1. Plush toys as transition objectsPlush toys are a way for children to test new emotions they are learning and experiencing. Since the world is new to them, plush toys are great companions for them trying out being kind, being angry, learning to hug and share, and many other things. It can help them prepare for more social situations.
2. The plush toy is a familiar friendEven as adults, walking into a new place that we are not familiar with can be nerve-wracking. Now suppose you are 2 years old. Almost everything you experience is new. Stuffed animals are familiar and provide some continuity in a young child's life. Wherever they go, their plush friends are with them!
3. Plush toys provide much-needed comfortPerhaps the most obvious function of a soft toy is to relieve pain and anxiety. (Any parent who sees their favorite plush toy will see their baby's tears turn into giggles.) For babies, the world can sometimes feel like an uncertain, scary place. Stuffed toys can help them cope with these emotions because they represent familiarity and reassurance.
It's also important to gradually develop your baby's ability to soothe themselves without the help of mom or dad. For example, a major life event like welcoming a sibling may feel less intimidating when you have a favorite plush toy companion by your child's side. In fact, researchers at North Dakota State University say that hugging a plush toy helps young children rely on their ability to seek comfort. How powerful is the soothing power of plush toys?
4. They encourage compassion and empathyTaking care of stuffed animals can be very helpful in developing your child's natural desire to connect with others. According to one report, children develop an appreciation for relationships with others during pretend play because it requires them to think about other people.
Pretending to care for stuffed animals or dolls also satisfies parenting needs. The fact that young children tend to identify with plush toys may make them ideal toys. Introducing a novel plush toy as a new addition to classrooms that need love and care can boost empathy and compassion, experts say. This translates directly to the little ones at home. Caring for a bunny plush forces your child to think about the "needs" of the toy.