym mat is different to the ones I've bought before, because with a little reassembly, it can grow with your baby.  What's even better is that I already know he will continue to love it, based on the reaction it got from my boys.  This isn't a product which will be relegated to the loft in a few months.

What It Does

There are four modes of play with the mat.  We're on the first at the moment, being 8 weeks old. Hero is at the "lay and play" stage.  After this will come the "tummy time" stage, then sit and play, and then take along.  Our other boys have both walked at 8 months old and so by Christmas he could be entertaining us with his piano skills like Jerry Lee Lewis.

The Test-Drive

After finding a secure, husky free area in our home, me and my helpers placed the mat down, and gently placed Hero onto the mat.  

8 weeks appears to be the perfect age for him to begin to use the gym as his eyes are now tracking objects now that are close to his face (he watches the sheep circle above his head on his Fisher Price Cradle 'n' Swing, and gives our husky suspicious looks when he peers in) and he was highly focused on the black and white tiger toy hanging on the gym.  He's still learning where objects are in relation to his own hands (although he has no idea they are his hands yet) and a few times his hands struck the rhinoceros teething toy, which resulted in more crazy punches being thrown.  The rhino will no doubt be called into action in a few months when our little teeth start to make an appearance.  

As his little toes reached out and touched the gym, his expression changed in recognition of the sounds created.  Thankfully (unlike some toys) there's a volume control!  The piano produces singular notes and also tunes, which are melodic instead of high pitched and annoying.  

Biggest brother was on hand to show him the toys and explain to him what they did (froggy's belly rolls and makes a noise)....

...and second oldest brother was on hand to take his place on the gym if he needed anyone to "keep it warm".... He was found at bedtime lay there, under the elephant, pretending to be a baby. Aww.

Our Verdict

We love that....'s very easy to store with a little dismantling
...the arch is sturdy compared to the twin arch mats we've used previously  
...the keyboard actually rotates and turns into a sitting one instead of just being removable
...that the mirror actually works, and is very shiny!
...the four toys offer a wide variety of colour, shape and texture and function
...we can reposition toys securely for tummy time
...there were batteries included!
... we only need three AA batteries instead of those huge ones that we always seem to need 20 of at Christmas
...the mat is machine washable

We Wish that...

...the mat was wider to accommodate for rolling
...the mat had more padding (we have wooden floors)
...there was a setting just to play notes
...there was a little head pillow included for those babies with reflux 


We love it.  Fantastically we were debating which baby gym to buy when Mattel approached us to review, and this has more than exceeded our expectations.  Although the mat isn't wide enough to accommodate rolling when Hero begins to explore his world, the width creates a snug and secure feeling as he can see (and feel) his boundaries.  His limited field of vision can make him feel abandoned on spacious toys, but this is perfect for him.

The Kick 'n' Play Piano Mat is available widely from a variety of stores, priced around £40 depending on where you shop, and is worth every penny...and for the girl mommas, of for those that love the colour, it's also available in pink!   

Fisher Price has been around for nearly 85 years, and they are a brand which understands not just little ones, but parents too....which is why their adverts seem to make me cry happy tears whenever I see them...

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