Some kids loved LEGOs. Others loved Barbies.
Me? I loved stuffed animals.
I still remember sitting in my room playing school,with a class full of stuffed animals staring attentively up at me. They were real characters, who, in my mind, had their own unique personalities and quirks.
As I’ve become a mom to three amazing kids, I’ve found that my imaginative love of stuffed animals has solved many a parenting dilemma.
Want to make the everyday burdens of raising kids a little lighter?
Here are my five favorite ways to parent using stuffed animals.
Demonstrate good habits
When she was a toddler, my daughter was highly skeptical of any new food. Even if a recipe contained her favorite foods, she was reluctant to try it. Instead of a) becoming stern and demanding she try it or b) making her a PB&J sandwich, I would have her favorite stuffed animal try the food, or even allow her to “feed” her stuffed kitten. Seeing her favorite friend “enjoy” the new food was a strong encouragement to try it herself.
This technique works for teaching brushing teeth, putting on clothes, and simple chores, too.
Prepare for new experiences
As a first time mom, I was nervous about my oldest child’s first trip to the dentist. She was a high energy, high emotions, somewhat unpredictable toddler, and I was worried that first visit would end in tears, bite marks, or both.
So, to prepare her for the experience, we watched a short video about going to the dentist. But what seemed to help most of all was taking one of her stuffed animals and having my daughter give it a dental check-up. She first got the opportunity to soothe and comfort her beloved plush cat, saying phrases and words she would remember during her first trip to the dentist.
Allowing your child to act out a new experience with a stuffed animal enables them to express emotions safely, and prepare for something new on their own terms.
Home can a great setting to learn how to love people well – including helping family members, apologizing when you’re wrong, and forgiving wholeheartedly. It’s the first place where we can learn to be a friend to someone. For toddlers and preschoolers, stuffed animals can serve as an excellent “first friend” with whom to develop empathy and kindness.
When working on my children’s friendship skills, their favorite stuffed friend is a great person for them to practice on. Whether it’s sharing, asking to play, giving a hug or a high five, or saying I’m sorry, stuffed animals (along with Mom or Dad) are a great partner for practicing those essential skills of friendship.
Make travel easier
Growing up, whenever my family was on a road trip and ran out of cassette tapes to listen to or snacks to munch on, my parents had a knack for making one of our stuffed animals become unusually animated. My favorite bear would dance to the music, attempt to drive the car, and wave at cars passing by. These road trip antics never failed to fill us all with giggles and always made the time pass faster.
We’ve continued this silly tradition with my own kids and it still has the same magic. The next time things in the car are getting a little tense, turn up the music and make Fred the Bear moonwalk.
Bring history to life
As a homeschool parent, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a way that I’ve found to teach using stuffed animals. My favorite use is to bring history concepts to life.
For example, when my kids and I were learning about the Boston Tea Party last year, I wondered how I would explain the concept of this protest at a level my second grader and kindergartner would understand and remember.
Inspiration struck, and I hauled our inflatable baby tub and several of their favorite stuffed animals onto the front sidewalk. I scattered fruit snacks (a valuable commodity at our house) around the makeshift boat with animals inside, and wrote in sidewalk chalk, “No fruit snacks without representation!”
When my kids discovered the scene, their imaginations took flight, which led to many more conversations about the Boston Tea Party. In a whimsical and memorable way, those stuffed animals explained a historical event in a way my kids could understand.
What’s a parenting challenge you’re facing currently – especially with young children?
Is there a way you can take a lighthearted approach to it – possibly by using your child’s favorite stuffed animal?
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