When you’re choosing a stuffed animal for your child, it can be very tempting to just pick the cutest one you can find and call it a day, but that’s not the best way to go about doing this.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re choosing a toy that meets the following criteria.
Safe for Your Child
If you’re buying for a baby who’s on the way or a young infant who’s already at home, then make sure that the stuffed animal you’ve chosen is suitable from birth.
It should be “breathable” so that your child can still breathe even if they press their face into the toy. This is critically important if the toy is ever (even if this only happens once) going to be cuddled by your baby as they sleep.
Stuffed animals that aren’t breathable can pose a serious suffocation risk to children under 12 months old.
If your child is under 36 months of age, you should make sure that the toy doesn’t have any loose parts (eyes or buttons are common culprits) that could become a choking hazard if detached.
Most toys will be labeled as unsuitable for under 36 months of age if they do have any small parts, but it doesn’t hurt to double check this yourself.
It’s also important to take into account any health conditions that your child has at the time. If they have asthma or a dust mite allergy, for instance, you’ll want to opt for toys that are hypoallergenic.
A Suitable Size for Your Child (and Your Home)
If your child is still a small baby, you probably won’t want to buy them a teddy that’s as big as they are!
Look for a stuffed animal that your child can easily cuddle and play with, without worrying about it swamping them.
Of course, larger and older children might be delighted by a massive teddy, but do take into account how much space you have around the house. A few huge stuffed animals will quickly dominate not only your nursery, but also the living room.
Easy to Keep Clean
Many stuffed toys can simply be popped in the washing machine, but do check that’s the case with the one(s) you’re looking at.
You don’t want a toy that’s “sponge clean only”, or one that has to be very carefully dissembled to be cleaned (I think it’s safe to say I speak for everyone here when I say no one has time for that!).
It’s unlikely that the stuffed toy will be able to go through the dryer multiple times and remain in good condition, too – so you may want to pick a toy that’s going to be easy and quick to dry.
A Good Fit for Your Nursery Decor
While this may not be your top consideration, if you’re buying a stuffed animal for a very young baby, you’ll probably want to think about how it’ll fit in with the nursery decor in general.
If you have a colorful jungle theme, for instance, a bright toy elephant might make a lot of sense. If your nursery has a classic, neutral look, then a traditional brown teddy might be a better choice.
What Types of Stuffed Animals Can I Choose From For My Baby?
There are a lot of different stuffed animals out there you can choose from, to the extent that picking the “right” option might quickly feel overwhelming.
While choosing between an elephant, a bear and a rabbit may not be too tricky, you might be a bit bewildered by all the other choices of what to go for.
Well, we’re here to simplify all of that! It really doesn’t have to be so complicated.
Here are the main types of stuffed animals you’ll likely find yourself picking and choosing from, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Regular plush toys tend to have soft, furry bodies.
Some are neutral or traditional colors; others are bright neons – but they’re basically all the same thing. These are probably the toys you think of first when you think “stuffed animal”.
Not all of them are safe for babies, though, and some aren’t safe for under-threes. So, be sure to check product labels and packaging carefully. Be particularly wary of toys that have buttons or beads for eyes, which could easily be pulled off and get your little one into serious trouble.
Baby-safe plushies, though, can become firm favorites that help your child get to sleep and settle in unfamiliar situations.
This type of toy has been beloved by generations of children, and they make for great gifts (if you’re looking to get something for someone else’s kid).
Blankets with Animal Heads
Both stuffed animals and blankets can be popular comfort items, so why not combine the two?
There are lots of small blankets, ones specifically designed for babies, which have an animal head in one corner. Some are more detailed than others, with legs and/or arms as well.
Babies often love to touch and cuddle these and, as they get older, carry them around.
They tend to be very soft, and most are – thankfully! – machine-washable.
One thing you’ll have to be extra sure of, though, is size. They can be smaller than you might expect (or smaller than what they look like in pictures), so if you’re buying online, do check the dimensions first.
For older children, you’ll probably want to choose a toy that looks more like an actual animal. After all, you’ll struggle to sit up a blanket animal and have it join a tea party!
Sensory Stuffed Animals
There are a wide range of stuffed animals on the market that are made up of multiple different colored, patterned and textured fabrics. They also often include bells, mirrors, rattles and other features to stimulate your baby’s senses.
These can be great for babies under a year old, especially as many of these toys also have rings that allow them to hook onto your stroller – ideal for amusing a fractious little one when you’re out and about.
Toddlers will probably not be so easily entertained by these toys’ textures and features, though, and older children will probably find them too babyish.