When searching for a stuffed animal a good place to start is by deciding what kind of animal to get. Teddy bears are probably the most popular stuffed animal and are available in such a wide assortment that there is likely to be a bear nearly everyone.
History of Stuffed Animals
Stuffed animals, also referred to as plush toys or plushies, had early roots commercially in 1880 with sales of an elephant pincushion from Steiff in Germany. The company expanded the felt animals they carried and in the early 1900s created/invented the teddy bear.
Gund stuffed animals were introduced in 1898 when the company was started in Connecticut, and Gund continues to be the top soft toy manufacturer in the US. These soft animals are attached to many snuggly memories and usually elicit a smile from kids of all ages. In the United States this trend became a national obsession, in part to honor President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.
Kinds of Stuffed Animals Today
Farm animals and wild animals are basic divisions separating those you find home or at a petting zoo from those in forests, oceans, and exotic zoos. Other animal divisions are those seen only in the imagination, such as the historical and mythical including dinosaurs and dragons.
Finally, many popular stuffed animals are whimsical or nonsense designs, which are fanciful made-up creatures. A great example is Ugly Dolls, which are teethy monsters that somehow are still cute enough to cuddle! Designer dolls can be appropriate for all ages, but do include some more mature themes that may be only suitable for older teens and adults.
Choose your Interaction Style
Interaction is another consideration when choosing the right soft toy. This can be found in the animal in many styles. When certain senses are stimulated that is considered interaction. Some stuffed animals, such as the Audubon Birds from Wild Republic have sound boxes containing the actual call of the animal that sound when squeezed.
Others make strange noises or wiggle when dropped. Some “grab” with magnetic hands or velcro feet, while others have their own virtual world online. Webkinz plush toys are the leader in this area. These popular plush toys come with a code to enter online so that the child can play and learn in a protected online environment.
Don’t forget about classic puppets! Puppets as interactive plush are limited only by the imagination. They are being used more often as educational toys and are becoming more available with a range from tiny finger puppets appropriate for toddlers to larger puppets the size of a five year-old. When size matters in standard plush as well as puppets, there are miniature stuffed animals all the way to extra large stuffed animals – even life-sized for the right price.
Even though interest in puppets peaked with Jim Henson’s Muppet Show in the 1980s, puppets are gaining in popularity again. For instance, the musicians They Might Be Giants have moved into puppetry arts to sing their creative and original children’s songs. The characters from Yo Gabba Gabba have become quite the sensation recently.
The Unique Feel of Stuffed Animals
Another stimulant in the interaction category is the tactile quality of an item. There are more plush toys available now for small children than ever before and many of these are covered with a variety of fabrics to stimulate the touch sensors. When small children are involved that means there will be lots of chewing on the item so it’s important to consider wash-ability and the quality of the materials.
Don’t worry, there are options to “go green” with organic materials and often avoid allergic reactions as well. This is a sector of children’s toys and stuffed animals that we anticipate will grow immensely in the next ten years.
Safety First with Plush Toys
No matter what size or shape the stuffed animal, it is important to remember a few safety tips when considering children. Stuffed animals are toys that encourage close interactions, so it is important to take extra care in making sure toys are high-quality, made with non-toxic materials, and securely assembled.
Any stuffed toys for children under 3 years should have stitched detail (eyes, mouth, etc) instead of sewn-on bits like buttons that can detach and become a choking hazard. While dolls and toys and blankets are wonderful for playtime, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for a child’s safety that babies be put to bed with no blankets, or fluffy, plush-type items. That means that cuddling up with that blankie or boo-bear will wait until the child develops his own attachment to the item.