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.