Written By: Psychologist Natasha Tanic
Kids of all ages love playing with soft toys and in addition to being tons of fun to play with, there are many benefits of soft toys for kids.
Soft toys come in many different forms, including dolls, stuffed animals, balls, blocks, cloth books and even plush cars or vehicles.
Here’s a look at how to choose soft toys and some of the benefits of soft toys for younger kids at different ages and stages.
Choosing Soft Toys for Babies and Toddlers
When choosing soft toys for babies and toddlers, it’s important to choose toys that have embroidered or painted on eyes instead of button eyes .
This will ensure that the toy is safe for younger children and doesn’t pose a choking hazard.
It’s best if you choose toys made from organic products and natural non-toxic dyes since kids this age tend to put toys in their mouth.
It’s also a good idea to check the seams periodically to make sure that there are no holes that the stuffing can come out of.
Benefits of Soft Toys for Babies and Toddlers
Helps Develop Gross and Fine Motor Skills: Grasping and waving a soft toy helps very small children develop their fine and gross motor skills.
Allows Young Children to Explore Different Textures: Giving young children soft toys made from different materials allows young children to learn about different textures.
Small kids explore textures such cotton, corduroy, furry material using their skin and their tongue. They can also learn the difference between firmer (ie the stuffing) and softer by exploring various soft toys.
Provides Comfort: As toddlers get a little older they often use soft toys such as stuffed animals or dolls to provide them comfort when they feel anxious, mad, or sad.
May Help Relieve Separation Anxiety: Young kids may suffer from separation anxiety when left with a babysitter, sent to day care, or even moved from a crib to child’s bed.
A stuffed animal that they are familiar with can help relieve some of the separation anxiety they feel.
Educational Benefits of Soft Toys
Soft toys have several educational and developmental benefits which include:
Learning Animal Names and Sounds: Stuffed animals can be used to teach kids the names of different animals, the sounds the animals make, and even what they like to eat.
They may also learn which animals belong in the forest, the jungle, and on the farm.
Learning Life Skills: Kids love to use soft toys to model adult behavior. In doing so, they can learn valuable life skills.
For example, using a toy doll or stuffed teddy to model their parent’s behavior, they learn that babies drink milk from a bottle and need to have their diaper change.
They also learn that they (and their babies) need to take naps, and a host of other lessons.
Other Things Kids Learn From Soft Toys: Children can also improve their language and social skills by playing with soft toys.
Plus they can practice or learn color recognition, counting, sorting, matching, and other things using their soft toys.
Soft Toys for Play
With soft toys, the pretend play opportunities are endless!
And they’re ideal toys for play because they won’t cause serious injury if thrown or fallen on. For many young kids, the first ball they learn how to roll or throw is a cloth ball.
Children also use soft toys for imaginative play. Stuffed animals become ‘pets’ or zoo animals with the child as the owner or zookeeper.
Kids pretend that soft toy dolls and sometimes stuffed animals are their babies or guests at tea parties. They also love loading these toys into a wagon and pulling them around.
Sometimes the soft toys become the students with the child as the teacher or they get dressed up in old baby clothes for a fashion show.
Children often treat soft toys as friends and swing them on a swing, or slide them down at slide. They may even sit them in a chair at the dinner table so they can have dinner with the family.
While we know some of the benefits that most children get from playing with soft toys, each child is different.
So it’s impossible to know the full range of benefits that each child gets from playing with soft toys.
However, one thing is certain: Kids of all ages are drawn to soft toys and just seeing one can bring a big smile to any child’s face!