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Baby Activity Centres

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A stationary play centre or baby saucer can keep your child entertained in a stimulating and educational way while allowing you to get a few things done. We find out what to look for in this essential piece of equipment.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • Baby saucers, activity centres, or play stations are designed to entertain babies who aren’t yet mobile. The baby sits in a seat that can typically spin a full circle and allows baby to bounce, rock, spin, and swivel. The baby’s feet stand on the base, which allows them to kick and push to get movement.

  • They come in a variety of styles. Some look like saucers while others look like bouncing cars.

  • All come with trays and toys, some traditional, others electronic with flashing and sounds. When considering one with sound, also think about the area where your child will be using it. Will it be too loud? Will it drive you nuts? Plus, there’s also the added cost of batteries.

  • Make sure the baby centre is adjustable since your baby will be growing a lot during this phase. Usually the seat will have a few different height adjustments.

  • The toys on the centre should be involving but not too gimmicky. Also make sure they’re removable so they can easily be cleaned.

  • If you’re thinking about a used toy, look at it carefully to make sure nothing is broken or loose that could pose a choking or injury risk.

Safety Considerations

  • Make sure your baby is ready for a play station – around 4 months is usually appropriate, once he or she has good head and neck control.

  • When the baby’s waist is higher than the tray on the saucer it’s time to move on to a new toy.

  • Never place a baby play station near stairways or stove.

  • If you want to move the saucer, take baby out first and then move it.

  • Never leave you baby unattended while using the play station.

   TEST CRITERIA

We invited four parents and their 6-12 month-olds to help us test these play centres:

  • Evenflo ExerSaucer Mega: $100
  • Fisher-Price Intellitainer: $100
  • Leap Frog Learn & Groove Activity Station: $100
  • Evenflo ExerSaucer Ultra: $130

Play Test

  • While education is always important to parents, these babies were a little young to get much out of the alphabet and number activities on the Leap Frog activity station.

  • Simple toys proved more interesting to the babies: toys like mirrors and rattles they could grab on to and put in their mouth.

  • One baby really lit up for all the electronic gadgets and sliding seat on the Fisher-Price exersaucer.

  • The rest of our testers opted for the Evenflo Ultra.

   OUR TOP PICK

Most of our testers enjoyed the Evenflo Ultra for its engaging toys.

 

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