February 10, 2023 by admin 0 Comments

The Secret Powers of Teddy Bears

Teddy bears are perfect gifts for the little Valentines in your life. This time of year, shop windows are full of teddy bears and bear puns like “I Love You Beary Much!”

But teddy bears are NOT just cute, cuddly, stuffed toys. They can play an important role in children’s early social and emotional development. 

Let’s take a look at some of the secret powers teddy bears have to help children learn important early skills. 

Teddy Bear Science

The softness of teddy bears makes them lovable. Many children are attached to inanimate objects, and research shows that more than 90% of those objects are soft like stuffed animals. Research shows that teddy bears — which started as plush toys modeled on wild bears — are now designed and manufactured to optimize cuteness. 

Comfort and Security

Teddy bears can be comforting to children.

Research funded by the National Institutes of Health is investigating the role that teddy bears can play in helping children relax and get a good night of sleep. 

Other research shows that teddy bears can become “transitional objects” that help children adapt when they are separated from their parents (for example when they go to preschool). In essence, the object represents the process by which one can navigate life, and experience a homeostatic inner balance, a cohesive sense of well-being at every developmental milestone,” wrote Colleen Goddard, a specialist in child development.

Just hugging a soft bear can be comforting and soothing. Cuddling a teddy bear “evokes a sense of peace, security and comfort,” psychologist Corrine Sweet said.

The physical hug — or even the familiar scent of a teddy bear — can have a calming effect, making it a great tool for children dealing with stressful situations.

Companionship and Communication

Teddy bears can also be friends to young children (and adults, too — but that’s another story!). 

Teddy bears can play roles in children’s imaginative play and help children practice communicating with (human) friends. Imaginary play can help children develop their creativity, problem-solving skills, and ability to communicate with others.

Children can talk through problems with teddy bears or invite them to join in their imaginative play — from a teddy bear picnic to playing school with bears to creating obstacle courses with (or for) stuffed bears. 

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Teddy bears can also help children learn new skills. 

A bear will not judge or rush an early reader who is reading aloud to it. One study found that teddy bears can help children read more. Another found that “teddy bears can give confidence to students to do well in class.”

A bear will happily accompany a child who is trying something new — giving a child the confidence he or she needs to take on a new challenge. 

A Guide for Caregivers Helping Their Children Become Part of a More Just & Decent World

Raising children is hard. It can be beautiful, fun, and rewarding — but it is challenging, too. Caregivers and parents are often desperate for support, ideas, and concrete ways of answering our children’s big questions.  

As a child psychologist, I hear many of those questions from kids and from parents. Their big concerns are about how people get along, why the world works the way it does, what is fair, and how to understand themselves. Many of their big and, frankly, toughest questions involve race. 

With such a contentious topic and the many dynamic feelings and opinions, our job as caregivers can seem impossible. 

Parents ask and tell me:

  • “What do I tell my young child about race anyway?” 
  • “I don’t want them to learn about race in the ways that I did.” 
  • “How can I protect them from discussions they aren’t ready for?” 

These are all questions I’ve heard from caregivers over my years of practice. I hear families, educators, and others serving children saying that they need help. They need the help of folks who understand children and who have had these conversations before. They also want access to the research about what this all means for kids and families. 

The new guide, “Discussing Race with Young Children: A Step-by-Step Activity Guide,” is a most welcome resource for every young family! It doesn’t solve all the problems related to race, but is a helpful guide for caregivers who want to support our children in becoming part of a more just and decent world. This guide was created with children’s stories, questions, and experiences at the heart of it. It was also created with a clear understanding of what caregivers are facing — the questions, stories, and conflicts that commonly arise.  

The work here is well-researched and supported by many experts who understand children’s needs. Most importantly, this guide provides an opportunity to really listen to our children and to be in conversation with them — and it encourages us, as caregivers, to grow and learn with them.  

This guide accompanies us as we play, listen, and learn with our children. I am sure that in these conversations and guides, you will come up with even more questions — but you will also learn something new and feel supported. This is not easy work, but with help like this guide provides, it can be beautiful, fun, and rewarding.