Why do children get attached to plush toys?

Nearly every young child has a plush toy that they do everything with and take everywhere. They feed it, talk to it, sleep with it, and drag it around the house. It becomes their trusty sidekick. Getting it away from them long enough to wash may be a challenge. Read more to find out why these parents and childhood experts believe children adopt these stuffed companions.

Katie Lear

Katie Lear, LCMHC, RPT, RDT

Katie Lear is a licensed children's counselor and play therapist based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Find her at Katielear.com

Object permanence

Many kids develop an extremely close attachment to one plush toy in particular, and disaster ensues if they're separated from it, especially at bedtime. As aggravating as this can be for parents, it's not only developmentally normal but a sign of emotional health. Young children are in the process of learning something called object permanence: the idea that even when parents are out of sight, they aren't [gone]. Just because mommy is in the next room doesn't mean she'll never come back.

One way children deal with this psychologically is to find an object that reminds them of their parents' love while they're apart. We call this a transitional object because it helps children transition away from needing to be with their parents around the clock in order to feel secure. Most commonly, this object is something fluffy or fuzzy, like a plush toy, because those textures are naturally comforting and soothing to children.

In-play therapy, we use plush toys to help children develop their nurturing skills. They evoke warm, fuzzy feelings and encourage children to practice caretaking behaviors like feeding and dressing. If you've ever seen a child hold a teddy bear picnic, you know what I'm talking about. When children go through the motions of caring for a toy, they are learning how to be better friends and even future parents. Nurturing play also helps a child to self-soothe and remember what it feels like to be cared for by a parent.

Mark Coster

Mark Coster

Mark Coster is an online entrepreneur and the driving force behind STEM Toy Expert.

Emotional reasons

Science has proven what all parents have known for decades: kids just love their plush toys, and they get attached to them for emotional reasons. As an educator and a father of three, I think there's more to it than meets the eye.

In children, emotions spring from social circumstances. A little child will not only cling to a cuddly plush toy because it instills the feeling of safety and familiarity but also because it's a way to practice sociability without adult supervision. The toy doesn't prescribe certain behaviors. It doesn't approve, disapprove, or judge what you do or say. Hanging out with a plush friend is one of those rare situations where the kid’s in full control of all aspects of socialization.

It's also an excellent opportunity to develop emotional intelligence. A teddy bear won't say a thing when a child throws it out of the bed, but the child will still empathize with it or feel sorry that they got angry.

Julia Chamberlain

Julia M Chamberlain

Julia M. Chamberlain is a licensed mental health counselor candidate who holds a master's degree in mental health counseling. Find her at Choosing Therapy.

Represent a sense of comfort, security, and emotional well-being

Children often become attached to stuffed animals and blankets because they represent a sense of comfort, security, and emotional well-being. During their first years of life, children are gaining a sense of trust and safety with their primary caregivers and within their homes. However, they also begin to desire a sense of independence and exploration. As they feed this need to explore, there is a natural anxiety that arises due to the unknown and separation from home and caregivers.

To ease this anxiety, children will seek out objects or stuffed animals that represent comfort as transitional objects to self-soothe. A transitional object is defined as any object that symbolizes a sense of safety, security, and comfort in efforts to alleviate anxiety. It is common for transitional objects to be blankets and stuffed animals because these objects are most often in the child's crib or bed where they feel optimal safety and comfort.

Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller helps parents get started homeschooling with confidence at Homeschooling4him.com where she shares tips and tricks to make homeschooling simple and fun.

The feeling of comfort

Playing with plush toys can be really beneficial for kids. Plush toys can help kids handle stress and other difficult emotions. Cuddling a soft plush toy can be really reassuring to kids, and kids can become attached to the feeling of comfort that a specific plush toy can provide.

Plush toys are open-ended toys that can be played with in a variety of ways, which means kids will be less likely to grow bored with them. The possibilities for playing with a plush toy and acting out different stories are endless. This makes them a very fun toy for kids.

Playing with plush toys is a great way for kids to learn social skills. Kids can practice nurturing and building relationship skills as they pretend with their stuffed animals. Kids can also pretend to be mommy or daddy, and this kind of play helps them feel grown up and confident. Kids who talk to their stuffed animals are also practicing their language skills and building their vocabularies. Playing with plush toys encourages kids to develop their imagination as well.

Kids can become incredibly attached to specific plush toys. While this attachment can be helpful to kids as they are learning social skills, it can be dangerous if the toy gets lost. Parents should consider having a backup of their child's most special plush toy "just in case."

Elizabeth Hicks

Elizabeth Hicks

Elizabeth Hicks, Co-Founder of Parenting Nerd.

They feel secure

Children are given plush or stuffed toys even before they play with them. These toys are what kids see around them as they grow up. They develop a sense of familiarity with those toys because they have known them for a long time. This familiarity makes them feel comfortable and secure with these toys because they know their toys. Children are able to overcome the fear of separation when they have the toys with them.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.


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