Every mom needs a break now and then, but leaving your baby alone on the floor can be risky. Depending on how mobile she is, she could easily roll or crawl her way to the stairs or other dangers areas of your home. My advice to you: invest in an exersaucer. Also known as the stationary activity center!
Stationary? Sounds good right!
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an Exersaucer?
- 2 How are They Beneficial?
- 3 Exersaucer vs. Baby Walker
- 4 How to Properly Use an Exersaucer
- 5 What to Consider When Choosing an Exersaucer
- 6 Recommended Baby Exersaucers
What is an Exersaucer?
We have all seen them, but we may not realize what they are called: those round activity centers for babies that have the seat in the middle and toys surrounding them. That is an exersaucer (exercise + saucer)!
Now, the term exersaucer is loosely used, as we will see. Not all the products listed will follow the typical “saucer” design. There have been many advancements with this type of product over the years, resulting in some products that are more versatile and portable than the traditional exersaucer.
How are They Beneficial?
With exersaucers and stationary activity centers, there are many great benefits for both baby and mom:
Babies love to explore and try out everything they can get their hands on. Their curiosity and experimentation helps them reach many developmental milestones as they grow by practicing their gross and fine motor skills.
Their curiosity can also get them into all kinds of trouble and dangerous situations. Exersaucer activity centers give them a safe, stationary place to play where they can have a plethora of toys within their reach (we will go into more detail on this in a moment).
Because of the exersaucers’ design (to remain in one place), mom can allow her baby to play with peace of mind. You will not need to worry about your baby getting into something she should not or getting injured by furniture or other items around the house.
This also allows you to get some things done, like cleaning dishes or taking a shower, while your baby is entertained. It can even be beneficial to place your baby in her exersaucer to get a few minutes of rest, even if it is just sitting on the couch and closing your eyes for a few minutes.
Exersaucer vs. Baby Walker
Before you start looking into products, you need to consider the difference between an exersaucer and a baby walker. They may seem similar in design, with the variety of toys and the exercise of baby’s legs, but there is a very big difference when it comes to your baby’s safety.
Baby walkers can cause many problems for you and your baby, from the minor to the severe. As your baby is learning to propel herself and steer, she may end up trapped in a corner or against a piece of furniture, causing her to be frustrated and your furniture to be scractched.
Even more concerning are the dangers they pose when it comes to staircases in your home. Many babies have been seriously injured by falling down flights of stairs in their walkers. Even if you only have one step or an uneven surface, your baby could be hurt badly by a fall.
Exersaucers, on the other hand, stay in one place. Your baby still has the ability to exercise her legs – whether the exersaucer has jumping capabilities or your baby is just standing – and toys to keep her entertained. But she is not able to move into a dangerous position, or hazardous area of the house.
How to Properly Use an Exersaucer
You may be thinking this section seems strange at first sight, wondering what could possibly be in a “how to” manual for an exersaucer? But there are things you need to be aware of before purchasing and using an exersaucerto ensure your baby stays safe and happy.
You need to be careful to consider your baby’s age and development stage before placing her in an exersaucer. Typically, the recommended starting age for most exersaucers is between the ages of 4 and 6 months.
This is a guide only and consideration should be given to your baby’s size, and level of physical development. Check for these abilities before placing your baby in an exersaucer:
- She should be able to hold her head up on her own with ease
- She should be able to sit and support her own back
- Her feet should be able to touch the ground or the base
Making sure your baby has reached these milestones will keep her safe while she is enjoying her activity center.
Physical Development Progress
There is a lot of controversy about the use of exersaucers and their effect on a baby’s physical development. Too much use can cause your baby’s neck and legs to weaken if her posture relies too much on the seat to keep her upright, rather than her own body strength.
To avoid the risk of this happening be sure to give your baby plenty of time to play outside of her exersaucer as well. Having floor and tummy time will help her to continue developing properly, as she learns to hold her head up, sit and stand on her own, and eventually walk and crawl.
Interpersonal and Emotional Development
You also need to be wary of the amount of time your baby is in her exersaucer compared to the amount of time she spends playing with you. Babies need plenty of face time with parents and other humans in order to develop emotionally and learn to interact with others.
What to Consider When Choosing an Exersaucer
Most exersaucers have a similar basic design. A big disk with a bunch of toys. But there are a few features to look out for that can make one model most suitable for you and your baby:
Safety, Reliability, and Durability
Exersaucers are typically very safe, but you still want to make sure the brand is reliable and that there are no small pieces that can come off and cause your baby to choke.
Having a good mix of noise makers, mirrors, fine motor skill-focused toys, and movement (turning and/or jumping) is best for a well-rounded and entertaining exersaucer. You do want to be careful of overload as well. Too many toys can cause your baby to be overwhelmed and overstimulated.
Most exersaucers are adjustable to a degree – allowing the height to be changed a couple of times throughout your baby’s growth spurts – but they are still typically outgrown by most babies around walking age.
Finding one that has more features that grow with your baby will give you more for your money, allowing you to use it longer.
Size and Storage Options
Most exersaucers are bulky and do not break down, making them difficult to store. They can take up quite a bit of space. But there are a few varieties that are smaller or have folding capabilities, allowing them to be stowed away.
Look for one that fits your current space and storage needs.
Ease of Cleaning
Babies are messy, and there will be times you are likely to give your little one a snack or drink while she is in her exersaucer. Having a removable seat cover that is easy to clean and toys that can be removed to be sanitized will make things much easier when she spills her snacks and juice.
Recommended Baby Exersaucers
Skip Hop Explore and More
The Skip Hop Explore and More is one of the most unique exersaucers. It does not adhere to the typical design, having legs and an adjustable platform rather than the typical saucer on the bottom. There are several toys that help develop fine and gross motor skills, and is stimulating from head to toe.
- Unique clip system allows toys to be positioned anywhere around your baby, which allows them to be adjusted according to your baby’s current abilities.
- Toys include an electronic piano, peek-a-boo owl, cloud with beads, and hedgehog bead chaser and spinner.
- Legs can be removed for flat, easy storage.
- Features a peek-a-boo window which allows your baby to see her feet and play with the foot piano, and a dishwasher-safe suction cup bowl for snacks.
- Can be converted into a play table two different ways: with toys for your shimmying, scooting baby; with a clean, flat surface suitable for playing and drawing into early childhood.
- Seat cover can be removed for easy cleaning in the washing machine; toys can be removed to be sanitized.
- The foot platform seems like it may not be quite as safe as the typical saucer design, since your baby’s feet are off the ground.
- The seat does not have much bounce to it, compared to other exersaucers.
- Is a little more pricey than other options, which may be a drawback if you are on a limited budget.
Evenflo Triple Fun Learning Center
A trusted brand for many baby toy products, this exersaucer from Evenflo can be used from infancy to toddlerhood with its unique conversion abilities. This product even features a folding ability, allowing it to collapse, which may allow for easier storage.
- Can be used over three stages of your baby’s development: playmat with toy arch for infancy, regular exersaucer, and play table for toddlerhood.
- Offers a vast array of toys for your little one to play with, such as bead chasers, dangling friends, and noise makers; some toys are even able to removed and played with alone.
- Comes in two fun designs: Life in the Amazon and World Explorer.
- Seat cover is removeable and machine washable.
- Even though it boasts folding capabilities, it is still too bulky to be stored anywhere but a mostly empty closet.
- The activity table uses the same legs from the exersaucer, which makes the table a bit unstable for babies who may be holding on or using the table to pull themselves to standing.
- Some babies may be overloaded and over-stimulated by the sheer number of toys that surround them on all sides; there are no plugs for empty holes if you want to remove a few toys to remedy this issue.
The OribelPortaplay is an activity center that was designed with portability and storage in mind. This play center folds flat with ease, and can be converted into a flat-surfaced play table when your child outgrows the toys. Oribel even sells accompanying products, such as stools and paper roll designed for toddler and young child use.
- Legs fold up, allowing the table to become flat and compact, allowing for easy storage under a bed and portability to the grandparents’ house.
- Converts into a play table that can be used with toys or flat as an eating or drawing table for children.
- Features 5 toys that support cognitive and fine motor skill development, and a seat that bounces and spins 360°.
- Oribel has a line of products available that are companions to this play table, which allows your child to continue to enjoy it as she grows older.
- Is a bit more on the pricey side,and the stools/paper roll are sold separately.
- Comes with fewer toys than other activity centers, which may allow your baby to become bored after a little while.
- May not be suitable for strong, mobile babies since baby’s feet are on the ground rather than a platform, allowing the table to be moved with too much jumping.
Baby Einsteins Activity Saucer
How can you not love Baby Einsteins? This affordable ocean-themed exersaucer is sure to be one of your favorites, with its adorable design, multi-language options, volume controls, and compact design.
- Comes equipped with 11+ features, including piano, leaf teether, spinning animals, and other ocean friends.
- The noise-making features of this product can be played in English, Spanish, and French, and you are able to adjust the volume.
- Can be adjusted to 5 different heights to accompany your growing baby.
- Features additional rings that can have baby’s other favorite toys attached for play time.
- Is one of the less expensive exersaucers.
- Does not have any built-in capabilities to collapse or fold for easier storage.
- Besides the adjustable height, there are no other features that are particularly appealing to older babies and toddlers.
Bright Starts Bounce-a-Bout Activity Center
This exersaucer from Bright Starts is similar to most other exersaucers but has quite a unique feature: instead of a bouncy seat, there is a bouncy foot platform. It comes in two color schemes (for boys and girls) and lots of toys that are sure to keep your little one entertained.
- Includes a lot of great jungle-themed toys, like bead chasers, ball poppers, mirrors, and trees with crinkly leaves.
- Is compact in design while not being short on fun for your baby: toys are featured at different heights (such as tall trees) to allow for baby’s engagement at all angles.
- The bouncing pad keeps your baby’s feet engaged as well as the rest of her body, providing fun from head to toe.
- Comes with extra rings attached to the tray and tall trees to allow your baby’s favorite toys to be within reach while she is enjoying her activity center.
- Is very affordable.
- Besides its 3 adjustable heights, there are no other features that appeal to older toddlers and young children.
- The bounce pad, while fun, does not provide quite the same bounce that a bouncing seat would.
- Does not come with any folding or collapsing capabilities.
And the Winner Is…
The Skip Hop Explore and More Activity Center!
This activity center is sure to be the favorite of moms, babies, and children alike with all the features it offers:
- Safety: the unique clip system for attaching toys keeps them securely fastened, eliminating any choking concerns
- Stimulation: with toys that promote fine motor skill development, foot piano, and peek-a-boo window, your baby will have fun available to her from head to toe.
- Age Adjustments: can easily be converted into a flat-surfaced play table that can be enjoyed by toddlers and young children alike.
- Storage: The legs are easily removable to allow this table to be stored in small spaces (such as under a child’s bed) and transported to grandma and grandpa’s house.
- Cleaning: the seat cover is machine washable and the toys can easily be removed for sanitizing.
Even though it is one of the pricier models, we believe that the benefits will be worth it. When you see your five-year-old child eating her snacks or drawing you a picture at the activity table, you will see that it has more than paid for itself.
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