boy sleeping with stuffed animals

Why Kids Need Stuffed Animals

Every kid has a favorite stuffed animal that helps the child feel safe and comfortable. Kids and stuffed animals are a natural pairing, and if you watch them closely, you’ll often see kids mirroring your behavior with their cuddly friends: dressing them, scolding them, and caring for them. Now it seems there’s another reason match up kids and stuffed animals—cuddly toys can help children learn to read.

Kids and Stuffed Animal Library Sleepovers

We’re not sure where exactly they started, but many libraries now organize stuffed animal sleepovers. Children drop off their cuddly toys at the library for the night, and the librarians take photos of the animals making friends, exploring the library together, and, of course, reading books. The idea is that when the children see how much fun the stuffed animals have with books, the kids will want to read as well—and according to one small study from Japan, the idea works.

The study, published in the journal Heliyon, monitored forty-two Japanese preschoolers whose stuffed animals “attended” library sleepovers. Not only did the kids develop an interest in the picture books the animals “read,” they also started reading the books to the stuffed toys.

This is important. When you read to your child, it’s a passive activity from the child’s perspective. You’re doing all the work. When a child reads to a stuffed animal, she’s taking on an active role. Even if she can’t really read yet, she’s practicing holding books and remembering the story. It’s a significant step towards becoming an independent reader.

Books and Stuffed Animals for Children

If your local library doesn’t host stuffed animal sleepovers, how can you use your child’s cuddly toys to help him learn to read? One way is to choose books where the toy makes an appearance in the story.

While discussing the Japanese study, William Teale, a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said that reading to a stuffed toy made the child part of the story. As you might imagine, this sounded very familiar to the I See Me staff. We’ve been making kids and stuffed animals part of the story for years.

Our My Snuggle Bunny Gift Set comes with a stuffed animal for your child—a snuggle-soft bunny who also appears in the book, counting all the ways it loves your child. The book itself is customized with your child’s name, making him the star of the story. You read to your child, who reads to the bunny. We’re not sure who the bunny reads to, but chances are your child knows!