Huge. Realistic shell pattern, eyes, and flipper details. Fairly affordable. Almost 3 feet long. Extremely soft polyester fabric. Doubles as a naptime pillow. Durable.
This stuffed sea turtle isn’t machine washable.
For every hug, little ones are rewarded with a classical melody. Each tentacle can be squeezed to learn the names of different colors in three different languages. Convenient volume control for parents. Feature rich without sacrificing softness.
Excellent for babies and toddlers, but the design may not appeal to older children.
Fantastic craftsmanship from a world renowned manufacturer ensures every detail is as it should be. Plush, cuddly, and lovable. Extremely well-made and highly durable.
Even at 12”, some adults feel it's just a bit too small.
Fun and unique, this puppy goes from sweet to savage at a squeeze of his head. Children (and adults) won't tire of shocking unsuspecting family and friends. Adorable when neutral, still allowing for bedtime cuddles.
Fun and unique, but definitely not for everyone.
Ultra soft and somewhat floppy, but still substantial enough for satisfying snuggles. High quality materials and excellent craftsmanship offer little ones years of enjoyment. Perfect size for little hands to grip comfortably.
Not everyone is a fan of those sad and soulful eyes.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Every kid has a favorite cuddly buddy — or a few. Stuffed animals shoulder quite the responsibility as friends, confidants, and willing participants in a world of make-believe. That’s why every child deserves a stuffed animal that brings joy and inspires the imagination.
Today’s stuffed animals are more than just the teddy bears of yesteryear. Now they’re available as narwhals, sloths, and raccoonicorns. Some of these adorable critters even have musical or light-up features, and sometimes morph into different creatures altogether. The possibilities are endless, and you might find yourself drawn to cuddling them, too.
Choosing your child’s (or your) next plush pal doesn’t have to be hard. We’ve assembled this buying guide on stuffed animals to help you find a new best friend. We’ve also included a selection of our favorites that we think you’ll like, too.
It really does feel like there’s a universe of stuffed animals because you have a variety of creatures, both real and make-believe, to choose from. Here are the three main categories we’ve scooped them into, and, as you can imagine, diversity abounds.
Animals: Animals are by far the most popular type of stuffed animal. From cute kittens to slithering snakes, you’d be hard-pressed to find an animal that hasn’t evolved into this beloved toy form. Manufacturers are also keen on trending animals, in which case you’ll currently see an abundance of llamas, sloths, goats, and narwhals on the market.
Creatures: You’ll also find plenty of creatures like dragons, unicorns, and even the Loch Ness Monster. Manufacturers take liberties with imaginary creatures and often include wings, horns, and even capes. These ancillary parts can be made of alternate materials, such as cotton or nylon.
People: There are also stuffed dolls and people, though they’re mostly geared toward younger children. These are ideal for kids who are ready for simulated play but not quite old enough for plastic dolls or their tiny accessories. They come with soft outfits and occasionally have yarn for hair and other details.
Inanimate objects: A recent trend in stuffed animals is the rise of inanimate objects. Manufacturers are sewing smiley faces onto everything these days, from cacti to fruit to slices of pizza. These cute stuffed toys are often purchased by adults to use as decorative items to complement throw pillows.
Like any kids’ toys, stuffed animals are clearly marked with the ages for which they’re intended. This is done not only to assist parents in finding age-appropriate plush friends but also as a safety precaution. Here’s a rough breakdown of what to expect for each age group:
Up to age three: These stuffed animals have the softest plush available. The pile is short and the details are sewn on. Babies frequently put the toys in their mouth, so these stuffed animals are constructed to avoid choking hazards.
Age three and up: Stuffed animals for this age group are made from a variety of plush textures, from low-pile velvet to fluffy soft fur. They’re often larger than stuffed animals intended for younger children, and many have more articulating parts, such as arms, legs, ears, and tails.
Age six and up: Older kids have quite a variety of stuffed animals to choose from, including those with hard plastic details like eyes and mouths. These are all over the size range, from pocket-size to life-size.
It’s amazing to think what type of stuffed animal a child will warm up to. For some, it’s a giggly monkey; for others, it’s a doll with soft hair. Landing on a beloved theme or line of stuffed animals is, above all else, a personal choice.
One thing to be mindful of is that some kids end up loving an entire line of stuffed animals. This is especially helpful to know in terms of gifting, as well as fostering interests and hobbies. Kids who enjoy sea creature stuffed animals, for example, may enjoy watching ocean documentaries or could engage at a high level with a trip to the aquarium.
Stuffed animals come in all sizes, too. The toys are normally classified by height. Note that these sizes are merely rough estimates, as each manufacturer uses its own size range and names for them. Small stuffed animals can be referred to as “micro” or “mini,” depending on the brand. Larger styles have often been classified as “super,” “mighty,” or “mega.”
Small: Between 3 and 7 inches tall
Medium: Between 7 and 14 inches tall
Large: Between 14 and 24 inches tall
Jumbo: 24 inches or taller, and can be up to 5 or 6 feet tall
It’s best to spot clean or hand-wash stuffed animals. This preserves the fur as well as the stuffing. Above all else, avoid putting the toy in the dryer. It can cause fluffy fur to mat or curl up into coarse fibers.
One of the many reasons stuffed animals are so beloved is because of their soft movable parts. Certain styles feature anatomically correct articulating arms and legs, while others are fairly firm in their design. Regardless of how movable or squeezable they are, stuffed animals are generally soft enough to stuff into bags, fall asleep with, or, like Pillow Pets, operate as a makeshift seat.
Certain stuffed animals come with interactive features, some of which are louder than others. (Consider yourself warned.) Especially in stuffed animals geared toward older kids, you’ll find eyes that blink or mouths that change expression. Some features operate when the stuffed animal is moved, while others rely on buttons or triggers.
There’s also a broad range of internal audio boxes that produce music or voices when squeezed or when a drawstring is pulled, such as those made by Baby Einstein. These toys are popular with kids up to age three, and many are educational toys featuring sounds that help build vocabulary.
Stuffed animals aren’t necessarily equipped with safety features, but it’s important to be aware of how safe the toys are. As mentioned, it’s important to choose an age-appropriate stuffed animal so kids aren’t at risk of choking on any small parts that come off.
Quality is a top consideration here. Stitches should be well reinforced to prevent the stuffing from leaking out, which can be harmful if ingested. There shouldn’t be any poorly secured parts, especially small details like eyes or noses. You should also research on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website whether your stuffed animal is the subject of any recalls, and seek a suitable replacement if necessary.
These cuddly buddies can come on their own or packaged with an accessory. Accessories can be sewn on, such as blankets or clothing, or serve as a separate companion piece. This is especially popular in stuffed animal lines that have themed or limited edition releases, like Gund bears. There are also stuffed animals with dedicated accessory lines, such as Build-a-Bear or Squishable.
Plush: The outer layer or covering of stuffed animals is typically referred to as plush. It’s usually made of densely packed polyester fibers, which vary in terms of the depth of the pile. Plush comes in a variety of textures, including matted, curly, fluffy, or fur-like.
Stuffing: Stuffed animals, as the name implies, have a soft filler to give them shape. For the most part, the stuffing is made of polyester fibers. These can be tightly packed to provide a firmer head, for example, or loosely packed for softer areas like tails or ears.
Genuine stuffed animals are filled exclusively with soft fibers. Other types of toys inspired by stuffed animals are filled with different materials, such as beans or pellets, like Beanie Babies. These aren’t traditional stuffed animals, per se, but they’re sometimes lumped into a broader category often referred to as plush animals or plush toys.
Remove all hanging tags before letting young kids play with stuffed animals. These small plastic pieces can break off and become a choking hazard.
Stuffed animals range in price from $5 to $200, which is determined by size, exclusivity, and features.
Inexpensive: Spend up to $25 and you can find a variety of stuffed animals 18 inches and smaller. Critters at the higher end of this bracket occasionally have interactive features.
Mid-range: Stuffed animals priced between $25 and $60 include a variety of sizes, including some limited editions issued by manufacturers. The bulk of interactive baby and toddler stuffed animals are also in this bracket.
Expensive: When you spend $60 to $200, you’ll mostly find collectible stuffed animals. While most of them are kid-friendly, the hefty price tag means they’re usually for display only.
A stuffed animal can make a stay in the hospital more pleasant. The toy can accompany a child through many examinations and hold their hand during shots and procedures.
There are too many great stuffed animals to fit into our matrix, so we want to mention a couple more. We think the 7-inch plush Squishable Mini Comfort Food Avocado is adorable. This toy is kid-friendly for ages three and above, though adults also love this tiny avocado. Its unique shape makes it well suited for snuggling or even sleeping during car or plane trips.
For your little one’s first teddy, we like the 17-inch gray plush Gund Dijon Teddy Bear. With silky soft material and friendly eyes, this toy is perfect for ages 12 months and up. His fully movable arms and legs are perfect for hugging and snuggling.
Q. Is there any way to disable the music box inside my kid’s stuffed animal?
A. Some stuffed animals have a hidden compartment accessible by a zipper or other fastener. You can either remove the music box or turn it off. Unfortunately, many stuffed animals are permanently sewn shut, so the music won’t stop until the battery runs out, which can be a long time (much to the chagrin of parents).
Q. Is it worth purchasing two of the same stuffed animal for my child?
A. Let’s face it, lots of love and hugs can wear on a stuffed animal. If your child is very attached to a toy, it’s helpful to have an identical buddy for a replacement. While you won’t be able to pull the wool over your kid’s eyes about it, at least it’s a familiar face they can warm up to eventually.
Q. What’s the best stuffed animal for travel?
A. Stuffed animals that can fit in carry-on luggage are best for car and plane travel. If you don’t want the bulk and prefer a hands-free option, you can opt for a stuffed animal with hook-and-loop paws or feet that attach to one another, so your child can walk through parks and airports wearing their favorite friend.
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