Material matters: how to choose the perfect play mat

Play mat material Play mat safety

Once you have a baby, you will be spending a LOT of time on the floor – and a play mat will be one of your most important purchases. It can be really hard to know which one to buy.

Munchkin and Bear are well known in the market for bringing stylish designs to customers. But that was actually only one small factor we considered when designing our products.


For us, as mothers, the perfect play mat is should be:

  • made from the safest, non-toxic material possible

  • independently tested and certified to meet ISO (Australian) and EN71 (European) standards

  • have a safety standard compliance report readily available to the customer (for example ours is on our website)

  • super soft, thick and shock absorbent to protect your precious little one

  • waterproof and easy to clean

  • durable enough for the whole family to enjoy for years to come

  • a stylish design you would be proud to have in your home!

Not much too ask for, right? Well, we couldn't find one that ticked all these boxes!


When we first launched Munchkin and Bear in Australia in 2016, we had spent the 2 years prior working on our designs and sourcing manufacturers.

We looked at so many materials, from latex yoga mats (too risky for latex allergies) to natural rubber (gets too sticky, hard to clean and allergy risk), to cotton (slippery and hygiene issues - so much washing!), to PVC (releases toxic chemicals and carcinogens).

In fact, we originally launched with a different material as we prioritised the safest material we could find – we thought we had it! It was a non-toxic, food-grade foam (EPE - so the same soft foam used around fruit and vegetables to prevent bruising) and whilst it was designed for, and worked for, newborn babies, our customers were searching for a product that was even more robust for their toddlers and bigger children too!


So back to the drawing board we went, and we finally decided on a new manufacturer and material, TPU. Thermoplastic Polyurethane gave us the durability, flexibility and shock absorbency without compromising on safety. You will find TPU in many safe items around home such as plasters, swimming goggles and mattresses. It is also widely used in the medical field (in oxygen masks and tubing for example), replacing the more toxic PVC.

We could finally tick all the boxes in our checklist!


If you are reading this, you are probably searching for the right play mat. We have put together a handy table to help you navigate all the options available and decide which is best for your family.

A Guide to Play Mat Materials






Thermoplastic Polyurethane - generally considered a great alternative for safe household products

eg. bibs, mattresses, swimming goggle

  • free from toxic elements

  • waterproof

  • durable

  • flexible

  • great shock absorbency

  • no smell when you open the box i.e. no off gassing

  • wipe clean only

  • more expensive than cheaper materials


Food grade polyethylene

- widely used plastic

e.g. medical devices, food handling, food storage

  • waterproof

  • free of toxic elements

  • no smell when you open the box

  • no smell when you open the box ie. no off gassing

  • limited durability

  • wipe clean only


Polyvinyl Chloride – hard wearing but generally considered toxic with serious safety concerns

eg. cables, pipes, bottles

  • waterproof

  • durable

  • production involves toxic plasticisers

  • strong chemical smell upon opening ie. chemical off gassing

  • often contains phthalates

  • lifecycle has inherent toxicities that cannot be avoided

  • wipe clean only


100% natural rubber - product made from the sap of rubber trees

eg. shoes, tyres

  • natural

  • thick

  • non-slip

  • free of toxic elements

  • rubber smell

  • patina will develop

  • can develop a stickiness

  • wipe clean only


Material covering – material sourced from cotton plants

e.g. clothing, bedding

  • Machine washable

  • durable

  • free of toxic elements

  • can't wipe clean

  • regular washing required to limit germs

  • limited padding for shock absorbency

  • not waterproof

  • some material contains flame retardant

  • cotton crops often treated with pesticides

  • padding can be toxic


Ethylene vinyl acetate is an elastic plastic polymer that is similar to rubber

e.g. jigsaw play mats, shoes, flooring, sports equipment

  • waterproof

  • flexible

  • shock absorbent

  • banned in the EU

  • traces of chemicals from manufacturing

  • may be treated with flame retardant

  • strong chemical smell upon opening i.e. chemical off gassing

  • wipe clean only


We hope you have found this guide helpful . We know this matters to our customers because some of our most frequently asked questions are:


What are your Munchkin and Bear play mats made from?”

Our Luxe Play Mat are made from TPU.


“Are your Munchkin and Bear play mats non-toxic and safe for babies?”

Yes! They have been certified under European and Australian standards.  


The search for the perfect play mat for your family has led you here and for our part, we thrilled that we have a safe, beautiful product for you to consider!  Of course you may also want to check out what other customers had to say when you are browsing. Our full test report is available here

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