What Stuffed Animals Mean for Our Children’s Mental Health – According to Experts

“Take a trip to any toy store with a young child, and you will most likely see them go straight for the pile of stuffed animals. My daughter, who is 4, will typically grab one and tote it around the store while looking at other toys,” Tyson says. “Just like adults, babies and children experience anxiety, and when they do, they look for people or objects that will provide support. Holding on tight to a soft cuddly object can soothe a child’s fears, especially when separated from a parent or caregiver.”

In this article by Abi Berwager Schreier at Romper.com, I share the role stuffed animals play in our children’s lives and how they build resiliency, emotional wellbeing, and improve mental health. The biggest takeaway is that stuffed animals positively influence secure attachment and feelings of safety for children. Children view their stuffed animals as an extension of the love and comfort from their caregivers and not as a replacement. 

If your child has an attachment object, it is o.k.! In fact, in stressful times it is helpful to allow children to use their toys to provide a sense of safety and reduce anxiety. Play is therapeutic for children. There is no need to get children to give it up these stuffies or put them away, as long as it doesn’t interfere with everyday functioning.

It’s important to mention that some children don’t attach to toys, and find other ways to soothe themselves, and that is normal too. Children who do not rely on stuffed animals for comfort may be naturally outgoing and independent in nature, it all depends on the individual temperament.

If you have a teenager who is having trouble separating from a beloved stuffy or another attachment object, there might be something deeper going on. Follow your intuition and consult a mental health professional if you have concerns about your teen’s behavior. 

For children impacted by abuse and neglect, attaching to humans can feel scary. In these cases it can be helpful for children to have an attachment object that helps them feel safe. For children struggling to attach to caregivers after trauma, stuffed animals and pets can be a stepping stone.

To learn more social and emotional development skills for your family, please join us in the Facebook group, Emotiminds! It is a virtual classroom for parents and mental health professionals to learn skills for improving your family’s emotional wellness. 

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