Playtime: Don't Get Rid of Those Soft Toys - They're Actually Good for Development!

When Em was born, I couldn't believe how many soft toys we got as gifts and I remember thinking at the time - what on earth are we going to do with all of these? Well, fast forward almost 10 years and our soft toy collection has at least quadrupled in that time and doesn't look like shrinking any time soon!

Soft toys are great for development. Their sweet little faces and soft furry ways help encourage empathy, compassion and caring. They can also be a reassuring source of comfort for a child who is feeling sad or insecure. There are plenty of ways to encourage soft toy play.

For Babies 
Have a basket of 3 or 4 accessible for baby play time. Choose toys that do not have any loose bows or buttons that can fall off. It's great if the toys have smaller limbs or a tail that baby can grab and hold onto. Remember that babies will always put toys in heir mouth so make sure no bits of fur or fluff can come off.

Baby will practice using her fine motor skills grabbing her soft toys and will feel happy and secure looking at friendly, kind faces. She may also enjoy kissing and cuddling the toys and older babies might even start to like to feed them a bottle or some pretend food. You could also add a soft baby brush so she could brush her fur.

For Toddlers
Soft toys are great play companions for toddlers. They can be put into bags, prams, boxes, carts, baskets and ride on cars and taken out again. This is one of toddlers' favourite things to do.

A toddler will play out social situations with her soft toys and help to look after them. This works on her empathy, compassion and caring skills. Playing out social situations also helps your toddler to make sense of her social world and her place in it.

For preschoolers and older children
Preschoolers and older children will enjoy constructing entire imaginative worlds for their soft toys. Your preschooler will perhaps start by making voices and acting out a role using the toy. With this kind of play, the toys are the centre of the imaginative process. They will need props or accessories which can be created by your child, bringing in the possibility of a range of art and craft activities too. Over the years we have made teddy jewellery, back packs,  shoe box beds, tissue box cars, school books, invitations, hats, clothes, just to name a few.

Your preschooler or older child will work on his social and emotional skills during this kind of imaginative play activity. He will play out social situations he has been in and will use the toys to play out different outcomes. By giving his toys different personalities, he is learning to look at situations through other people's eyes and reinforcing what he knows about caring. Making and creating props and accessories for toys works on fine motor skills as well as literacy and numeracy skills.

Fun Soft Toy moments

Some teddy bear jewellery as modeled for a PP photo shoot
Teddies in an indoor tent

A soft toy, a shoe box and a ramp - hours of fun

A homemade shoe box bed  - Good night!