It’s More Than Just Cute Stuffed Animals

Teddy Bear Love

Cute stuffed animals have been around for decades and with each one comes a story. I’m not talking about the little tags that give the plush creature a name and says it loves lollipops and rainbows. I’m talking about the stuffed animal that goes from the bed to living room to venturing across the sky and seasto be with their human companion. 

I personally, am not a stuffed animal kind of person, however there are two stuffed animals I have never thrown away. The first is my brother’s hippo that was his since he was two years old. The first night back home after dropping my brother off at college I felt like something was missing. The house felt emptier than usual. After a little bit, I crept out of my bed and tiptoed into his bedroom and took his hippo. I took it back into my room and put it on my bookshelf. It stayed there for a long time. It now sits on the couch in my office. Maybe some part of me keeps it because it makes me feel like my brother is there supporting me. I’m not sure, but no matter how tattered it gets, it will never find it’s way to the garbage.

The second stuffed animal, I received from Gabriel Guyton my former professor at Bank Street College. While attending Bank Street Gabriel Guyton became my mentor. I listened to her talk about children and education and explain Leslie’s work with these emotional responsive teddy bears. These bears fit in your hand, but to a little kid, it was just the right size to hold, squeeze and open up to. If I’m being honest, the bear is in my closet, it’s sitting on a shelf and not the floor. I notice it occasionally and even after those spring cleaning days it remains in my closet. I may be holding on to it because it’s keeping my big feelings from my graduate school experiences safe or maybe it’s hidden so my dog doesn’t slobber on it. I’m not sure, but for now it’ll remain in my closet and one day I may part with it, but that day hasn’t come yet. 

Lesley Koplow* is the founding directer of the Center for Emotionally Responsive Practice (ERP) at Bank Street College. Lesley Koplow gave a key note speech at this year’s Emotionally Responsive Schools Conference. Below is an excerpt from her key note, which you can find a link to at the end of the blog. 

Sometimes, the Teddy Bears may remember sad or scary events from our time apart, and children will be able to offer them empathy and comfort, giving children a sense of agency and making them less vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress. The Teddy Bears will also become a voice for the felt experiences that children carry, expressed in symbolic play and through writing and drawing in their Teddy Bear Journals. By doing this, Emotionally Responsive Schools convey the powerful message that ALL children are worthy of comfort, and that all of us, both children and adults, will need comfort at times during the school year.

Lesley Koplow, LCSW ||2020 Emotionally Responsive Schools Conference 

What are Stuffed Animals Made of?

So, why do these plush beings sewn together with fabric mean so much? From my first hand experience in the classroom and my educational background I have seen over and over again how a child can use a stuffed animal to share their big feelings; not only the good but also the scary ones. Think about what I mentioned above. When I felt an emptiness I didn’t turn to my parents I went and got a stuffed animal. 

A plush animal is an outlet for play, therapy and escapement. These objects are simply great at just being there for you and holding your memories and secrets safe inside them. They are an outlet for us to talk to and use as a tool for mending past traumas.

Stuffed Animal Restoration

Sometimes our beloved stuffed animal needs a little help making sure their limbs stay attached or need a special restoration. Meet Danielle Allore-Taylor, her episode on the Sprouting Minds podcast airs this Tuesday, March 8th. When Danielle was younger she had a rabbit and she stored her memories and stories within this rabbit’s soul. Eventually, the rabbit needed to be repaired so her mom carefully sewed the rabbit back together, but kept some of the old fluff containing all the memories in a tiny plush envelope and placed it back inside the rabbit. 

Now Danielle restores stuffed animals for others. She uses her soothing voice to tell the stories of the plush creatures and her delicate touch to carefully mend these important dolls. A passion like this is not an easy one. It takes patience, love and the ability to feel all the emotions that come with each doll. As you watch her process you can’t help but tap into the emotions of the stories. Whether they are happy or sad or somewhere in between; you will be moved. 

Thank you Danielle for mending hearts, memories and stuffed animals. 

Additional Resources 

Danielle Allore-Taylor

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