Back in 1903 the Peter Rabbit character became the first soft toy to be patented and since then Peter Rabbit soft toys have grown in popularity, they sit proudly on shelves and adorn beds and are loved by children (and adults) all over the world. But can they really help with childhood development? Let’s find out.
Many children have a special toy, one which they love above all others, and it’s often a cute and cuddly soft toy.
It’s the toy that they take on long car journeys and snuggle up to at night. It’s the one that you always keep a beady eye on when you’re out (losing it would be catastrophic)! That favourite soft toy is more than just an endearing plaything, it’s your child’s best friend and confidant.
It can help them to better understand the crazy world we live in, let’s face it the world can be a scary place for adults, let alone a small child! Kids aren’t as afraid to share emotions with a stuffed toy, they don’t have to articulate how they feel and try to answer difficult questions. Their precious soft toy is a friend they can always depend on.
Some children will have a favourite car or a beloved book, but soft toys are slightly different, they not only offer comfort but can also symbolise real living things.
For instance, Peter Rabbit soft toys are identifiable creatures, and in general people tend to like rabbits. Cute and fluffy, rabbits are considered to be curious and playful, always hopping around and enjoying the odd carrot here and there. Ok, so we know that real rabbits don’t wear pale blue coats, but they do get up to all sorts of mischief in vegetable gardens!
Soft toys can also help with separation anxiety. We can’t be with our child 24-7, unfortunately work, appointments and chores tend to get in the way. Leaving a child can be stressful for all concerned, but kids feel less exposed if they have a familiar friend (their treasured soft toy) with them. The connection between a child and their furry friend is a strong one, producing happy emotions, improving confidence levels and providing a sense of safety and security.
A soft toy can also be a useful learning tool.
There’s so much to learn when you’re growing up, and it can be overwhelming. Soft toys can help, you could ask your child to show their “friend” how to put on a coat or perhaps Peter Rabbit (or whoever your child adores) can join you at the table and your child can demonstrate the need for eating up their veggies – “Come on Peter, you know that carrots are good for your eyes!”
This is role playing at its best and allows kids to become grown-ups. They become the parents or teachers, showing the soft toy what to do and how to do it. This encourages your child to support others, to lead and take responsibility (not always at the forefront of a child’s mind)!
Children can’t be little angels all of the time, just like adults, they have bouts of frustration and forceful emotions that are difficult to fathom.
In younger children this can manifest itself as a tantrum (cue much crying, kicking and screaming), with parents often left feeling despondent and sometimes even at the end of their tether. A soft toy can prove to be a release for a child, something they can vent their feelings to. It can help a child to better deal with their emotions and improve their communication skills.
Communication is key and as children develop they will come into contact with people from all walks of life. A soft toy allows a child to practise and hone interaction skills.
We’ve already touched on using the soft toy as an effective teaching tool, you can use it to illustrate how to share (I have two cakes, so that’s one for you and one for Peter Rabbit). You can also teach your child the difficult skill of empathising with others, “Oh look. Peter has fallen over, let’s see if he’s ok and help to cheer him up.”
Renowned play theorists such as Friedrich Froebel and Lev Vygotsk (to name but two), tried to instil on the world the importance of play, and this quote from Lucia Capoccione just about sums it up:
Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.