A favorite stuffed animal or teddy bear is a must-have for most children. Their soft and cuddly friend becomes a staple in their room, travelling wherever they go.
Whether your child’s stuffed animal is a classic bear, their favorite zoo animal, or a beloved TV character, they offer plenty of benefits to children.
Beyond a security blanket or favorite toy, stuffed animals can actually help with your child’s development.
From offering a warm hug to developing language skills, stuffed animals offer a creative outlet for learning about emotions and socialization.
Keep reading to learn why kids like stuffed animals so much.
First, the obvious reason that children love stuffed animals is because of their warm and cuddly nature.
Nothing is more peaceful or soothing than an adorable teddy bear with a kind smile.
Stuffed animals give the best hugs, offering a feeling of security and comfort for children of all ages.
One study found that one in three children expressed an attachment for an inanimate object.
Out of those children, only 7% were attached to a hard toy, including action figures or toy cars.
However, 31% formed an attachment to soft toys, like teddy bears or stuffed animals.
The data clearly shows that children love soft toys, and many people form life-long attachments to their favorite childhood stuffed animal.
Over the years, the design of the average teddy bear has changed. While adults might not think much of the slight changes to the features of teddy bears, they actually have a scientific backing.
The facial features of teddy bears and many stuffed animals have actually been modified to reflect more precise facial features that humans are naturally drawn to like.
The dimensions are scientifically happier and more cuddly, enabling children to become attached to their favorite teddy bear.
Stuffed animals come in a variety of shapes and sizes, many featuring bright colors and fun characters.
Simply seeing a familiar face, even if it is an inanimate object, can brighten a child’s day.
The warm, fuzzy face of a favorite stuffed animal can offer a reassuring smile, no matter what else is happening in the world around them.
These days, it does not seem like toys are built to last. Little plastic pieces break off or batteries die, and a toy is no longer as fun as it once was.
Stuffed animals, though, can last much longer than other toys.
The soft and cuddly nature of teddy bears and stuffed toys lend themselves to gentler play, instead of rough and tumble activities.
They also have fewer parts and are less likely to fall apart.
As your child grows, their favorite stuffed animal can also be preserved.
Whether it sits on a higher shelf as decoration or is safely enclosed in a keepsake box or shadowbox, it can be a reassuring presence throughout their life.
Countless adults still have their childhood teddy bear or favorite doll tucked away in a safe place.
Toys can get dirty, and they can easily carry germs and bacteria. Young children are liable to put toys in their mouth, drop them outside, or hand them off to a friend.
While some toys can be cleaned, others have too many pieces or electronic parts that are not washable.
Stuffed animals are very easy to clean, which will ensure your child’s safety as they cuddle with their favorite stuffie.
For most stuffed animals, a simple run in the washing machine is enough to remove the dirt and grime that cleans to the fabric.
There’s no need to break out the cleaning brush or sponge and spend lots of time scrubbing, which is what it takes to clean plastic toys or metal cars.
They Encourage Socialization
Believe it or not, children have a relationship with their stuffed animals.
They name their favorite teddy bear, give it human-like characteristics, and bond with it as they play make believe games.
Their bond with the toy teaches important socialization skills like empathizing.
Like imaginary friends, stuffed animals can provide companionship and are often considered friends.
Children decide which toy to play with, which teddy bear to take on vacation, and which stuffed animals they want to invite to their tea party.
Playing with their stuffed animal forces them to view a situation from another perspective, taking on the role of their own playmate.
They Teach Language Skills
Children can sit and talk with their beloved stuffed animal forever. From the incoherent babble of a toddler to solid sentences of a young child, kids can practice speaking to their favorite toy.
As they learn words at school or around the house, they can try them out on their cuddly friend, repeating them over and over for an imaginary audience.
Stuffed animals also help teach the expectations of conversation.
A child has to play both roles in the conversation, asking questions and providing answers.
They can freely share their thoughts, giving their teddy bear a voice.
Talking to a stuffed animal also provides a child with a safe place, free from consequence, for expressing their feelings.
They Spark Imagination
From elaborate tea parties to daring adventures, stuffed animals can serve as incredible playmates.
Having a physical object represent an imaginary personality provides a solid foundation for a child.
Creativity can flourish as children assign characteristics, personality traits, and emotions to their stuffed animal.
Stuffed animals are also willing participants in any game a child can think up.
Unlike real playmates, who may get tired or bored during a game, a stuffed animal will play for hours without complaint.
They can grow more confident in their own ideas and stretch their creative brains without fear.
One study even found that children can assign an “essence” to their favorite stuffed animal.
The toy then takes on some property, invisible to anyone else, that makes it near and dear for the child.
When giving the option of trading in their stuffed animal for a shiny new toy, many children refuse.
They Help Express Emotions
Part of growing up is learning how to express emotion, a concept that’s difficult even for adults from time to time.
Children struggle with emotions that are difficult to express, and it takes time to learn how to put complicated feelings into words.
Teddy bears and stuffies offer a nonjudgmental ear that kids can rely on as they work out their emotions.
Children can talk to their stuffed animal, relaying their highs and lows from the day or expressing worry.
They can get angry or frustrated with their stuffed animal and learn how to work through the situation on their own.
As children play both sides of the conversation, the behavior is very similar to talking to themselves or thinking out loud.
Encourage Your Toddler’s Love of Stuffed Animals
If you want your toddler to reap the benefits associated with stuffed animals, there are many ways you can encourage their playtime.
Parents can promote stuffed animals without getting in the way of a child self-soothing, expressing genuine emotion, or working out a problem on their own with the help of a teddy bear.
Try the following tips to encourage your child’s love of stuffed animals.
Ask your toddler about their stuffed animal: If they have a favorite bear or doll, learn its name and personality traits.
Referring to the stuffed animal in conversation shows your child that you are paying attention and validates their bond with their favorite toy.
Bring stuffed animals along: From long car rides or vacations to trips to the doctor or the store, let your toddler bring their stuffed animal along when possible.
Having a playmate around, even imaginary, can help relieve stress.
It also provides your child with an activity to keep them busy as they use their imagination.
Talk to the stuffed animal: Let your toddler speak for the stuffed animal, using their own words to express themselves.
Sometimes it is easier for children to have difficult conversations or express confusing emotions if they are pretending to be someone else.
Show the stuffed animal some love: Whether it is time to give the much-loved toy a “bath” in the washing machine or fix a “boo boo” with a needle and thread, show your toddler how to care for their friend.
These activities may seem simple, but they can help build skills like empathy.
It also shows that you care about your toddler’s toy, which can make your child feel happy and secure.