From Stuffed Animal to Best Friend: Understanding Kids’ Attachment to Plush Toys

by Erika Robertson
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Have you ever wondered why your child seems inseparable from their favorite plush toy? While this attachment may seem a bit odd, some children hold onto their fluffy companions even past their early years. To most children, their plush toy becomes more than just a cuddly companion.

However, there is no need to worry. There are some good reasons why they love their fuzzy friends, and it’s not a one-sided relationship. Their toys play a vital role in the early stages of a child’s development. They are like a guide, giving them comfort and security, igniting their imagination, and helping them develop social skills.

kid indoor camping with stuffed animals | davidpereiras from David Pereiras via Canva.com
Photo credit: davidpereiras from David Pereiras via Canva.com

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Why plush toys are so important

Studies show that between 60 and 70% of children have a preferred plush toy that they spend time with, and around 50% of American adults still sleep with a stuffed animal. In the next four years, the teddy bear market is set to grow by around 2.83% worldwide. This shows that inanimate furry friends are still a good option to give as gifts. There are lots of reasons why your child’s furry friends are actually quite important to them.

1. Comfort and security

Children are trying to find their way in the world. They start out with their parents taking care of their every need. Parents are there to take care of their children and protect them from all things scary. But parents cannot always be around 24/7, and this is where the plush toys step in. They can represent the comfort of a parent, help soothe the child to sleep, or just allay their loneliness.

From 6 to 18 months, a child may develop separation anxiety as parents return to work and aren’t around as much. In a way, the fluffy companion becomes a bridge between the parent and the child. This is called a transitional object. Children can use stuffed animals as a coping mechanism. They offer a level of comfort that helps to soothe their fears and insecurities. The fluffy toys make them feel safe and protected.

During a thunderstorm, a child may hold onto their stuffed animal tightly, believing that it offers them protection. They feel secure in the thought that the animal will take care of them and let no harm come their way.

2. Imagination and creativity

Watching your child play with their funny stuffed animals and favorite toys is delightful. As adorable as it is, the toys can aid in developing the child’s imagination and sparking their creativity. The more they play, the more their imagination grows. This is known to aid a child with language development as well as creative writing in later years.

These stuffed animals become more than mere toys for the child. They become characters in the child’s imaginary world like pirates and wizards. They have the ability to transform ordinary objects into extraordinary superpowers. It becomes the foundation for storytelling. Children, especially between the ages of 2 and 5, develop the stories, and their plush toys become the main characters in these adventures.

This form of verbal storytelling lays the foundation for future creative writing and communication skills and educational development. Also, by giving their stuffed animals different personalities, children start thinking symbolically. Especially for toddlers, this is a crucial building block for future language development.

Beyond storytelling, stuffed animals also fuel problem-solving skills. For example, if their toy gets stuck under the bed, the child will develop an elaborate plan to rescue their favorite toy. You may find they have actually become quite resourceful. With great imagination, their problem-solving skills are quietly evolving.

pin on pinterest_why do kids get so attached to their plush toys and stuffed animals

3. Social and emotional development

Your child’s furry friend is a funnel to help your child learn how to interact with others. With a furry friend as a companion, the child gets to explore and develop the concepts of association and friendship. This is crucial for children between the ages of 3 and 5 years of age. They learn about sharing and about being a part of a friend circle. Playing with their favorite toys can teach them to share and socialize.

4. Unconditional acceptance

Children will grow very attached to their furry friends, especially because of the total acceptance and peace that are part of their friendship. The plush toys do not judge them, tell them they are doing wrong, take the child to task, or reprimand them for any wrongdoing.

5. A safe place to express themselves.

Children can safely express themselves with their plush toys, giving them the space they need to be open, and they get lots of warm hugs and love in return. They find sanctuary in their plush toy. Quite often, children will start confiding in their toys, sharing all their secrets, wishes, and dreams.

In some instances, children will project what they are feeling onto the soft toys. They may tell you their feelings, expressed as the toy’s feelings. For example, “Missy bear doesn’t want me to clean up my room” or “Missy bear doesn’t want you to go away.”

6. Consistency

You may find that your child holds one particular toy very dear. This toy is the most familiar to them. It is a constant factor, which is something children like. Many children don’t like change, and having that one teddy bear or fluffy bunny that is always there gives them something familiar to hold on to.

From fuzzy bunnies to firm friends

When your child finds comfort and happiness with one of their soft, squishy toys, these toys can become firm friends in their hearts. Children often form deep, long-lasting bonds with a cherished toy. There is a transition from a simple plaything to a confidante, and they become part of their childhood journey. Sometimes, these furry toys become the child’s ally, co-conspirator, or even the instigator.

So the next time you see your child clutching their beloved plush toy, remember, it’s more than a cuddle buddy. It’s a source of comfort, a spark for creativity, and a best friend to tag along on their journey of discovery.

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