Did you have a stuffed animal when you were younger; one that you took everywhere? The answer is most likely yes. They are cute, make for a great pillow during long car rides, and are your best friends. But do they have other effects on children or are they simply the latter?
(picture from Yale New Haven Hospital)
Parent Magazine reported the research of Paul Donahue, a child psychologist in Scarsdale, NY. He claims that stuffed animals teach children these 5 important lessens:
- “Independence: Dolls and stuffed animals can help toddlers cope with separation anxiety. (Donahue, PhD.)
- Dealing with Emotions: Children at this age can learn to manage their emotions by role-playing with dolls, it gives them a way to communicate their own experiences in a playful, nonthreatening manner.
- Learning Language: When toddlers start chatting with his dolls and stuffed animals, it means he’s also listening to the sound of his own voice — which can help him improve his pronunciation and beef up his rapidly expanding vocabulary.
- Getting along with Others: Her dolls and stuffed animals give her the opportunity to practice taking turns, sharing with friends, and empathizing with others, explains Dr. Donahue.
- Building Confidence: Toddlers need to feel a bit of control, children play the role of parent to his doll or stuffed animal, treating it the same way a parent treats him: telling it “no,” putting it to bed, punishing bad behavior with a time-out, or giving it hugs and kisses.”
Stuffed animals are not just toys children play with; these toys teach children valuable lessens. This is all observational data and not a study with a randomized control group. An experimental study would entail giving half the group of toddlers stuffed animals and the other half nothing and following their development over the years.
Research by UV University Amsterdam looked into self-esteem leading to depression and anxiety. The university says that stuffed animals can help decrease the latter. Sander Koole, led researcher says, “cuddling with a teddy bear for example can soothe existential fears and can give some sense of existential significance.”
This research states, “Of course while stuffed animals cure depression to a point they shouldn’t be used as a substitute to proper treatment. Still they are a good way to help out with minor problems and to be an additional help for more serious cases.”
Stuffed animals are a good way to ease your pains, but if your depression is serious consult a doctor for treatment.
(picture by the Frisky)
Boise State University conducted a study “to see if stuffed animals worked as therapeutically as real animals. Rose M. Barlow, Department of Psychology, surveyed a sample of high and low dissociative female college students and those with dissociative identity disorder (DID) about attachment to live and stuffed animals. She found that the DID women had significantly stronger attachments to both live and stuffed animals than any of the other women. She also found that those with high dissociation and those with DID reported higher levels of attachment to stuffed animals than live animals when compared to the low dissociative group.”
In this study, depression, anxiety and bipolar were not considered, however the evidence suggests that stuffed animals are helpful to people with dissociation. Dissociation “can begin in childhood and result from emotionally unavailable parents, divorce, or abuse, integrating stuffed animals into therapy for young children can provide a sense of security and help to rebuild impaired attachment bonds. Animals, live or stuffed, can aid therapy for both children and adults by providing a way to experience and express emotions, a feeling of unconditional support, and grounding,” (Barlow’s study)
This research and study is correlational and not experimental. While there may be third variables, we can conclude that is probably wise to give kids stuffed animals. I mean if science has found something harmful connected to stuffed animals parents would not give their kids stuffed animals. But we all know that has not happened yet.