Everybody has received a stuffed toy as a gift at some point in their life. When we’re children, aunts and grandparents and cousins give us huge, ultra-soft plush toys, overstuffed teddy bears and bunnies. When we’re older, we get stuffed toys from boyfriends or girlfriends and from spouses. When we’re sick or in the hospital, it’s almost a guarantee that somewhere in between flower arrangements we will find a big stuffed toy. But why?
One possibility is that stuffed toys, like flowers, are a “safe” gift. It’s possible that your co-worker in the hospital doesn’t collect little angel figurines like you do, and might even be a little offended by the three-foot statue of Gabriel you meant as a gift. Maybe the person you sent that assortment of cured meats to is a vegetarian. When we give gifts to people we don’t know that well, there’s always a risk of giving them something they don’t like, need or want. But when we give someone a stuffed toy, we’re giving them a universal gift. It’s very unlikely that anyone would be offended by a plush toy, and because it isn’t meant to be used or consumed, there’s no question of whether someone needs a stuffed toy or not.
Another possibility is that the softness and cuteness of a stuffed toy sends a message to the person we’re giving it to. When you get that special someone a plush toy like a teddy bear, you’re inviting them to squeeze and cuddle the bear the same way they would you. You want them to think of you when they see your plush toy sitting on their bed or on their bookcase. Furry or plush toys are usually warm and soft, the very traits biology tells us to seek when we need to cuddle or snuggle. So that stuffed toy is, in a way, a substitute for yourself.
This doesn’t just apply to your special someone. The stuffed toy you send to a sick person, even someone you don’t know, carries the same wish for warmth. Even though they won’t be thinking of you when they cuddle their plush toy, they’ll be sharing the warmth of the gift all the same.
Finally, it could just be that plush toys are cute. Teddy bears, with their big round eyes and their thick stuffed-toy limbs, seem cute just because. Plush toys are cute animals filled with stuffing and covered in soft material, and what isn’t lovable about that? There are a lot of reasons why we give gifts, but the simplest one, the one which seems most true, is that we like the gift we’re giving and we hope the other person will too. And who doesn’t like a stuffed toy?
Whatever the occasion, a stuffed toy tells the person you give it to that you care and that you wish them warmth, happiness, companionship, and, yes, cuteness. For many years stuffed toys have been a standard gift, and there’s no reason to think that will change any time soon. The next time you give a gift to someone you care about, make it a stuffed toy.