a baby on the beach

Play Mats vs. Playroom Rugs: Which One is Right for You?

When designing a playroom for your kids, choosing the right flooring is an important decision. The two main options are play mats and playroom rugs.

Both have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to factors like safety, durability, comfort, and ease of cleaning.

Here is an in-depth comparison of play mats vs. rugs to help you decide which is the best fit for your family’s needs.

a mat in playroom

What is Play Mats?

Play mats are padded mats designed specifically for kids’ play areas. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Here are some key features of play mats:

Cushioned Padding

Play mats are made with cushioned padding, usually about 1/2 to 1 inch thick. This provides a soft surface for kids to play on, reducing impact if they fall or roughhouse. Thicker padding offers more comfort and protection. The cushioning is often made from polyurethane foam or EVA foam. Some play mats also have a bottom layer made from non-slip latex to prevent sliding.

Puzzle Piece Design

Many play mats feature a puzzle piece or interlocking design. This allows you to connect multiple mats together to cover a larger floor space. The connections prevent gaps or sliding. Some play mats have flat edges, but the puzzle piece edges make laying out a floor surface much easier and more seamless. Brands like Alphabet Play Mats use this puzzle-edge technology.

Portable and Lightweight

Play mats are lightweight and portable. They can be rolled up or folded for storage and transported easily. This makes them ideal if you want flooring you can move from room to room or take it outside. Each mat section is lightweight, often weighing 5 lbs or less. Play mats made from EVA foam offer the lightest weight.

Easy to Clean

The vinyl or phthalate-free plastic surface can easily be wiped clean. Play mats can be spot cleaned and sanitized as needed. Some are even machine washable for thorough cleaning. The non-porous surface prevents liquids from being absorbed, making cleaning mess a breeze. Dish soap and warm water or a wipe easily removes dirt and grime.

Affordable Price

Play mats are one of the most budget-friendly kids’ flooring options. Pricing ranges from $20 for a basic single mat up to $200 for a large 12-piece set. For the amount of coverage you get, play mats provide excellent value compared to other flooring. Sets allow you to gradually add more pieces as needed too.

Fun Colors/Designs

Play mats come in assorted colors like primary reds, blues, greens and yellows. Some also feature roads, tracks, letters or numbers for educational play. Popular brands like TickiTek and Monkey Mat have vibrant colors and patterns kids love. Designs range from simple dots to colorful city maps.

play mat with sponge baby pattern

What are Playroom Rugs?

Playroom rugs are area rugs designed with the durability to withstand heavy use by kids. Key features include:

Plush Pile

Playroom rugs have a plush, cushy pile that makes them comfortable to sit, lie and play on. The pile height is often 0.5 inches up to 1 inch deep. This helps absorb impacts from jumping or falling. Plusher piles provide more softness underfoot. Compared to regular rugs, playroom rugs feel soft yet woven tightly.

Durable Materials

These rugs are made from very durable synthetics like nylon, polypropylene or polyester instead of natural fibers like wool. This makes them more stain-resistant and abrasion-resistant. Brands like Mohawk Home and KidCarpet use high-density nylon or polypropylene that can handle years of use.

Bright, Fun Colors/Patterns

Playroom rugs come in vibrant colors and fun graphics like roads, racetracks, maps or ABCs to stimulate kids. However, solid colors like reds, blues and greens are also available to match décor. Kid-friendly graphics make playrooms more fun and interactive.

Standard Sizing

Playroom rugs come in standard rug sizes like 3×5, 5×7, 8×10, etc. This makes it easy to find a size that fits your room. Smaller sizes work well for defining specific activity zones in the playroom. Large sizes can cover a whole play area.

Handles Heavy Use

The durable construction means playroom rugs can handle the wear and tear from kids playing, spills, accidents, pet claws and heavy foot traffic. Materials resist staining, mold and mildew as well. Higher-end brands like Ruggable are designed to be virtually indestructible.

Higher Price Point

Due to the more complex woven construction and synthetic materials, playroom rugs range from $50 up to $600 for large or high-end rugs. Handmade or custom rugs can also cost thousands. But durability makes up for the higher price.


  • Play mats – The padding provides cushioning for falls and tumbles. Interlocking edges prevent gaps. The puzzle piece edges eliminate slides or trips.
  • Playroom rugs – Cushy, plush pile absorbs impacts. Rugs lay flat without gaps. Size stays put. The grippy backing helps prevent slips.
  • Winner: Tie – Both offer padding and stability for safety. As long as edges are secure, risks are low with either option.


  • Play mats – At 1/2 to 1 inch thick, play mats do provide some cushioning but are not as plush as a rug. The padding makes hard floors cozier.
  • Playroom rugs – The pile is thicker and plusher, offering more cushioning for lying or sitting. Kids are super comfy playing on the soft rugs.
  • Winner: Playroom rugs – Kids are likely to be more comfortable playing on the extra plush rug padding.


  • Play mats – Made from vinyl or recycled plastic, play mats are waterproof and easy to clean. But seams may come apart after years.
  • Playroom rugs – Synthetic fibers resist stains, spills and heavy use. However, accidents or improper cleaning can damage fibers over time.
  • Winner: Playroom rugs – More durable against heavy activity from kids and pets long-term.

a mat with many animal patterns

Ease of Cleaning

  • Play mats – Wipe clean with soap and water or sanitize wipes. Some are machine washable. Easy to spot clean messes before stains are set.
  • Playroom rugs – Need frequent vacuuming. Spot cleaning is doable but tough stains may require professional rug cleaning.
  • Winner: Play mats – More convenient to quickly clean and sanitize messes off the non-porous surface.


  • Play mats – Very budget-friendly, starting around $20 for single mats up to $200 for a large 12-piece set. You can add more over time.
  • Playroom rugs – Range from $50 for a 3×5 size up to $600+ for large or high-end rugs. Much pricier investment upfront.
  • Winner: Play mats – The clear budget choice for playroom flooring. Very affordable to gradually expand.

Style Options

  • Play mats – Available in solid colors or simple patterns like dots, roads or alphabet letters. Overall, there is less variety than rugs.
  • Playroom rugs – Tons of vibrant colors and lively road maps, vehicles, dolls, animals and educational themes to choose from.
  • Winner: Playroom rugs – A much wider range of colors, patterns and themes to match kids’ interests.

Size and Layout

  • Play mats – Can be connected to cover open floor space from corner to corner. Configure racetracks, roads or blocks. Easy to move pieces.
  • Playroom rugs – Come in set standard sizes like 3×5 or 8×10. Typically laid wall-to-wall in one area. Less flexible shaping.
  • Winner: Play mats – More customizable sizing and layout options. Create roads or tracks.


  • Play mats – The textured vinyl surface provides decent traction for toys with wheels to grip. But some slipping can still occur.
  • Playroom rugs – The woven pile gives tons of traction for wheeled toys, bikes, or cars. Helps prevent slipping accidents.
  • Winner: Playroom rugs – Provide much better grip and traction for playing with toys.

Which is Right for You?

Now that you know the pros and cons of both play mats and playroom rugs, which is right for your family? Here are some factors to help decide:


If you’re looking for an affordable playroom flooring solution, play mats are the clear budget pick. Rugs work if you just need a smaller size. Play mats allow you to build your set over time.

Open Layout

Do you want flooring that can be moved around and rearranged as your kids grow and activities change? Interlocking play mats offer maximum flexibility for shaping layouts.

Defined Play Zones

If you want to define specific activity zones like a reading corner or building area, anchored playroom rugs work well. Rugs stay neatly in place.

Heavy Traffic Areas

For high-traffic areas like kids’ main playspaces, durable playroom rugs make the most sense long-term. Rugs hold up better under constant use.

Messy Play

For containing messy play involving lots of spills, messes or accidents, wipeable play mats are optimal for easy cleaning. Rugs require frequent vacuuming.

Cohesion With Decor

If coordinating with existing décor, playroom rugs come in more styles and can be custom-sized to seamlessly fit the space. More design options.


If you want flooring that can be stored away or moved outside, lightweight play mats have the advantage of portability. Easy to roll up and transport.

Traction for Toys

For playrooms with lots of toy cars, bikes or other wheeled toys, playroom rugs provide better traction and prevent slipping accidents.

a rug with huge bear pattern

Age of Kids

For babies and toddlers, cushier playroom rugs offer a softer surface as they learn to roll, crawl and walk. Play mats work better for older kids.

Noise Dampening

Play mats and rugs both provide noise-dampening benefits by absorbing noise vs. hard floors. Rugs provide slightly better sound absorption.

Odor Absorption

Rugs will absorb odors over time that require professional cleaning to remove. Play mats can be sanitized regularly to prevent odors.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to choosing the right flooring for your kids’ play area, there are great options with both play mats and playroom rugs.

Play mats provide an affordable, portable and easy-to-clean solution. Playroom rugs offer more comfort, design options and durability.

Assess your family’s needs and space to pick what makes the most sense long-term. With the right flooring, you can create a fun playroom your kids will safely enjoy for years to come!



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