Entertainment for children has changed a lot over the past two generations. There was a time when every child’s toy box would look largely the same – a toy train set, some action figures or dolls, toy cars and – perhaps most importantly of all – a teddy bear.
Nowadays it’s more likely that a child will be into digital entertainment. It may still have a few ‘traditional’ toys, but there are iPad apps intended for children. There are YouTube channels which released videos aimed explicitly at entertaining children. Our children are probably seeing and absorbing more information than at any previous stage of human history.
That’s a good thing in some ways – there’s nothing wrong with becoming more educated at an early age – but we’re losing the concept of children developing their imaginations by playing with physical toys. The phrase ‘digital dependence’ has been used by some media outlets, with scientists concerned that the current generation may turn out to be the least active and imaginative ever.
Because of that, it’s more important than ever before that children are given time and space to play, and things to play with. Of all the things they could be playing with, a teddy bear is the most important of all. Teddy bears are more than just toys – they’re companions. We connect with teddy bears when we’re young, and they give us a subconscious attraction to anything cute and cuddly for the rest of our lives. Nothing else would explain the appeal of the ‘Fluffy Favourites’ slot at Amigo Slots; an online slot where adults stake money in a game environment populated by soft toy characters, which has gone on to be one of the most popular in the world. If the appeal of cuddly toys is sufficient to persuade gamers to part with their money when gambling, imagine how strong the connection must be for young children.
Teddy Bears and Science
The appeal and importance of teddy bears are far more important than just finding them cute, though. There’s scientific evidence that suggests that playing with a teddy bear can make us kinder, gentler people – and that’s apparently true of both children and adults. A full study on the matter was performed by a scientific journal several years ago, and the results were surprising.
In the study, researchers deliberately lowered the morale of a group of volunteers by giving them a personality test and then giving them fabricated feedback on the outcome of those tests, delivered in a negative manner. Volunteers were told that the tests results suggested that they were likely to remain single for the long term, or that they were pessimistic, or of lower than average intelligence. At the same time, a second group of volunteers was given fabricated positive feedback. That included being told that they shared a mindset with successful, famous people, or that they had exceptional interpersonal skills.
After the feedback was given, all of the volunteers were asked two further questions. They were asked whether they would share the money they were given for taking part with a friend, and if they’d like to come back and take part in more research.
The responses to those further questions were as you’d expect them to be. The group given negative feedback were less willing to share and less inclined to come back and take part in further research – with some notable exceptions.
Some of the group who were given negative feedback were given the chance to touch and hold a teddy bear between being given the feedback and being asked the further questions. This group was much more receptive to the idea of sharing money and much more interested in the possibility of taking part in further tests. They were, in fact, more positive about both questions than the group who’d been given positive feedback. Something about having contact with a teddy bear made them kinder and more open, and nullified the negativity they’d experienced only moments earlier.
Teddy Bears as Emotional Support
The role that teddy bears play in providing emotional support can’t be overstated. There have been a number of studies over the years which confirm that children use teddy bears as a ‘transitional object’; an item which temporarily replaces physical contact with a parent.
In every study performed, children who spend most of their time in close contact with a stay-at-home parent show little interest in teddy bears. Those who spend time in daycare or with another ‘parent replacement’ are far more interested. Teddy bears – which are after all designed for cuddling – replaces the child’s psychological need for closeness with its mother. This is good to know if you’re a professional working parent who has to be away from your young child because of your job. It’s also good to know if you have a child who’s too clingy and is forever asking to be picked up or carried around.
In either scenario, having a transitional object has obvious uses. It can make a child feel less insecure when you’re not around, and it can help ‘wean’ your child off dependency from you when you have to go and do other things.
The benefits of owning a teddy bear are therefore obvious; they’ve been scientifically proven to make people kinder, they can reduce the impact of negative experiences, and they can bring comfort to a child when a parent isn’t in the room to do it personally. These are all things that any of us would want for our children, and there are no negative effects.
We live in a time where childhood seems to be getting shorter each year, and our children are being raised as much by what’s on their screens as what’s in their schools. Teddy bears for children are so old as an idea that they’re practically ancient, but in all that time they’ve never lost their value. Don’t deprive your child of the same comfort and support that you had when you were younger. Make sure they have a cuddly friend of their very own.