When you buy a toy for your child, are you buying it with a certain intention in mind? Or because it's a cute toy that will make your baby happy?
Have you ever wondered why your little one is so calm when playing with their favorite doggies?
We reached out to experts who answered these questions for us. :)
Not just a toy
Psychologist Tsholofelo Jood says stuffed toys aren't just a cute toy: they're much more than that.
“Plush toys are psychologically important and were referred to as transitional objects by Dr. Donald Winnicott in 1953,” Tsholofelo said.
She explained how the toy allows the child to explore receiving support outside the confines of their relationship with their parents. A child's sense of security and safety is imbued into this object, and so it becomes more than just a toy.
Provides comfort in unfamiliar environments
Tsholofelo says young children learn to depend on the stuffed toy when they find themselves in distress or during periods of discomfort.
''The favorite plush toy brings a sense of familiarity to unfamiliar environments. This calms a young child and makes the distress of an unfamiliar environment more bearable.''
Clinical psychologist Fairuz Gaibie agrees that children often associate stuffed toys with positive events.
"For children, a teddy bear tends to have additional positive associations, usually of the safety of home or parents. Therefore, children often feel better about going to preschool or sleeping in an unknown place if their teddy bears accompany them.''
Fairuz also says that when we cuddle something soft and comforting, like a teddy bear, it releases oxytocin.
It is a hormone that leaves us feeling calm and soothing.
We are programmed to be more attracted to soft and cuddly things, and this applies to children and adults.
Many adults still have stuffed toys from their childhood, but may feel self-conscious about it, when there's no reason to be!
Everything can have symbolic and sentimental meaning for us, whether it's a rock, a necklace or...a stuffed dog.
It is often not so much the actual object that is special to us, but what it represents and symbolizes, and the memories it evokes.
Tsholofelo reiterates this point, saying "these plush toys have great sentimental value for young children, because of the emotional support they provide."
Cuddling a stuffed animal encourages children to be caring, which would also be the case if they cuddled dolls.
The instinct to be gentle and caring is innate in children who are raised gently, and when they cuddle their stuffed animals, it is often an enactment of this instinct.
Many children will make beds for their stuffed animals, “feed” them and organize tea parties and other equally adorable special treats for them.
Finally, when a child is dysregulated (tired, scared or overstimulated), the softness of a comforter can be an effective calming aid.
“Plush toys are soft and comforting for a reason; they are useful for children to face more difficult developmental challenges. Parents are encouraged to collaborate with their children when choosing these meaningful toys,” advises Tsholofelo.