Last updated: August 25, 2021

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Welcome to our big play arch test 2021. Here we present you with all the play arches that we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

With this, we would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best play bow for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. Furthermore, you will find some important information on this page that you should pay attention to if you want to buy a play bow.




Summary

  • Play arches help your baby learn visual and motor skills through play. In combination with a play blanket, you can create a true baby paradise.
  • There are basically three materials that play arches are made of - wood, plastic or fabric. All three forms are available in numerous variations and different designs.
  • Play arches made of wood are suitable for you if you have a little less space available. Plastic play arches, fabric play arches and arches with special music and light effects, so-called activity centres, require a little more space.

The Best Play Arch: Our Picks

Shopping Guide

What is a play arch?

A play arch is a child-friendly and playful arch construction. Various elements, such as stuffed animals, rings or rattles, are attached to the arch. With a play blanket underneath for your baby to lie on, it's a real adventure paradise. Different colours, shapes and lots of other baby items and accessories make it a special play experience for your child.

Why is a play arch useful for my baby?

The purpose of a play bow is to stimulate your baby's hand-eye coordination and grasping reflex in a playful way. Motor and visual skills are promoted through the various play options. Through the various attached toys, your baby also learns to become more independent. A play bow makes sense for several reasons. It encourages learning and brings your baby a lot of fun at the same time.

Baby spielt mit Spielbogen

Play arches help babies to improve their motor skills. Playing on a play bow also develops the child's visual skills.(Source: Petr Kratochvil / publicdomainpictures.net)

At what age is a play arch useful for my baby?

Play arches make sense for your baby from the age of 3 to 4 months. After all, they are only learning to grasp things from the age of 4 months. Children who are younger are also not yet able to fix objects with their eyes. Before that, the bow could do more harm than good and expose your baby to too many stimuli. Too many toys and light and music effects can also quickly become overwhelming or frightening.

In general, you should make sure that your child is ready to use its arms and legs. Since every baby has an individual stage of development, you must decide for yourself when he or she is ready. To avoid overtaxing your baby, it is important not to expect too much too early. We would only recommend a play bow from the age of 4 months.

Play arches are particularly suitable for babies aged 4 months and over. Younger babies are not yet able to fix their eyes on certain smaller elements. (Picture source: 123rf.com / Ekaterina Pokrovsky)

Up to what age can my baby use a play arch?

Children usually start crawling and sliding on the floor at the age of about 8 months. Of course, a fixed play arch can quickly become boring. As long as your baby enjoys his play bow, you can let him play with it! Playing with the play bow is not limited to any age. It really only depends on how long your child wants to play with its play bow.

Did you know that babies can empathise with others at an early age? Mirror neurons in the brain mean that watching an action creates the same sensations as if the action had been done by the baby. After watching you for a while, your baby will imitate you.

What should I look for when buying a play arch?

Before you buy your baby a play bow, there are a few things you should look out for. We have listed our 4 most important factors that a play bow should fulfil in everyday life:

Safety

Safety should be your first priority when buying a play bow. Make sure that there are no sharp edges or small parts that can be swallowed. It is also important that play bows have a firm stand so that they do not fall over if your baby pulls himself up on them.

Equipment

It makes sense to buy play arches with detachable toys. This way you can protect your baby from too much stimulation. In addition, you can change the design of the arch again and again. This way, your baby will never get bored and the play bow can be used for longer.

No harmful substances

Especially with plastic bows, you have to make sure that they do not contain any harmful softeners. With wooden play bows, it is often an advantage to choose unpainted toys. This is because lacquers may contain heavy metals that could be harmful to your baby's development. If you do choose a painted bow, make sure that it is suitable for children. The best way to test this is to rub your finger over it. They are unsuitable if paint residue sticks to them.

Material

Playpads and baby articles have to withstand a lot of wear and tear. Therefore, make sure that the material is of high quality, robust and as easy to clean as possible. If you decide to buy a play bow with a play blanket, pay attention to the quality of the fabric. Here it is important to buy a play blanket that offers protection from the cold of the floor.

How do I clean a play mat?

You should always keep children's equipment and baby items clean, as children like to put things in their mouths at first. Depending on the type of play area you have, cleaning can be quite difficult. Often you can't remove the accessories and the trapeze. Therefore, it is best to make sure beforehand that you can separate the toys from the bow.

One way to solve this problem is to take the play bow to be cleaned. However, this can take a lot of time and be expensive. If you can separate the play blanket from the trapeze, you can wash the blanket in the washing machine. Because of the colourful patterns, you should use colour detergent. Clean the bow by wiping it down from time to time. You can use detergent or disinfectant spray.

If it is important to you that you can clean your bow quickly and easily, we recommend a wooden bow. Wooden products are much easier to clean than, for example, activity centres.

Should I buy a play arch with or without a cover?

Basically, it doesn't matter whether you buy a play arch with or without a blanket. It is entirely up to your taste. Playing with a play mat is definitely more comfortable for your baby. Another great advantage of arches with baby blankets is that they are connected to each other. This means that nothing can slip during play.

With blanket

  • Cannot slip
  • Comfortable

Without blanket

  • Flexible
  • Possibility to buy different crawling blankets

Playing arches without a play mat are more flexible. You can buy your baby a play mat yourself and are not tied to a specific one. This gives you the advantage of being able to design your play mat more individually. In summary, safety and health have top priority! If you want your play bow to last longer, you should go for height-adjustable play bows. In the end, it all comes down to what gives your baby the most pleasure.

Decision: What types of play arches are there and which one is right for you?

Basically, you can distinguish between three different types of play arches:

  • Play arches made of wood
  • Play arches made of plastic
  • Play arches made of fabric
  • Play arches with music and light effects

Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages. Most of the time, you buy the play bow separately from the baby blanket. But of course there are also 2-in-1 toys. So-called activity centres or adventure blankets are becoming more and more popular.

This is a play arch that is already connected to a play mat. Different sound and light effects make them stand out from the wooden and plastic ones. In the following section, we will help you find the perfect play mat for you and your baby. We will introduce you to the types of play arches mentioned above and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of wooden play arches?

Wooden play arches are very popular because of their sustainability. Natural materials help to protect the environment at the same time. Another big advantage is the stability. This is very important because children like to pull themselves up on the trapezes. Bows made of wood are usually height-adjustable, which is a great advantage. This means they can grow with your child and can be used for longer.

Advantages
  • Natural materials
  • Stable
  • Height-adjustable
  • Long-lasting
Disadvantages
  • Limited play options
  • Usually kept very simple

The disadvantage of wooden play arches is that they are usually very simple. This is why they are often only available in a limited number of shapes, colours and accessories. In addition, you won't find an integrated crawling blanket with this variant. You have to buy this separately.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of plastic play arches?

Plastic play arches are very popular with customers because of their colourful designs. In addition, products made of plastic are usually produced inexpensively. Thus, a big advantage is that they are cheaper than other materials. Another big advantage of plastic play arches is that they are very easy to clean. These products are often already combined with a crawling mat.

Advantages
  • Colourful
  • Easy to clean
  • Robust
  • Inexpensive
Disadvantages
  • Not always free of harmful substances

Some plastic play arches contain harmful softeners. Be sure to check whether they are BPA-free!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of fabric play arches?

Play arches made of fabric usually consist of a trapeze and a baby blanket. They are very soft and therefore perfect for your baby's comfort.

Advantages
  • Soft material
  • Consists of trapeze and crawling blanket
  • Comfort
Disadvantages
  • Not adjustable in height
  • More difficult to clean

However, they get dirty quickly and are then relatively difficult to clean. Another disadvantage is that such adventure blankets are not height-adjustable.

How do play arches with music and light effects work and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Play arches with sound and light effects are sold as activity centres, baby gyms or adventure blankets. They have an on/off button, a volume control and can play different sounds. Accessories such as mirrors, cuddly toys and rattles on the activity blanket train your baby's senses. The baby products provide a lot of entertainment for your child. The practical thing about these play arches is that they are connected to a crawling blanket.

Advantages
  • Provides a lot of entertainment
  • Consists of a trapeze and a crawling blanket
Disadvantages
  • Possibly overstimulation
  • Can quickly become overwhelming
  • High purchase costs

However, you should be careful not to expose your child to too many stimuli. This is why adventure blankets are only suitable for children from about 3-4 months of age. But even then, you should be careful not to let your baby play with it for too long. This could quickly overwhelm him or her.

Play arches without musical elements are usually enough to give your child fun and joy. (Picture source: 123rf.com / famveldman)

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate play arches

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate play arches. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a certain product is suitable for you or not. In summary, these are:

  • The material of the play bow
  • Size and weight of the play bow
  • Safety
  • Design
  • Sound and light effects
  • Height adjustability
  • Ease of cleaning
  • Extra features and functions

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

The material of the play mat

We have already discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the different materials used for the play bow. However, as this is an important criterion for buying a play bow, we have summarised the most important facts here: Wooden play arches are stable and sustainable. It is important to check whether the varnish is harmless and cannot flake off.

You should also pay attention to the quality. No wooden parts should splinter. Plastic play arches must be free of harmful substances. Because they are light, they are easy to transport. Fabric play arches, on the other hand, are very comfortable because the arch is usually connected to a crawling blanket. Activity centres are great adventure games for babies.

They are usually covered with fabric, but also have plastic parts. So first ask yourself what is most important to you in a play arch. The price? Then you should go for a conventional play bow without a battery. Adventure blankets with music and sound effects are usually more expensive. Or is it important for you to take care of the environment at the same time?

Then we have great products made of wood for you. You want to impress your child with a colourful product? Plastic bows are usually colourful and have lots of accessories. They are also usually very easy to transport. Activity centres take up a lot of space and you can't just take them everywhere. We also recommend that you make sure the blanket insulates the floor from the cold.

Here you should prefer warm and thicker material. A great material for this is eco-certified cotton. It is natural, of high quality and keeps warm for a long time. As described above, each playmat has its advantages and disadvantages. By comparing them you will find the right one for you.

Size and weight

Size and weight are important factors for flexibility. If you have limited space in your room, it is important not to buy an arch that is too big. This could take up a lot of space. The bigger and heavier your play bow is, the more difficult it is to transport. Smaller and lighter products can be taken along when visiting friends or family.

Generally speaking, it is not possible to give an average size for the different materials of the play arches. However, you can expect activity centres to take up the most space. It's best to check the dimensions of your favourite play mat beforehand. That way, there won't be any unpleasant surprises later on.

Did you know that a newborn's brain already has around 100 billion nerve cells that are waiting to be interconnected? This happens through stimuli that the baby receives through its sensory organs: eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. By repeating the stimuli, circuits are created in the brain over time. This is how learning works.

Safety

We have already described that the safety of a play structure is very important. We place the highest priority on this so that your baby can grow up healthy and happy. Make sure that the harness has a firm stand and is well assembled.

After all, the arch must also be stable in case your baby tries to pull himself up on it. As already described, you should watch out for small parts that can be swallowed. It is also very important to check whether your play bow is free of harmful substances. That way, nothing can get in the way of the play experience!

Design

When it comes to design, there are many different variations. Some play bows are multi-coloured and have many patterns, others are more simple. Bows made of wood, for example, are often natural-coloured and have only single coloured tags. Activity centres and plastic bows, on the other hand, are usually colourful and have many details. Of course, the design of a play bow is mainly a matter of taste.

However, in order not to overwhelm your child, we recommend that you pay attention to clear patterns and colours. Babies do not see very well at a young age. They can usually only distinguish between dark and light. Only when they get older can they distinguish between colours and patterns. That's why it's important not to use too many stimuli too early when it comes to play arches.

Sound and light effects

Music and light effects can be a great addition to activity centres. Unfortunately, they can quickly overwhelm your baby. Therefore, we would advise you to make sure that there are not too many sounds and impressions at once. Adventure blankets with on/off switches and volume controls are the ideal solution here. This way you can set how loud the music should be. And when and for how long you want to turn it on.

Height adjustability

In the advantages and disadvantages section, we have already made it clear that height adjustability is an important factor. Play arches that are only available in one size can be inflexible. It is better if you can adjust the height yourself. This way, the arch can be used by more than one child. It will also last longer because it will grow with your baby. So it can be used more often and for longer.

Ease of cleaning

Cleaning a play bow can prove to be quite tricky. We have already given you a few tips on how to best clean harnesses, crawling blankets and toys a little further up. To make it a little easier for you, we have a table for you here. You can see which play mat is the easiest to clean and which is the most difficult.

Material Cleaning effort
Wood Very easy
Plastic Easy
Fabric Relatively complicated
Activity centre Complicated

The simplicity of cleaning often depends on the accessories. The more individual parts you have, the easier it is to clean them. For example, it is more difficult to clean blankets that are connected to the trapeze. Activity centres are the most difficult to clean because of the toys. Wooden bows, on the other hand, are very easy to clean, just wash them every now and then.

Extra features and functions

It is of course an advantage if you have removable accessories. This way you can put your play bow together individually. It also gives you the opportunity to only attach toys that your baby finds interesting. Of course, it's also great if you can hang toys and cuddly toys you've made yourself on the play arch. This gives it a personal touch.

Many of the adventure blankets need batteries, but not all suppliers include them. Of course, it's great if they are already included. If this is not the case, you should find out beforehand which batteries are needed. This way, the play mat and crawling mat can be used immediately.

Facts worth knowing

How does a play arch support my child's development?

Before you buy a toy for your baby, this is an important question. We have summarised six points on how a play bow supports and promotes your child's development:

Grasping

Your baby will quickly start to discover the playful accessories. He will feel and touch everything with his hands. This is how a play bow promotes your baby's grasping. The different pendants and shapes also train fine motor skills.

Sight

Your baby's vision is trained by the different colours and shapes of the toy and the bow. It is also practical if the pendants hang at different heights. This also helps your baby learn to focus on objects more quickly.

Hand-eye coordination

Hand-eye coordination is the ability to perform activities that require both hands and eyes at the same time. The information perceived through the eyes is used to guide the hands. The hanging pendants of the play bow are ideal to encourage this. Your baby can learn this skill in a playful way.

Listening

Play bows also encourage your baby's hearing. Whether you buy a bow with musical effects or not, they all make sounds. Either through crackling foil, rattles or the creaking of wood. The hearing ability is trained in any case.

Turning onto your stomach and back

In order to reach the various elements on the arch and on the crawling blanket, your baby is encouraged to turn over. In this way, it learns to turn onto its tummy and back on its own and without help from others.

Independence

With a play bow, your baby learns to occupy itself with itself. He can decide for himself which pendants and toys to use. In this way, your baby will become more independent more quickly. We have now introduced you to the six most important ways in which a play bow promotes development. It is not only an exciting toy, but also a great learning aid.

Image source: pixabay.com / VABo2040

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