No matter where you are in the world, soft toys are a bedroom staple for children of all ages. Soft toys in the UK are a popular gift idea for kids, and most children have at least one teddy bear or stuffed animal that they are particularly attached to. From bears to tigers, penguins to pigs, soft toys come in a wide range of different shapes and sizes and it is impossible to predict which one your child will become attached to and use as their comfort object.
No matter which soft toy they choose, the fact is that playing with soft toys is important for a child’s physical and emotional development; Here are just some of the benefits of playing with soft toys in the UK:
They Let Children Take Control
Children can often feel powerless and like they don’t have a voice, or that their voice doesn’t matter. Whether they’re at nursery, school, or spending time at home with their parents, children spend much of their days being told what to do by grown-ups. Children are told when to eat, what to eat, when to play, when it’s time to leave the house, to get dressed, to brush their teeth…the list goes on and on.
When they are playing with their soft toys, however, the child is in control. They get to take on this adult role and make all the decisions for their favourite soft friend without having to worry about them answering back or saying no. Being able to take control in this way can make a child feel very powerful and will also help them to process why their parents tell them what they should do and give them so many instructions each day. By taking on the role of nurturer themselves, your new child will see that the roles their parents take on and the instructions they give are given with love. And by taking on these roles themselves, your children will help them to develop their mental and social skills. By caring from their soft toy they are effectively practicing at relationships where they are capable and in control: essential for adult life.
They Help Them Control Their Emotions
Children of all ages are bundles of emotions and hormones. These over spilling emotions are particularly difficult for preschool aged children to deal with, because they don’t have the vocabulary to explain what they are feeling to their parents, and they have never had to deal with such big emotions before, so they don’t really know what to do or how to respond. This is why toddlers’ tantrum.
This is why soft toys can be so helpful: they provide a safe space for children of all ages to share their feelings. A favourite cuddly will always be their to listen after a bad day, to absorb your feelings, and will never judge you. Your teddy bear won’t ask lots of questions like mummy and daddy and they certainly won’t tell you what to do. They are just there to be a quiet and stoical confidante, and there is something incredibly comforting about having this kind of listening ear in your life.
Having an outlet for your emotions in this way can actually help you to learn to control your emotions. By having an outburst to your bear, you are less likely to lash out and shout at or hurt the people that you love. And, according to expert research, just as real animals can lower your heart rate, make you feel calm and provide comfort when you’re stressed, so can stuffed animals. And these benefits work for adults, as well as for children.
They’re Easy to Tidy Away
Have you ever asked a child to pick up an overturned box of Legos? They will grumble and whine the whole way through: some more stubborn children may well refuse to help altogether. Asking them to tidy away a big pile of soft toys, however, is a whole different proposition. They will be keen to pick them up and put them back in their designated spot on the bed.
There are many different reasons for this. Firstly, picking up soft toys is easy: they’re oversized and gentle on even the smallest of hands, meaning that tidying them away is a positive sensory experience. Secondly, the process of picking up soft toys and tidying them away is very similar to playing with them. You get to hold them, nurture them, and tuck them into bed.
From a parental point of view it is also important note that the average soft toy is very easy to keep clean. Most can simply be thrown in the washing machine and then hung out to dry. Note; if your child is particularly sensitive or attached to their favourite bear it might be best to do this at bedtime or whilst your child is at nursery. That why they can’t see their special friend spinning around in the washing machine and get upset.
They’re Always Happy to See You
Children need constants in their lives that they can depend on. And whilst they’re parents will be their main constant, and they will know their parents always love them, the fact is that sometimes children can behave in a way that leaves their parents upset and disappointed. A child will never have this problem with their favourite soft day. Stuffed animals are immune from having bad days: they always have a smile on their face. It doesn’t matter whether they’ve been dropped face down in the mud, taken a spin in the washing machine, or been left out in the rain (again) their special stuffed friend will just keep smiling, and they will be there to great you with a happy fuzzy smile when you return to them after a hard day of play, learning and adventures.
This can be very reassuring for children, and gives them a constant that they can always rely on, no matter what they have done or how they have behaved. When mummy, daddy and even their teachers are feeling cross and disappointed, their soft toy is never disappointed in them and will always be waiting with a smile and a hug.
They Help Children Process Change
Childhood is a constant process of change and adjustment: the world around them is always changing, and many children find it overwhelming to navigate this process. This is especially true during big changes, such as the arrival of a new sibling, moving house, or transitioning to school and nursery. The familiarity of their treasured stuffed toy, who never changes and is always there for them, can help small children to better process these changes.
Some small children even use transference, teaching their soft toys the skills and behaviours that they are trying to master themselves. For example, they might tell their teddy that there’s no such thing as monsters and they have to be brave enough to sleep alone. Or they might explain to their teddy that the new baby needs more attention right now, but that mummy and daddy still love them very much. By having a ‘friend’ to share these processes and experiences with, your child will be more likely to keep practicing and learning them themselves.
They Develop Their Language Skills
Finally, toddlers are in the mist of a language explosion and most will want to practice their new-found language skills all the time. As well as having mummy and daddy to practice on, your child will be able to use their teddy bear to develop their new-found skills. They already know that teddy is a great listener, and that he won’t correct them if they stumble on a word of get it wrong, so this gives them the confidence to keep practicing and trying out new words on their captive audience. You may even find your child pauses for their teddy to respond: this is great, as it means they are learning about the ebb and flow of conversation, and showing an interest in what their peer has to say, as well as talking themselves.