Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
This week, my four week old daughter has unknowingly been testing out the ‘Softly Snail Multi-Activity Playgym’ from ‘Little Bird Told Me’ – a team of toy and nursery specialists who offer a wide range of development activity toys and accessories.
Now, whilst I’m of the thinking that babies want and need to be held and no amount of cuddles will spoil them, there are always going to be times when I need to put baby down, especially as I’m also mum to a just turned two-year-old who demands my attention. The same toddler didn’t really get on with her playgym (bouncy chair or play mat) so I was hoping baby number two and Softly Snail would have a more successful relationship. And ta-dah, they most certainly do!
The Softly Snail Playgym is easy enough to put together, though do take heed of the assembly instructions’ warning to take care when opening the arches. They really do spring outwards suddenly, both when unpacking them and when securing them to the underside of the playmat. Setting up is by no means a two person job but if you’ve got another pair of hands nearby, have them help.
The first thing I noticed about Softly Snail was how colourful he is. From what I’ve read, my baby will currently be learning to distinguish colours, and the patterns of blues, reds, yellows and greens may not be fully appreciated just yet. But, I like the look of it. The colours are gender neutral and taking up a corner of the living room, it definitely isn’t an eyesore.
The second thing I noticed was how soft and generously cushioned the playmat is; it’s perfect for supporting baby and she’d never guess she’s down on the solid, wooden floor. Our last baby playgym only had a thin, flat mat and I immediately realised the ‘Little Bird’ version must be much more comfortable and snug; it’s cosy from day one of baby’s life. In fact, my daughter will happily fall and stay asleep on it.
The playgym has plenty of features suitable for babies from birth; it’s actually designed to take them through several key stages of development. At stage one, the four included toys can be hung from arches above baby’s head and already seem to be attracting our little one’s attention. In no time, I can see she’ll be reaching out to grab them. The toys are easily attached to the frame via material hoops and include one that with a pull, plays Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (no batteries required – excellent!), another that squeaks and another that rattles. In their current position, it’s me and the other half making all the noise with them but as baby gets more mobile and her days get more adventurous, the toys can be secured to the mat for little hands to explore, squeeze and shake. When baby gets a bit bigger we’ll remove the arches so there’s room for her to sit up (with a lovely soft landing if she stretches too far and topples over!)
The mat is made up of a number of different textures that aim to develop little ones’ sense of touch. I’ve already noticed my daughter kicks out a lot more when led on the activity mat than when on her changing mat. She seems to love the fact that she can create a gentle rustling noise by moving her feet. The mat also has a mirror and if baby number two is anything like number one, she’ll soon be kissing and dribbling on her own reflection.
Softly Snail offers plenty to keep babies occupied throughout the months before they’re able to crawl. The toys are not only fun for them to play with, they’re there to help them develop spacial awareness and hand-to-eye coordination. As they’re also all detachable, you can use them on pushchairs, cots and car seats too, though the OCD in me means realistically I’ll probably keep them all together as a set alongside the mat.
The mat is lovely and soft and perfect for tummy time, which is encouraged from the early weeks of a baby’s life, if just for a few seconds at first. Spending time on their bellies helps babies develop their neck and upper body muscles and Softly Snail comes complete with a useful cushion to help them support themselves. Our first born wasn’t a fan of this type of activity so the fact that you can also attach the toys to the cushion seems a great way of distracting babies whilst they get their daily dose of exercise. What’s more, all the toys are attached to Softly Snail with teething rings and encourage a good, soothing chew.
The playgym is robust. And in our house, with a bouncy, boingy toddler who wants to climb on everything, being robust is very important. Softly Snail has already come under attack on more than one occasion and has lived to tell the tale. The mat is washable so all those baby dribbles and potential toddler spillages are not a concern.
Softly Snail looks good, has plenty of fun features for baby that also aid development, is comfortable (I’ve had a little lie down on it and if they offered it in an adult size, I’d be tempted to get my purse out) and the multi set-up means it’s a great investment. Babies will get plenty of use and enjoyment out of it and it’ll give your arms a welcome break.
Availalble to buy from www.littlebirdtoldme.co.uk.