It’s a familiar scene: a toddler playing intently with her favourite stuffed animal, a baby unable to fall asleep without snuggling his special plush toy, and a school–aged child cherishing that one certain soft toy when in need of emotional support. This attachment to stuffed animals is quite natural and a healthy part of childhood.
Here are 5 ways stuffed animals benefit children from the newborn stage and beyond:
#1 They Offer a Sense of Security
Children are constantly experiencing change, new people and places and a favourite stuffed animal can be comforting during these encounters. A child will develop a relationship with that treasured plush friend, relying on it for security and stability.
Parents will often encourage their newborn to hold a specific stuffed animal while being rocked to sleep or fed. As the child routinely cuddles the toy, he or she will associate it with comfort. This association is extremely important for a child when separated from his parents.
#2 They Help in the Development of Sensory Skills
Babies love the opportunity to check out new things and feel the different textures. Undoubtedly, these items will go directly to their mouth, which makes a plush toy the perfect choice. Not only do stuffed animals come in an array of materials, the different colours, surfaces, shapes and sizes can stimulate the sensory skills.
#3 They Aid in Learning Social Skills
Outside of interacting with family members, a favourite stuffed animal is often a child’s very first companion. From the time a child learns those first words or starts to experience new emotions, that stuffed animal is a friend they can play with, talk to, and mimic the behaviours they’ve observed; all while learning various social skills.
#4 They Nurture Empathy and Kindheartedness
As children become more aware of others, they begin to role-play, acting like mom, dad, or a sibling. By having a stuffed animal to care for, a child will learn how to show kindness and develop relationships with others. Classrooms will even introduce a stuffed animal as a new member to the group, explaining how it needs to be cared for.
#5 They Encourage Self-Confidence
Children of all ages can benefit from having a stuffed animal. The emotional support provided by the toy can help alleviate anxiety and depression. Also, for individuals who struggle with self-confidence, the toy can give a confidence boost by representing something that needs to be cared for.
According to research, many adults will continue to cherish their favourite childhood toy throughout life, with a small percentage still sleeping with them. This lifelong attachment conveys the positive aspects of introducing a soft, cuddly toy to a child during the very early stages of life.
Encouraging your child to connect with a special toy at a very young age will be beneficial for years to come. It will provide comfort when you’re not around and help cultivate relationships and lifelong skills for years to come.