5 educational benefits of stuffed toys for kids
Often a child’s first toy can be a teddy bear or other stuffed animal. Stores are full of stuffed animals and there are even entire businesses dedicated to customizing stuffed animals. While adults may think these toys are cute and soft, there is more potential inside. Children of all ages enjoy these toys, sometimes even sticking to the same toy for many years. Stuffed animals offer educational benefits to children of all ages, as noted below:
1. Babies: Babies love to touch the surface of stuffed toys, feel their bristling whiskers, soft fur, and hard eyes. They will also chew or suck on these toys, so make sure the first few options are designed to be loved and washed. Avoid small beads or removable parts. Some babies like squeaky toys. The coat or hair should be short and not easy to pull.
2. Young Children: Up to approximately two to three years of age, toys should be carefully chosen for their durability and safety. Young children are learning empathy along with language and names. Different stuffed animals help young children recognize familiar words like cat, dog, bear, and pig, along with the appropriate sounds each animal makes. The stuffed animals will be given names and will become constant companions. Emotions are put to the test in these silent friends: they can be thrown, hugged, beaten and kissed. Early parenting skills are also practiced, so stuffed animals can be fed, diapers changed, put to bed, and on the potty. By rehearsing these situations, young children overcome challenges, understand changing expectations, and demonstrate their observations. Stuffed toys can be a child’s first real friends.
3. Preschoolers: At this age, children begin to engage in more imaginative play. Stuffed animals are not restricted by their appearance, so a giraffe can be a princess, an astronaut, a teacher, or even a giraffe. These toys can be included in active play. Children often share their feelings with stuffed toys and can hold elaborate conversations. After a haunting day, a child can approach a stuffed friend and reenact the event, helping him deal with difficult emotions. Like real pets, stuffed animals can even help children calm down.
4. School-age children: Starting at the age of five, games often reflect children’s concern for the new structures and people in their lives. Stuffed toys can become a whole class of students, a puppet show audience, or a pirate gang. At the same time, children may be strongly attached to these toys, even sleeping with them and possibly creating new clothes or building items to expand on previous games.
5. Older children, especially animal lovers, may want to collect unusual stuffed animals. Finding an exotic platypus or anteater becomes a passion. Along with this hobby, children learn to classify animals, natural habitats, and geography. Visiting a local zoo or even another country offers the opportunity to understand sciences such as zoology and biogeography. Some children sew stuffed companions for themselves or as gifts for friends or siblings. It’s a wonderful way to learn basic sewing and pattern-making skills, involving both fine motor coordination and three-dimensional math skills.