When It’s Time to Retire Your Child’s Favorite Stuffed Animal

Douglas Stuffed Dog

Your child’s most treasured stuffed animal is more than just a toy – it consoles them, brings them comfort, and reassures them during times of transition or uncertainty. When you get down to it, there’s a reason pediatricians refer to them as “comfort objects.”

While some parents fret that their little one is too attached to a special furry friend, experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics reassure that coveting a transitional object is a perfectly normal part of healthy development. In fact, most children don’t start separating themselves from their lovey object until age 5 or 6.

When it comes to your little one’s favorite stuffed animal, chances are it’s gotten beat up along the way. If breathing new life into it is no longer an option, here are some tips for retiring your child’s lovey with minimal drama.

Knowing When to Say Goodbye

So how can you tell if Teddy is ready for retirement? Look out for these telltale signs.

  • Rips, tears, and loose parts or accessories: Fortunately, most of today’s stuffed animals are tested to meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s CPSIA Toy Safety Standards. Even so, not all toys are created equal, and some toys still wear out sooner than others. If parts or accessories become loose, they can pose a serious choking hazard for little ones. Repair is not recommended, as most people don’t have the sewing skills or best replacement parts to return the toy to its original durability. (Plus, you still run the risk of it happening again in the future.) For this reason it’s time to say goodbye for the sake of safety.
  • Dirt and stains: If your child’s lovey follows him everywhere he goes (from his bed, to preschool, to the bathroom), the toy can actually become a magnet for germs. This inevitably leads to constant washing, which will likely wear out Teddy. If you don’t have a backup toy to use in between wash cycles, it’s best to keep dirty, allergen-packed stuffed animals out of your kid’s hands.

 Hand washing is sometimes the best way to clean up an old stuffed friend to avoid further wear and tear. But if a stuffed animal is in otherwise good condition, conventional washing inside a pillowcase should clean away most problems. If stains remain, it may not diminish your child’s love for the stuffed toy, but you still may prefer the fresher look of a new one.

 

How to Introduce a New Stuffed Animal

Explaining to your little one that it’s time to say goodbye to their comfort object can be tricky. (Any parent who’s had to turn the car around to pick up a forgotten Teddy will tell you – losing your child’s favorite stuffed animal triggers automatic tears.) But despite this, experts actually say that kids bounce back faster than you think. The best remedy is prevention. That means that during those early years, it’s a good idea to purchase a backup of the beloved stuffed toy. This way they can be easily swopped out, washed and replaced on a regular basis. Plus, if one gets lost, you’re prepared.

When it comes to backup stuffed animal, we’ve got you covered with an exclusive Twofer program available for any of our baby items, including our plush Lil Snugglers. (How does it work? Simply enter promotion code 2FER at checkout and get 10% off when you purchase two of the same baby product.)

Perhaps the most valuable thing to remember when introducing a new stuffed animal is that kids aren’t stupid. In fact, one study of children 3-6 years old found that many children will resistswapping their comfort object for an identical one. For this reason, try being upfront with your little one while introducing something entirely new. Also, make the conversational tone light and playful. And to make the transition as smooth as possible, keep these tips in mind.

  • Don’t make the change during a time of transition: Potty training? Starting preschool? Welcoming a new sibling? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may not be the ideal time to introduce a new comfort object. During periods of change, toddlers especially cling to these special toys for reassurance and support. If possible, time the introduction of a new toy during a non-transitional period.
  • Do it gradually: Instead of abruptly swiping your child’s favorite stuffed animal, take your time with it. Slowly over time, introduce a new cuddly friend who “needs a home.” Let your little one get to know it while steadily decreasing time with their old favorite.
  • Include your child in the change: Instead of making your child feel like something’s being taken away from them, have them play a more active role in the transition. After introducing a new toy, give it a story. Is this soft new Stuffed Friend from a faraway land? Why does he need a new home? What’s his name? On the flip side, creating an engaging story about the old stuffed animal can cushion the blow of saying goodbye.

 

 

 

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How to Breathe Life Back Into Your Child’s Stuffed Animals

Stuffed Dog

When it comes to your little one’s favorite stuffed pals, chances are they’ve been through the ringer. They get chewed on, dragged through the dirt, and left behind at the playground. Let’s face it – stuffed animals take a beating.

Before tossing your child’s favorite furry friend into the trash, try these do-it-yourself tricks that’ll breathe new life into teddy.

Keep Them Fresh

 There are actually plenty of ways to wash stuffed animals without ruining them.

Be proactive by attending to spots and stains as soon as you notice them. Spot cleaners like OxiClean can be used to remove everything from grape juice to grass stains. (Spray directly onto a washcloth, then blot the stain.)

If surface cleaning simply won’t do the trick, it may need a run through the washing machine. Be sure to check the label beforehand, as some toys are too delicate for a regular wash cycle. To be safe, stick your cuddly guys in a pillowcase. Then wash on the gentle cycle and use the air-dry setting on the dryer. (This will protect them from heat damage.)

Lifehacker also suggests shaking your stuffed animals in a bag of baking soda to remove funky odors.

Fix Rips and Tears

If worn out seams have your stuffed dogs looking a little shabby, pick up some matching thread at your local crafts store. Closing up rips and tears is an easy fix that will prevent the toy from losing its stuffing. If some of the stuffing has already gone missing, replacement stuffing is easy to find.

Have a hole that’s too big to repair? Opt for a cool patch. Your child will likely get a kick out of choosing a “Band-Aid” for their favorite pal.

Replace Damaged or Missing Accessories

Missing or damaged parts give stuffed animals a rundown look. (They can also pose a safety risk for little ones.) Luckily, you can find a wide assortment of buttons at any nearby fabric store. Just be sure to replace them with matching thread. If finding an exact match for those button eyes proves difficult, gently cut off the “good” one and sew on two new ones that match.

If you do choose to sew on a new button, parents should remember to do so with extra care. Unlike manufactured eyes that usually have an effective locking mechanism, sewn-on buttons may easily pop off again. This represents a very real safety hazard for small children, who are susceptible to choking. If you do sew accessories on by hand, be sure they’re secure and make a habit out of checking them regularly. If this leaves some parents uneasy, it may be a safer bet to toss teddy and buy a new one.

Give Them a Makeover

 Have your toy’s clothes seen better days? If hand washing them isn’t enough, consider buying it a new outfit. Clothes, shoes and accessories for stuffed animals represent an upward trend that’s taken the Internet and malls by storm. Make a day out of sprucing up teddy by designating the styling duties to your child.

Store Stuffed Animals Properly for the Long Term

Many parents hold on to special stuffed animals long after their children are grown. But dumping them in a cardboard box in the attic will only invite dust and other allergens. To prevent your favorite plush toys from getting stale, opt for vacuum-sealed storage bags. The trick? Place a fabric softener sheet in the bag to keep them fresh. Alternatively, store stuffed animals in an open basket on the top shelf of a linen closet or other well-ventilated area.

If refurbishing your child’s stuffed animals becomes tiresome, it’s probably time to retire teddy. Plus, having a backup is always a wise idea in the likely event that they get lost –any parent who’s been up consoling a child who can’t sleep without their favorite furry friend will attest to this.

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Soothing Pain in Children: 4 Reasons Stuffed Animals Help

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A stuffed animal is often more than just an inanimate toy made of straw or cotton or bean; it becomes an item that has grave meaning and significance in our lives. The object acts as a companion for security, facilitated by a dependency learned from a young age, accompanying the owner from doctor’s office appointments to bed. Here are four reasons these favored possessions soothe pain through the ages, acting as both a source of distraction as well as comfort. (more…)

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