In the magical world of childhood, every young adventurer finds a best friend in their plush toy – whether it's a floppy bunny or a squishy bear. These cuddly companions join in secret talks, shared dreams, and bold escapades, becoming more than just toys – they're beloved friends. Getting it away from them long enough to wash may be a challenge, let alone replacing it. Let's talk about why a plushie companion is an important facet to childhood development, and why children get so attached to their plush friends.
Bonding and Learning With A Friend
Many kids form an incredibly strong bond with a particular plush toy, and it can lead to quite a fuss if they're apart, especially at bedtime. Although it might be a bit frustrating for parents, this is actually very normal and shows that the child's emotions are in good shape. See, young children are learning about something called "object permanence": the idea that even when they can't see their parents, they're still around somewhere. Just because mom or dad isn't in the same room doesn't mean they're gone forever.
Kids handle this by finding something that makes them think of their parents' love even when they're not together. We call this thing a "transitional object" because it helps kids transition from always needing their parents around to feeling safe even when they're apart. Often, this object is something soft and cuddly, like a plush toy, because those textures are super comforting to children.
More Than Just A Toy
In a special kind of playtime called "play therapy," we use stuffed animals to help kids learn how to take care of others. These toys bring out warm, cozy feelings and encourage kids to practice looking after them, like by pretending to feed them or put clothes on them. You know how kids sometimes have teddy bear picnics? That's a bit like it. When kids act like they're taking care of a toy, they're actually learning how to be good friends and maybe even parents someday. This kind of play also helps kids calm themselves down and remember how nice it is to be looked after by a parent.
Regulating All Kinds Of Emotions
Science has backed up what parents have known forever: kids really, really love their stuffies, and they get super attached to them for important feelings.
In kids, feelings come from how they're connected with others. A little kid doesn't just hold onto a soft plush toy because it makes them feel safe and familiar. It's also a way for them to practice being social even when there are no grown-ups around. The toy doesn't tell them what's right or wrong. It doesn't say if they're good or bad. When they're with their plush buddy, they get to be totally in charge of how they're social.
It's also a great chance for them to learn about emotions. If they push their teddy bear off the bed, it won't say anything, but the kid still knows how the bear might feel or might feel sorry for getting mad.
Comfort, Safety, and Independence
Kids often get really attached to stuffed animals and blankets because these things give them a sense of comfort, safety, and feeling good inside. When they're little, they're learning to trust their main caregivers and feel safe at home. But they're also starting to want to do things on their own and check out new stuff. While they're doing this exploring, they can start to feel a bit worried about being away from home and their caregivers.
To make this worry go away, kids will look for objects or stuffed animals that remind them of comfort. These things are called "transitional objects." Transitional objects are things that make them feel safe and comfy when they're a bit anxious. A lot of times, these objects are blankets and stuffed animals because they're often right there in their bed or crib where they feel the most safe and cozy.
Developing Social Skills and Handling Stress
Playing with plush toys is a really good thing for kids. Plush toys can help kids deal with difficult feelings, like when they're stressed out. Holding onto a soft plush toy can make kids feel safe, and they can get really close to that cozy feeling from a specific plush toy. Stress management is an important skill for growing children to develop, especially when mom, dad, or another caregiver might not be around to help. Plush toys can make those stressful situations more manageable, and give children an anchor to rely on when the world around them feels too busy, or too big.
Talking With A Trusted Friend
When kids play with plush toys, they're learning how to get along with others. They can learn how to take care of things and be friends when they pretend with their stuffed animals. They can even pretend to be moms or dads, and that kind of play makes them feel like big kids who are full of confidence. Kids who talk to their plush toys are also getting better at using words and learning new ones. Playing with plush toys helps kids make their imagination even stronger, which in-turn helps foster creative thinking and meaningful socialization.
Long-term Play and Learning
Plush toys are also open-ended toys, which means kids can play with them in all sorts of ways. This makes it less likely for kids to get bored with them. They can do so many things with a plush toy and make up lots of different stories. That makes them super fun for kids to play with, and offers a long-term companion that you (hopefully!) won't need to replace often, if at all. And with all those years to play with their favorite cuddly friends, children learn to become more appreciative of what they have, taking better care of their belongings!
Kids can get really, really into specific plush toys. This can be a big help for them as they're learning how to be good at getting along with others. But if that special toy goes missing, it can be a bit of a problem. Parents might want to think about having a spare of their child's most special plush toy "just in case."
Plushies, Friends For Life
In the wonderful world of childhood, plush toys do more than just play around – they become trusted friends that offer comfort and teach important skills. From making kids feel safe with their soft touch to helping them practice being kind through imaginative games, these cuddly pals play a big role. They even help kids talk better and imagine amazing stories. Plush toys aren't just for fun; they're buddies that stay with kids as they grow, helping them learn about feelings and friendships along the way.
Read more about Why Children Love Stuffed Animals or shop our collection of cute stuffed animals. Are you interested in helping your child with social and emotional intelligence? Check out Slumberkins. Each stuffy comes with a book that helps kids learn about mindfulness, conflict resolution, authenticity, and many other emotions.