If you have little kids -or if you remember being a little kid-, then there’s a good chance you’re no stranger to plush toys. These adorable fluff balls are the perfect toy to cuddle with, to practice taking care of smaller beings and just to have laying around the house.
Stuffed animals have come a long way since their early origins, when they were roughly sewn by hand with hard fabrics and knotted stuffing.
Nowadays we can find an amazing array of materials used to create plush toys, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all safe for kids and specially for babies, who have very sensitive skin.
In this article we’ll explore exactly what makes a plush toy what it is, what are the safest materials available for stuffed animals for babies and even what to look for when you’re shopping for a new stuffed animal to give as a present or even for you.
Before you head out the door to shop for plush toys for babies, kids or even a close relative who needs a token of your love, check out this article.
What is a plush toy?
Stuffed animals are delicate toys usually made from fabrics such as cloth or plush (hence the name “plush toy”.
Stuffed toys can be distinguished from other types of toys because they’re soft at texture and extra cuddly; they also show exaggerated features to be identified easier by small children. Some of these features are larger-than-usual eyes, short limbs and bumpy snouts.
Plush toys are very appealing among kids because they look non-threatening and they offer a feeling of reassurance when being held.
As one of the most common names suggests, plush toys are usually shaped like animals, although you can also find them in shapes of regular objects, people, food or even mythological creatures.
The origin of plush toys is not easy to track, but there have been found examples of plush toys as early as late 19th-century in Germany.
Even though stuffed animals were originally built exclusively for little children, nowadays kids and adults both enjoy collecting plush toys and even holding them for comfort at night or during anxiety attacks.
What are plush toys usually made of?
In the early days, plush toys were made with the only fabric available at the time, which was no more than simple cotton and rugged fabrics.
With time the materials used to build stuffed animals became more and more sophisticated; to the point where now you can find these kinds of toys filled with synthetic fibers such as polyester (which is actually very safe for kids and babies because of its hypoallergenic benefits), or natural materials such as cotton, straw or wood wool.
In fact, when a stuffed animal is filled with wool, you can actually bend it and twist it countless times before it starts losing its form. However, a wool plush toy cannot be machine washed or even placed in a dryer because it could become bent.
In some cases, stuffed animals can be filled with coarse materials such as plastic pellets, foam, mohair fiber or beans.
A plush you filled with pellets is extremely malleable and only keeps its shape thanks to the pattern of the fabric. This really depends on the desired texture to achieve by the toy maker.
When it comes to stuffed animal toys for babies, the softer the filling and the outside fabric, the better it is for your baby.
A good natural filling consists of preshrunk and pre-washed cotton, making it easier to wash again many times without it losing form. Some early stuffed animals are even filled with fabric or felt scraps.
The safest materials for stuffed animals
Just because you see a cute plush toy doesn't mean that it's beneficial or safe for your family (especially the little ones!).
When you’re shopping for stuffed animals to give as presents or for yourself, make sure to pick the best fabrics, either going for sustainable choices like organic cotton, wool, bamboo and hemp or opting for the regular synthetic polyester which is great for your skin.
Check that the hues, dyes and colors of the plush toys you buy are non-toxic and completely safe for the skin. These can include some water-based dyes that hold properly onto the toy but do less harm on the planet.
Lately there’s been a growing trend of building plush toys using repurposed fabrics or materials such as cashmere or cotton instead of creating a whole new fabric roll.
If by any chance you happen to stumble upon an ethically-made plush toy company don’t hesitate and invest in an item that does good to the world while it makes someone happy.
As a last tip, the best stuffed animal for baby to sleep with has to contain no small parts or loose strings that could get caught into your baby’s fingers.
Make sure to pay attention to these plush toy tips, and now you’ll be ready to shop for the best option possible for your little ones.