In this article I will cover something that I have been studying for the last 2 years: the baby gym for newborns. We all know this is one of the most common gifts for a newborn but at the same time there are thousands of articles on the web that don’t really provide any value or are just trying to sell specific products with referral links. I would like to change that and publish something that gets into the details of how a baby gym needs to be built and what you should look for.
This is a much longer article than what I usually write, so let me help with you with the summary below:
- Why buying a baby gym as gift
- The right age for the baby gym
- The types of baby gym and materials to choose from
- Wooden baby gym: what to pay attention to when choosing
- Choosing charms and mat
- Colours, series and shapes: what do you want to communicate with your gift?
- Certifications and aspects related to safety
- The gift box and the message attached
- Pricing and budget
- 4 models of baby gym tested and recommended by us
- Final thoughts and personal recommendations
In today’s article I’ll try to tell you about the features of a baby gym that you should never overlook, especially in relation to your budget. But doesn’t Cherieswood make baby gyms, Elisa? Sure, it’s our business, but today I would like to keep an unbiased approach and share with you everything I have learned about the baby gym. When I first started building Cherieswood, I spent quite a bit of time researching the market to see what our competitors were doing, I’ve ordered several gyms and tried them out, and then I asked for feedback on how customer liked them, what they loved and what could have been improved. I also spent a lot of time reading and studying not only the Montessori philosophy but also the features that influence the benefits of a baby gym for toddlers.
Why should I follow this article?
In this article I try to include everything I have learned, then leave it up to you to consider a Cherieswood baby gym or simply let you use all the weapons at your disposal to purchase the right one for you!
One important note: there are no links or referrals in this article that will benefit us if you click to purchase other products. I say this because during my research I ended up on dozens of sites that list “the best baby “gyms only to then send you to Amazon and get a % of the profit of those products, with very simple and sketchy descriptions that don’t really help you. Cherieswood is also on Amazon and there you can read real reviews from people who have bought our product.
Why buying a baby gym as gift?
I have talked about it extensively here on Cherieswood, but I would like to try to summarize it here once more. The newborn baby gym is an extremely useful and smart gift because it allows the newborn to develop its motor and cognitive functions from the first weeks of life.
We all have in mind the classic image of the infant on the mat of the baby gym with his hands raised toward the charms of the gym: let’s start right here. These “exercises” help the baby develop his first movements and his motor system, both of which are crucial because the movement of the neck, back and arms benefits greatly from the positions in which the infant finds himself to use the gym, and even more so does touching or brushing against the charms and trying to pick them up.
Added to this is the vision component: babies’ eyesight develops 100% in the first 4 months of life. The fact of having to “follow” the charms with the eyes makes the baby gym a great exercise to develop the infant’s vision ability, even if the “gymnastics” sessions are not long. With many sessions over the first few months certainly there are important benefits, the baby’s coordination involves several senses obviously and it’s the first thing to visibly improve month after month. Vision development is also related to training cognitive function (recognizing objects, shapes, colours) and eye muscles.
In many cases, the baby gym has different accessories and variations that may or may not increase the benefits of its use. To give you an example, colours play an important role in the early months, and as I said , high-contrast colours are absolutely to be favored and have significant benefits.
If you are thinking of giving a baby gym as a gift, therefore, know that you are by no means choosing a trivial or obvious toy, but an important item that every newborn should have and use. Not surprisingly, “savvy” parents are the ones who usually buy a baby gym themselves or ask for it as a gift from relatives and friends.
The right age for the baby gym
Whenever I get asked this question I always say maximum 12-18 months because most children do not use it after that time. Needless to lie to us, there are definitely other toys that can be used after that age. However, the baby gym is a gift that you can buy right away, right from the first few weeks of life, which is why it is always an appropriate gift for new parents.
The types of baby gyms and materials to choose from
If you are reading this article along with many others and have taken a tour of Amazon, you know better than I do by now that there are many different types of infant gyms. There are so many different materials, brands, and variations, but mainly there are two major categories to start with: wooden baby gym and plastic baby gym.
Plastic or wood: what to consider
Both can be right for you depending on the gift you are looking for. The wooden baby gym is usually more minimal in color and setting and has a more natural feel due to the wood being a natural material, able to convey different feelings than plastic. I will talk about this in depth in the next section, but wood remains a material, in my opinion, that should always be preferred for a newborn baby gym because it is more natural, durable and safe under any conditions (in a nutshell: the structure itself where the child plays is obviously more stable and solid than a plastic equivalent).
Now, back to us, the plastic gym has so many additional variations, mainly given by the fact that these models are increasingly “complex” and come not only with very colourful elements but also with lights, sounds and electronic games that are added to the gym to stimulate the infant. I am sure you are familiar with the classic Chicco baby gym that has animal sounds and the ability to spin over the infant’s head. There are many different variations, some with more sophisticated games (melodies and other real songs), others simpler in their electronic components. As with the wooden ones, the final product varies by manufacturer, often in important ways. As with wood, there are so many variables to consider, starting with the type of plastics, charms, and accessories that are included.
I do not want to influence your choice, but if you are looking for a plastic gym, with toys and sounds, always make sure it is not a Chinese brand or of poor quality, many of them are dangerous and while being very cheap, they can easily become dangerous. Brands such as Chicco, Fisher Price and others (we talk about them later, where I give you some specific advice on which ones to choose) are definitely the ones to favour because they are certified, use safe plastics and above all have a product warranty.
The plastic baby gym is a completely personal choice according to your taste: I don’t like it, I find it very often too stimulating for the baby and not very elegant as a gift, but I also understand those parents who are looking for a more interactive and very colourful toy. If we want to be precise it is also an unsustainable choice compared to a wooden toy and certainly with a shorter life if parents want to use it in the future or simply keep it for memories.
In Cherieswood’s journey, I have purchased and used several competing gyms and gained a clear idea of their positioning in the market. Toward the end of this article you will find an analysis of 5 different baby gyms.
Wooden baby gym: what to pay attention to when choosing
Let’s move to something where I can definitely help you a bit more: choosing a wooden baby gym! If you know anything about me then you also know that I have spent the last two years doing a lot of experiments in making a wooden baby gym before launching Cherieswood. Our materials and manufacturing process give you an idea of what we do and why we made certain choices.
The type of wood
Not all wood is the same: there are dozens of qualities, types, and processes that influence the end result of the baby gymnasium, and in general of any other wooden toy intended for children. With Cherieswood for example, we tried beech wood, birch wood and pine wood. In the end, I chose to build all of our baby gyms out of beech wood because from our tests it is the most durable and the one that is most elegant to the eye due to its grain.
During processing, not all types of wood behave equally: some are more easily damaged than others (as in the case of pine wood) and therefore force the processing to follow constraints and shapes that are less natural than the designer would like to give it. For the end customer it very often means that these products have a more “rigid” look and a less natural appearance, different from what we all imagine with the wood effect.
In my case, we wanted Cherieswood to be a very high quality product, so once we selected the beech wood, we looked for a dealer who could guarantee us a standard level of quality for every order made. Finally, stability is a key element: you want to make sure that the structure of the wooden baby gym is solid, can withstand the baby hanging on the charms and possibly also any crooked movement that might happen and go against the gym.
Let me give you an example: a friend has two children, one is 2-year old and the second was born just a few months ago. It often happens that Carlo interferes with Anna’s toys, the newborn, and in that case it is important that the structure of the gym supports any unexpected weight or does not break if subjected to stress. This is an important aspect of all wooden gyms compared to plastic ones, but it still depends on the quality of the wood.
Much of the advice I give below should be added to the more general advice in the article, especially on safety and materials.
Plywood baby gyms
Now, so far I have been telling you about the type of wood for the baby gym assuming that we are always talking about solid wood. However, there are thousands of gyms on the market are made of plywood. I do not necessarily want to say that these products are low quality, indeed many of them are well made and produced by famous brands, but the feeling is different from a product made from solid wood at 100%. The price difference between these products is not huge and in my opinion not important enough especially if you are looking for an important gift for your newborn.
Let me give you an example: the wooden gym by Ikea, which you will surely have found in your search, is made of plywood and costs very little at only 25 euros. Certainly not a very high quality product. As with the plastic gyms, the same applies to the wooden ones: while Ikea still has high production standards, there are dozens of wooden gyms on Amazon and Etsy that are of low quality and above all have no certification, not only for the wood but also for the paints and colours used.
The wood production process and final appearance
There are industrial production processes and handcrafted wood processing. The second one will definitely give you a more polished and unique look of the final product than a mass-made product: wood does not always behave the same way, even when it is highly standardized, so a handcrafted process allows the company to make certain elements of the wood stand out, for example, to choose a leg that has more grain and is therefore more beautiful than a mass-made product which will definitely look always the same.
Pair the baby gym with charms and colours
If you choose a wooden baby gym, my advice is to check that all other elements are of high quality and matched to the style of the wood: I am talking about the charms, as well as the other materials ranging from the mat to any paints and fabrics used.
There are also wooden gyms that include plastic elements, like charms. Fabrics deserve a separate discussion; make sure that they are natural fabrics and tested to be used by a child, as well as the paints. There are certifications and products on the market adhering to them that are used exclusively for children’s toys and accessories.
Choosing charms and mat
We have talked about the structure of the baby gym and its main materials (wood or plastic), now let’s move on to the elements that complete this baby toy: the dangling charms that are placed on the structure above the baby, to facilitate play and stimulation, and finally the mat that is placed under the gym and accommodates the infant in the play activity.
How to choose the right charms
The toys that dangle are an important component because they bring life to the baby gym: there are so many shapes available and so many colours and materials. The best example I can think of are animals and geometric shapes: in both cases if the charms represent these things you will have a strong educational purpose for your child and an object that over time he will be able to connect to sounds and words he hears from his parents (“how does the lion sound”?, now your child will also associate the image and characteristics of the lion with that sound). At the same time, at Cherieswood we imagined that the charms could also reflect the passions and ambitions that parents want to pass on to their child, and from there we created many specific series, including topics such as Space, Adventure, Sports and so on.
The most beautiful charm you will find in the market are those made from fabric. At Cherieswood, for example, we make them from felt and then sew them by hand after cutting the felt by machine into the shapes we need. The seams are checked several times and are an important aspect because babies can pull, bite or tear these charms and they must always be highly durable, even in the way they are tied to the rest of the frame.
In our case, although we consider ourselves an artisanal business, we have invested in testing our gym at a third party company with regard to European CE certification in order to be sure that they withstand any kind of stress/force that the child may apply.
There are fabric charms in a variety of sizes and shapes, a good idea is to consider charms that are detachable and can have a life of their own outside of use on the gym: that can also be used to tie to the stroller or simply on other occasions to get baby’s attention. In our case, the charms are totally detachable and are sewn onto a wooden ring that allows you to tie them to the stroller or even have the baby use them to bite on, and then use as a teething ring.
Finally, there are different charms that make sounds, noise or light up: you can find different kinds and again associated with different shapes. Again, I suggest looking for something that is not excessive in order to avoid overstimulation of the baby.
Choosing the mat
Most gyms also have a mattress pad included. The mat allows the baby to spend more time playing, the more comfortable it is, the longer it will be used. There are not a lot of aspects to choosing a mat, but certainly the fabric and material with which it is stuffed are the main canons of choice. As already discussed, the fabric should be baby-specific and washable.
It is best if the mat is soft and padded enough to ensure that the child does not feel pain on the mat or is insulated enough from the floor but not excessively so that it risks suffocation if placed on its stomach.
In fact, one tip is not to place the gym on excessively soft fabrics such as a couch or bed.
Colours, series and shapes: what do you want to communicate with your gift?
A gift that connects parents and children through their passions
The newborn baby gym is also a way to communicate a feeling and a wish for the future. When I started building the first baby gym for Cherieswood I wanted to give my best friend something that would be unique, that she could look at with Frida (her daughter) years later and remind her of me and that period of her life, but most of all that would embody her mom’s personality and passions, as a wish so that her daughter could inherit the same values.
So when you choose this gift, you can go further and think of something as close as possible to the parents that will receive it: if they are sports people, passionate about a team or a specific sport, it will be really nice for them to receive something representing that sport or team. If at the same time they are outdoor-loving people, you could only make them happy by giving them an adventure-themed baby gym. Of course, these are all examples that we at Cherieswood have used in our series but they start from the research we have done and especially from dozens and dozens of conversations with our customers.
Learning about the world through the eyes of a baby gym
Another key element in choosing a baby gym is the purpose and message your gift wants to communicate. Many baby gyms are anonymous, relying only on the idea that it is a game for a baby who is too young to understand what is going on around him, but science tells us that this is not the case and the stimuli and figures that come in contact with the infant influence his growth, his coordination and his attention to objects and people. In short, think of the gymnasium as an object with educational functions, in a way similar to what Maria Montessori explained for children’s learning.
Certifications and aspects related to safety
Toy safety should be a top priority for any gift you decide to give a child, even more so if we are talking about an infant. Very often we think of safety in extreme and unlikely terms, but there are aspects of toys that can pose dangers that we are not aware of.
One example out of all are the paints used in toys: a paint that has not been tested or is specific to children can react unexpectedly to certain external agents and become a problem for the child. The same can be said for all those components of the gym that the infant puts in his mouth, such as the charms or the individual parts that make it up. All these aspects are critical, and good toy design makes sure that all these possible scenarios are analyzed.
If you are buying a baby gym make sure it has recognized certifications. Let me explain how to do this and why you should really not consider an uncertified product. There are different certifying bodies and different rules depending on the country where the toys are marketed, in our case I am talking to you about CE mark certification, while in the United States toys and their compliance is handled by an entity called CPSC.
The CE Mark to recognize safe and certified products
The CE mark is a self-certification developed by the manufacturer of the toys who must follow specific rules for the design and production of the toys: it covers both aspects related to design and structure (when I told you about strength and strength tests I was referring precisely to the tests required for the CE mark) and related to materials. Looking for this mark on the baby gym is one way to be sure that that product is suitable for a child and has been properly tested in all aspects. Companies that produce baby toys rely on specialized laboratories that perform structural and chemical tests on the toys to verify their compliance with toy regulations. In our case, for example, we relied on UL, a well-known multinational company, which certified our Cherieswood baby gyms to be CE-marked.
The gift box and the message attached
We are always talking about a gift, and the eye wants its share as they say. When choosing a newborn gym you also look at the packaging it comes with and the experience the parents you give it to will have. Some of the features of premium products in the market:
- Packaging: ready to be received at no extra cost.
- Content and organization of items: the charms, frame, and mat should be well divided into compartments within the package and ready to be assembled but also stored in place when you decide to assemble it. If they’re put in cardboard bags or compartments, it’s definitely better.
- Personalized message: it’s nice to find a card attached to the infant gym, perhaps personalized with the child’s name or a special phrase for the parents.
- Shipping: if you buy this product as a gift, make sure shipping is done well and in a reliable way.
In our case, we decided to make the experience of opening the Cherieswood baby gym box really special, and as you can see in the photo each component is delivered inside a fancy-themed cloth box and there is a handwritten card that can be personalized with the child’s name and an ad hoc phrase.
Prices and budget
Let’s get into a hot topic: how much should you spend to buy a baby gym? The answer, as it is often the case, depends on the quality of the product you are looking for and how much importance you place on this gift.
In the market we find baby gyms between 40 and 200 dollars as a price range. Between 40 and 70 dollars, we almost always find gyms that are made in China, some made of wood (plywood) and many in this price range that are made of plastic instead. They are mostly very simple, poorly finished and almost always all look alike between one model and another. If you are planning such a purchase, I recommend that you choose something made of plywood and check that there is a model that has at least a CE mark. Buying a baby gym without any certification is a risk and I would not want to receive it as a gift especially if I have to use it with my child.
In the price range between 80-150 dollars you can find major brands and especially premium brands such as Cherieswood: in this case you can almost always choose well-designed and engineered products that are definitely certified and make an important gift for your friends or relatives. To give you an example, in this price range at 119 Euro you buy our baby gym (or at 158 Euro the version with mat) and so does a well-known brand in the market such as Lovevery that is priced at 140 dollars and has a style definitely different from Cherieswood.
If you are looking for a quality gift my experience tells me that you will hardly be able to stay under 100 dollars, all the more so if you expect a gift well packaged and ready to be delivered to parents.
4 models of baby gym tested and recommended by us at Cherieswood
Here is a list of those we have evaluated and seen over the years that we think might be suitable products for a gift for a newborn. All of these meet the principles listed in this article and I will only briefly touch on their features. The links you find have no referrals whatsoever, so I gain nothing from including them here!
Cherieswood baby gym made of bleech wood– 119 Euro, 158 Euro con materassino
I think I’ve told you enough about us, Cherieswood has a beechwood baby gym with charms available in 9 different sets, matching mat, gift box and personalized message. The gym-only version costs 119 euros with shipping to the US and Canada included for free, while the version with mat costs 158 euros always with shipping included. It is a product of the highest quality, totally designed and made in Italy and hand-finished in every detail. The packaging makes it a gift that will make you look good thanks to the packaging and interior wrapping. The gym structure can transform into a sensory board (or also called a busy board) with the simple purchase of the additional board, an idea to consider for an additional gift or for a gift combination that includes everything.
We are talking about a manufacturer that is fairly well known in the United States and less so in Italy and Europe, although it is quickly gaining ground. Definitely a quality and well-maintained product, it comes with an accompanying mat and wood and fabric mix charms that honestly are well made and cared for. This is a model that is a bit different from others because the gymnasium also has small plastic components to close the arches and especially because it features a cloth that allows it to be transformed into a sort of mini hut for the baby. The objects inside the gym are very beautiful and varied, ranging from colours to black and white for children to recognize the contrast. In short we are definitely dealing with a quality product that I recommend. Shipping is free to the US and there is a special section detailing specifications of the children’s materials used.
Wooden baby gym by LittleDutch – $50 USD
Famous brand in Europe that produces various wooden and non-wooden toys. This baby gym is made of wood, quite simple and comes with three charms made of fabric. It has a fairly small package and does not include additional accessories such as a mat that do not seem to be available even separately at the moment. I bought it a couple of years ago now just to compare it to the Cherieswood product and I can say that it is well made and of average quality given its low price as well. You cannot choose different charms and it has no additional accessories included at the moment. I have not been able to find it from the manufacturer’s store (I bought it in a physical store in Italy) at the moment so the link points to an e-commerce for baby products.
Baby gym by Fisher Price – $65 USD
We are talking about a very famous brand in the world of children and an evergreen in terms of product. Fisher price makes a very large amount of toys and this plastic gymnasium is definitely the most famous of those on the market. I think it’s well made, it definitely looks very colorful and the fact that it’s very colorful definitely makes it a nice gift for a child.It has several plastic parts starting with the toucan at the top which is the theme of the gymnasium. Currently in Italy it’s only available for purchase on Amazon (or probably in some physical stores as well), and the site also has the option of adding a version with colored pages and a ring to bite on. Shipping costs included.
Final thoughts and personal recommendations
We have come to the end of this guide on buying a baby gym. I’ve tried to give as much information as possible using not only my experience building Cherieswood but also thinking about the research and constant market analysis we do to understand how we stack up against major competitors.
There are so many factors to consider when buying a newborn gyms and I feel that very often people are guided by price and design but I hope I have given you more food for thought to turn this purchase into an important gift for your friends or relatives’ baby.
My final advice is not to stop at the most trivial toys in the market but to choose a gift that is unique, has its own peculiarities and is definitely not made in China: not only because it poses a problem for the safety of the child who receives it but also especially because in many cases the end result (and not the pictures you display on Amazon) is disappointing and will certainly not allow you to make a good impression with the person you are giving it to.
If you have any questions please write in the comments or contact us directly. We respond within a few hours.