Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baby Activity Gym/Tummy Mat Tutorial

The other day while playing with Tristan on our bed, I realized that I had never purchased an activity gym for my little guy. He will be 2 months old soon and I think maybe he is getting bored of mommy and daddy staring at him all the time! The poor thing needs something else to stare at!

I went to a few stores and couldn't believe that most of the activity gyms ranged from $50 to $80! Wow! That is a lot of money for a baby toy! So I decided to go home and create my own. I thought maybe there were other crafty mommies out there that would like one too, so I took pictures along the way and jotted down notes too. So here you have it, my 1st Blog Tutorial, free to anyone who is willing to give it a go! Happy Sewing!


1/2 Yd Pieces of Minky, or Cozy Fleece

Assorted Scraps of at least 10" Long by 20" Wide for tubes and loops

1 Yd Batting

1 Yd Pc to Back Top

36" x 36" Felt Piece

2 Pool Noodles

Package Activity Links(optional)
4 Snaps

Assembling Play Mat

1. Using pattern paper, make a point and draw a line 12 1/4" . I used a pc of embroidery floss to attach to my marker to make a nice arch. Draw your lines for the right angle, adding a 1/4" seam allowance to each side. This is your inner pc pattern.

2. Now make another arch 18 1/4" from your same point. This will make your outer pc pattern. Cut patterns out.
3. Cut 4 of the inner pcs. and 4 of the outer pcs from minky or cozy fleece. IMPORTANT: You will need to add a 1/4" seam allowance to the inside of your outer pc arch when cutting out. You can use other materials here, I think flannel would work, even wovens. I just preferred the softness of the minky.

4. I am a visual person, so I took a second to pause and draw out my circle with the pcs. Trying to map out in my head how to lay them out.
5. Now we need to cut our fabric for the loops. I messed my calculations up the first time, so don't mind the pic to much! You are going to cut 4 pcs from woven fabrics, 2 " x 12 1/2" long. Iron them like you are making bias tape. Bringing in the edges to meet in the middle, press, and then fold again, press. You will come end up with 4 strips that are about 1/2" wide.

6. Now topstitch down the edge of your strips. Cut your strips into 2 1/2" pcs. You should end up with 20 of them.

7. Lay out your pcs on the floor exactly how you want your play mat to look. Your loop pcs. should be placed 6 1/4" from the edges of the inner pcs.(8 total loops).

8. Time to sew up the top!

IMPORTANT: Pin, pin, pin!! Don't skip this step. It is so important because the minky will stretch on you while you sewn. I used a serger to sew my activity mat together, but a sewing machine will work just as well. With either, you must pin!!

Pin your outer pc to the inner pc with your loops sandwiched in between. Make sure the loop pc is folded with the raw edges along the edge you are sewing. You do this for all 4 sections. Now sew 2 of your completed pie shapes together, right sides together. And repeat for the other 2 pie pieces. Now sew your 2 halves together, right sides together. You should end up with this.

9. Now cut out a bottom for your mat using your top as a guideline. I forgot to take a pic of me doing this, but just lay your top onto the minky and cut around!

10. Next, cut out your 2 layers of batting using the bottom pc as a guide. I cut out mine and left a little extra around the edges, just to allow for some stretching when I went to pin the bottom.

11. Now cut out your felt using the top as a guide. Again, here I cut out a little extra on the outer edge. Next, I pinned my minky bottom to the 2 layers of batting, stretching a little as I pinned around. Then I trimmed the excess. I did the same thing with my top layer and the felt. I know this takes a little extra time, but I think it allowed for a much smoother finish of the mat with no wrinkles.

12. On your top layer, go ahead and pin your 4 loops to the outer edge of your circle. I eyeballed mine and just made sure they were in between where the other 2 loops above were. But ideally your loop should be in the middle of your outer piece.

13. At this point I removed all the pins(not the loop ones) from the layers that I had used to hold together while trimming the edges.

14. Now pin all of your mat layers together. Yes, PIN! Your 2 batting layers will be on top, followed by your bottom minky layer face down, your top layer face up, and then your felt on the bottom. I pinned mine all the way around about every 2 inches or so. I also put some pins out in the middle so it wouldn't shift while sewing. This is what your layers look like at this point.

15. Now you are going to either sew or serge around your layers. You need to leave about a 6" space on the edge to turn your mat right side out when you are done. I marked mine so that I wouldn't forget. Sew, turn out and topstich your edge together!

We are now done with the play mat!

Sewing the Tubes

IMPORTANT: Measure your noodles before you do this part. My instructions are for noodles that measured about 8" around and about 56" long. If yours are any different that you will need to do a little math to make sure the tubes will fit correctly.

16. Cut out 6 rectangles that measure 8 1/2" x 21". I chose 5 different woven prints. I don't think you should use minky for this because it would be a little heavy for the arches. Now I layed the 2 tubes out. I pinned a loop pc to the 1st and 2nd pc in each row, right about an inch above the bottom edge. Go ahead and sew your pcs together. Taking the first 2 right sides together and then the last one.

17. Now hem the 4 outside edges. I used my coverstitcher because it conveniently had the same colored thread on it. If you are using your sewing machine just turn under an 1/8" inch press and then 1/4" inch and press again. Topstitch.

18. OK. Now you have your rectangles sewn together,you should have the 2 sets of 3. Your ends should be finished off neatly too. Now you need to add loops to the ends of your rectangles. I serged the raw end of my loops first because I didn't want them to unravel. But you could zig zag on a sewing machine just as easy.

19. Now just topstich one loop to each of your four outer ends. Loops should be about 1" from the bottom just like the other ones.

20. Now sew your 2 sets of rectangles into long tubes, right sides together. You should end up with 2 tubes just like this.

21. Now turn them out and scrunch them onto your pool noodles. You should have beautiful tubes like this when you are all done!

22. Now my original idea was to use my plastic links that I had purchased to link the loops on the end of the tubes to the outer loops on the play mat. I did this and it does work. However it made the arches just a little lower than I wanted them to be.

So my solution was to add snaps to each of the 4 loops on the tube ends and the 4 outer loops on the play mat. It works great and it is a lot easier to just snap them off when I just need a play mat and not the gym.

23. Now put that baby under the mat and let them play!! I purchased my toys by infantino super cheap from TJMaxx. I'm sure you could find them anywhere though. If you are really ambitious you could try your hand at making your own. I just don't have the time right now and the 6 toys that I have along with the links cost me right at $20 total.

I would love to hear feedback if you take time to sew this one up! It will help me in the future when I post more tutes!


  1. this is awesome i wish i had this tut when haylee was lil so i didnt waste the money on a mat she didnt use that much!! u should sell these thing it looks way cooler than the ones u buy!! & way more comfy

  2. I must say it would take e a month to do that! But I already have a play mat and yours is way cuter than the store bought ones :)

  3. This is awesome.....I might just have to do this myself!


  4. LOVE this! It looks very high-end. Thanks for the tutorial!

    I was wondering about all those adorable sleep sacks you made. Have you been able to use them? Any chance of selling a pdf pattern in the future? :)

  5. Thank you all for the comments. I hope that someone will make it and send me a picture! I would love to see different fabrics and how it turns out!

    Tricia, believe it or not I made 4 for Tristan and he has only worn 1 of them. I made too many things! Maybe I will put a new gown on him tonight after his bath.

    I do have a PDF in the works, just trying to get the sizing of the pattern correct when it prints out. Soon I hope!

  6. I love this play mat. I sewed one up I it came out great. I couldn't find Pool Noodles so I used pipe tubing from the hardware store It worked great. Thanks for share this great Tut.

  7. Thanks for the tutorial. It was very well written and easy to follow. Pictures of my completed mat are on my blog.
    Thanks again!

  8. Chelrod and Ananda thank you for posting.

    Ananda, love your blog. Your mat turned out great and I love that space print! Good thing to know about the tubing, I hadn't thought of that! Thanks for trying it out!

  9. Hi, I love your blog and finally got around to making the baby gym. Your tutorial is great and it was lots of fun! I blogged about it here

  10. SewSima, yours turned out beautifully! Thank you for letting me see the final result!

  11. Hi,
    I made a baby gym and wanted to put snaps on the end, you wouldn't have any close up of what you did would you. I would help me a lot to figure out how to do it.
    Thanks for the tutorial.

  12. I ended up using pacifier clips to attach the arch. You can see more here

  13. Thank you for this tute. I initially saw it months ago and it inspired me to make one for my son but couldn't find you again! Stumbled across ya tonight - so am saying Thank You! :)

  14. I love the colors you used and the idea to attach ribbons and links on the inside circle is awesome. I was looking around for ideas on making a baby gym to go over a play mat that I'm almost done making from a tutorial on JoAnne Fabric's website and think I will enlarge the inner circle and do the same. Thanks for sharing!

  15. The mat you choose will many times be placed on a floor. For this reason, you want to make sure you pick one that is thick and well padded. This is going to be beneficial when baby starts lifting her head up. Head bumps are painful and can be scary.

  16. This looks great! I've been looking for an idea of where to start to make my own floor gym. My sister is pregnant with my new niece/nephew (find out on Tuesday!) and really wants to have a simple, yet special gym for the baby. Thank you for posting your directions!

  17. i never thought of pool noodles, thanks for the idea. im doing a playmat for my gcse coursework and i think youve solved my dilema because i had no idea how to do the arms :D

  18. Thank you for such a great tutorial! I have included it in my What Can You Make with a Pool Noodle Round Up. If for any reason you would like me to exlude your project please let me know and I will take it out immediately.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  19. Hello;
    I have read your blog regarding gymnastic mats, As you had right wonderful article, and this is very interesting.
    Thanks for sharing such wonderful blog.

  20. Really appreciate this post~
    I'm doing mine tonight! Thank you so much for the idea

  21. Hi there, and Thank You for sharing this tutorial!! My little one will be very happy when his is done. I love the idea of the pool noodles, and I've altered the rim around the mat so the noodles can also be inserted as bumpers along the edges for when he's rolling around. Again, thank you so much! I've searched through stores and websites for months, trying to find the right gym, and finally found your blog! Problem solved! He's about to be one very happy baby!

  22. You can also make a changing mat for the baby so that when you are changing diapers or clothes, the baby can't roll away from you. Just a long rectangle of fabric and sew two tube shapes to fit the noodles on each side and slide them in . I had one like this 47 years ago for my first baby but it had tube pillows on each side. The noodles would be easier to clean.

  23. This blog is really very wonderful and nice blog. I would like to say that really fantastic blog. I really like it. Get all kind of gym mats UK from

  24. Very interesting! This work is really satisfactory for us. Thanks
    Baby Play Mat

  25. Thanks for sharing this amazing blog and the details about product really awesome.
    Good work.

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  26. Thanks for this informative blog. This is a well-informed blog for everyone.
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  27. This is adorable! My great great grandson is due April 8th so I should have time to make this for him . Truly looking forward to making this. Thank you for such good directions.

  28. I love this. I am expecting my first great great grandson April 8th and cannot wait to make this for him. Your instructions were clear and well written. Thanks you!

  29. Love this idea! We are expecting our 5th grandchild in Jan 2020.:) I should have more than enough time to make this before the baby shower in November. Can't wait to see how it turns out!!!

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. Great info! Gym mats are a really good way to protect your floor and your gym equipment as well as in professional fitness and sports facilities. With a proper gym mat, you're able to do everything from dumbbell and exercise ball routines to yoga or meditation practice.

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