Find Safe Foam Mats for Toddlers to Play On
March 27, 2013
The time comes when your baby turns into a toddler. Inevitably bruises happen. So you start looking around for safer, cushier surfaces for them to play on. Foam seems like the perfect bruise-free choice. But before you purchase, make sure you know what kind of foam your mat is made of.
Most foam is petroleum-derived. Some kinds are safer than others, and some contain chemical flame retardants that aren’t what you want your kids playing on or around. You can usually do a smell check on a foam product—if it smells strongly of chemicals, leave it on the store shelf. It could be PVC. EVA is widely considered the standard safe substitute for PVC. But a few years back there was a situation where formamide, a reproductive and developmental toxicant, was found in EVA foam, a byproduct of the manufacturing process. As a result it was strictly regulated for mats—specifically ones kids come into contact with, like puzzle mats–in certain European countries including Belgium and France, as well as in Taiwan.
Not every foam mat will be made of PVC or contain formamide or even flame retardants, but since mats aren’t sold with ingredient lists, here’s how to go about choosing the safest one for your kids:
- Look for a mat made from a natural material, like natural latex (which comes from a rubber plant, not petroleum). If you can’t find one specifically marketed for children, use a natural rubber yoga mat.
- Think outside the box. Who needs foam? Untreated cotton rag rugs can be quite cushy—and inexpensive. And they can be easily cleaned in the washing machine. Even small wool rugs can work. Just make sure they don’t have plastic backing.
If you already have a foam play mat and are concerned about what it might contain, call the manufacturer to ask what it is made of. If you can’t get a satisfactory answer, or if you find out it is a material you don’t want in your home, replace it. Or do without. After all, putting a towel down on your carpet works just as well if not better than a foam mat. And you won’t be stuck with a brightly colored foam mat once your toddler grows out of the play mat phase. It happens fast!