Playmats for Kid’s - Easy Buying Guide
Having a dedicated area for children’s play is a popular way of keeping kids safe and entertained when playing at home as well as being a practical place to store toys and games. Similarly, playtime plays a large role in nurseries, schools and play centres where children predominantly learn and develop through play.
One of the most important aspects of a play area is the flooring. Playmats should be protective, comfortable and engaging while being easy to maintain and clean.
Every play area is different with varying needs and children of different ages. In this article, we have narrowed down all the main types of playmats available as well as the benefits of each. This will help you determine what playmat you should consider for your play area project.
Let’s explore the different types of playmat which are made from a range of different materials.
Foam Play Mats
Foam play mats come in a number of shapes and designs as well as colours and sizes. Here are the most popular foam play mat options.
1. Foam Interlocking Mats
This is a playmat made of foam or with a foam core and a vinyl outer layer which connect together. Most foam interlocking mats have a jigsaw profile which lock together by design while others have ties, fasteners or connector pieces. Foam interlocking mats are designed to keep the fitting process easy and efficient. The play mats can be glued directly to the subfloor for a permanent setup or configured loosely for simple mobility. This type of foam play mat comes in different surface options from smooth to lightly textured, dimpled or embossed and even with letters, numbers and graphics.
Interlocking mats will range in price depending on the type of fixing and installation design but usually start at around £10 per tile up to £46 determined by thickness.
Foam interlocking mats range from approx 6mm to 20mm
Simple to fit
Different Thickness Options
Portable - can be moved around and stored away
Wide Colour and Design Choice
2. Puzzle Mats
Puzzle foam mats, also known as a jig saw mat, are shaped like a puzzle with interconnecting edges. The product usually comes with a straight edge profile which can be removed so there are different layout and fitting options.
They offer a degree of cushioned protection depending on the thickness you opt for. Very thin, lightweight puzzle mats will offer some support for children over a hard surface but they can be unstable and move around if not glued down. The type of surface is also important. Smooth, brushed foam surfaces will absorb moisture and stain more easily than textured puzzle mats that have resistance to stains and water. Thicker mats which are well made will last longer and be simpler to keep clean. They will also remain in position despite movement and activity.
Foam puzzle mats are available in primary colours, pastel shades and educational themed designs with letters, numbers and pictures to help create an appealing and interactive environment for children. As special design mats tend to come in thinner options, these are best suited for small areas and very young children who may only require a small area for movement.
Puzzle foam mats can start as little as £8.99 with some products available in packs. The better quality options tend to come singularly but there are often bulk discounts for higher quantities.
Foam puzzle mats can vary in thickness from as light as 2mm to 40mm.
Various Colours/designs available
3. Eva Foam Mats
Eva foam is a type of closed cell high density foam which is ultra durable and shock absorbent. Due to its high resilience and excellent traction it is often used in MMA, Boxing and other Martial Arts. There are a few surface options such as Tatami and Checker texture which prevent slips and falls while the deep cushioned core protects the body.
Eva mats are perfect for kid’s play as they tick all the boxes in terms of protection, comfort and simple upkeep. They are also anti-bacterial and simple to keep clean. Another benefit is that they are hard-wearing and if looked after properly, will last for years.
This type of playmat comes in various sizes and colour choices, some with a reversible feature where you can switch the colour around or create a 2 tone layout.
In terms of installation, an Eva play matt usually has a jigsaw profile for easy, slot-in installation which can be disassembled and stored whenever necessary.
Eva foam mats vary greatly in price mostly depending on thickness and size as well as design. Designs with graphics and images are more expensive. The cheapest Eva foam mats are not always the highest quality so look for well constructed mats that come with a warranty against premature crumbling or fading.
There is an abundance of Eva mat thickness options starting from very lightweight at 4mm up to 40mm. A good thickness for kids play is around 13mm to 20mm depending on the intended activities.
Easy to clean and maintain
Low Maintenance/Easy Cleaning
Rubber Play Mats
Rubber is a popular material for children’s play mats. Widely used in the fitness and leisure industry, rubber is hard-wearing, absorbs impact and protects from injury as well as damage. Here are the main types of rubber play mat used in a variety of kid’s play spaces.
1. Indoor & Outdoor Playground Tiles
You may have noticed the rubber surfaces in outdoor play parks underneath climbing frames and swing sets. These surface tiles are critical fall height approved meaning they are hardy enough to cushion a slip or fall while being slip-resistant and comfortable underfoot.
Suitable for outdoors due to the underside design which features self-drainage channels, these heavy-duty mats are robust and weatherproof but also work well as indoor play tiles.
There are colour and thickness options available and the tiles are easy to fit, sometimes coming with connector pins to interlock the mats together.
Rubber playground tiles range from approx £12 to £30 per tile though prices vary with size and thickness.
Indoor/Outdoor tiles are usually 30mm, 40mm and above.
Versatile - suitable for indoor and outdoor
Critical Height Approved
2. Jigsaw Mat Playmats
Similar to the foam jigsaw puzzle mats, these rubber jig saw tiles link together by design making the installation process simple and efficient. They are often used in Home Gyms and under weighty gym equipment such as Spin Bikes, Treadmills and Trainers as they offer excellent support.
The thicker jigsaw mats are also used for light to medium workouts and floor work to protect the body from injury and provide a comfortable space for training while shielding the underfloor from any damage.
Increasingly rubber jigsaw mats are used in home play spaces for activities such as gaming, dancing and light sports as well as in kid’s leisure and community sports clubs as they offer shock absorption and anti-fatigue properties for periods of long use. They also come in standard black or fleck design for a choice of colour to match your playroom theme.
Jigsaw rubber mats are less expensive than standard rubber tiles as they are lightweight and less dense. Prices vary from size, thickness and design but a jigsaw play matt usually starts around approx £12 up to £50 per tile.
Rubber jigsaw mats tend to start quite light at 4mm right up to approx 12mm or 15mm.
Supports heavier equipment and furniture
Simple cleaning and maintenance
Air Play Mats
Inflatable air mats are mostly used in tumbling and gymnastic sports although they also provide a fun and safe surface for active play. Air mats usually come with a pump and a storage bag for when the play mat is not in use and can be easily assembled for jumping, tumbling and high impact play either indoors or outside. One of the downsides is that air mats are costly to replace if they become damaged or punctured.
Airmats are mostly made from PVC or vinyl and are designed to absorb impact from gymnastic activity so these mats are super protective and will cushion slips and falls during bouncy play and activities. Perhaps not suitable for a long-term or every day play mat solution, air tracks are best suited for parties, events and occasional play sessions.
Most air mats are suitable for outdoor use although some products may not withstand intense heat or very wet conditions. It is advisable to check the manufacturers guidelines before use.
Inflatable playmats widely differ in price mostly due to size. They range from approx £40 for a small inflatable play mat to approx £300 for a large-sized mat.
Easy to Assemble
Suitable for outdoors (in most cases)
Artificial Grass Play Matting
Synthetic grass is a versatile surface that can be used for lawns, patios, sports and fitness as well as children’s play areas. It is mostly used outdoors as an alternative to real grass, but it is also a great option for indoor spaces in Garages and play centres.
Rolls or tiles of artificial grass come in multiple thickness and ply options. There are ultra flat and less expensive products right up to more deluxe, denser styles that have a stronger likeness to authentic lawn grass. This type of artificial grass is more durable, with stronger fibres that absorb impact better and are used for field sports and fitness activity.
Choosing artificial grass matting for a play area doesn’t need to be 3G or 4G status (sports standard turf) but should be comfortable to the touch and durable enough to withstand play equipment and high foot traffic. If you intend to use your play area as a multi-use living space outdoors, you might want to consider higher quality synthetic turf options that are more durable.
Grass play matting is fairly easy to install although it would be advisable to watch a tutorial video prior to fitting outdoors. Some surface types may need underlay or drainage so it is worth doing your research before attempting an external installation.
Artificial play matting ranges from approx £4.99m2 to £45m2.
Synthetic grass matting comes in thickness options from 6mm to 25mm
Suitable for Indoor & Outdoor use
Lawn appearance all year round
Types of Play Area
A great play set-up for your kid(s) has endless benefits. Not only does it help to develop their imagination, learning and social skills, it allows for quality time together in a comfortable and engaging environment. You are able to teach them to explore their surroundings and toys as well as show them how to put them away and value their own play space. Let’s look at popular places for creating a children’s play space and things to consider when you are investing in quality playmats which will enhance their experience while keeping them safe and comfortable.
Home Indoor Play & Gaming Rooms
A playroom or play area at home is another space outside of the child’s bedroom where kids can play and interact while enjoying their toys and activities. These spaces are perfect for messy play, boxes of toys and games, jumping, tumbling and dancing because you are able to dedicate one vicinity where you know kids are safe while keeping mess and clutter under control. A well chosen play matting solution at home is important to maintain safety and keep the area clean and hygienic.
Home Playmats should provide:
Cushioning & Protection from hard surfaces
Simple Cleaning & Maintenance
Educational Play Areas
Play areas in schools, nurseries or other educational-based properties need to meet the health and safety standards required for safe play. This means playmats used should have high protection, anti-bactierial properties and in some cases critical fall height approval should the space include specific play equipment. It is also beneficial to have a low maintenance playmat in order to keep repairs and cleaning to a minimum. Educational play areas also need to be appealing to young children to encourage learning so a playmat solution that is bright or with a patterned layout (eg checker board design) will keep kids engaged and interested in their environment.
Educational Play Area Playmats should provide:
CFH approved (if play equipment is at a height)
Play Centres & Soft Play
This type of play space often involves climbing, play equipment and play accessories such as foam shapes, balls and toys. In a softplay most areas and structures are made of protective foam covered in vinyl so that children have a soft landing. This should also be extended to the floor by using foam or rubber based playmats. Artificial grass is also a great solution for specific zones of a soft play to add versatility and texture when children explore.
Play Centre Playmats should provide:
CFH Approved (if equipment is at a height)
There are various types of outdoor playground from schoolyards to sports-based parks, leisure spaces and MUGAs’. The most important aspect of a playmat for these areas is safety. Most playgrounds have swings, climbing frames and other equipment which requires a shock absorbent surface to protect children against accidents or injury. An outdoor playmat should be heavy-duty, durable and CFH (Critical Fall Height) approved. It should be able to withstand all types of weather including frost, extreme rain and heat. Likewise, playmats for outdoors should be simple to maintain and keep clean.
The play mat should have adequate water drainage or be resistant to water for the purpose of outdoor use. Like all play areas, opting for brighter colours makes the space more appealing to children, however it is not essential criteria for outdoor play as the most important factor is safety.
Outdoor Playground Playmats should provide:
Critical Fall Height Approved
Weather & Heat Tolerance
Children’s play areas add so much value to a home or nursery in terms of child development and practicality. Choosing the correct playmat surface is an essential part of providing the protection and stimulation children need as well as making playtime and ‘tidy-up’ much easier. With so many styles and colours to choose from, it has never been easier to create a fun and inviting play area at home, at nursery or outdoors.