Why Adults Still Sleep With Cuddly Toys

Whether you call them stuffed toys, cuddly toys or even plain old teddy bears, most of us associate the soft animal companions we used to go to bed with as children with exactly that; being children. There’s no written rule anywhere, but the general consensus at some point between being a child and becoming an adolescent, our cuddly friends should either be given away or go into storage, because we’re growing up and we no longer need them.

That isn’t necessarily the case.

Many of you reading this will still have at least one stuffed toy on your bed. Some of them might even have several. You don’t mention it to anybody because you think it’s weird. You hide them when other people are coming to your home. You no longer have to do that; chances are, whoever your guest is has a secret cuddly toy of their own. The most recent survey data available tells us that about half of all adult Americans still own a stuffed toy, and most of the people who responded positively to the question also go to sleep with their stuffed toy by their side.

We’ll get into the whys and wherefores in a moment, but if you take a second to think about it, the fact that adults are still fascinated by stuffed toys should already have been evident to everybody. We only have to look at the worst of entertainment; both interactive entertainment and movie entertainment; for evidence of that. Take a look at the phenomenal success of the ‘Ted’ movies, for example. The first was a massive box office hit, which made a sequel an inevitability. There’s even talk of a third film in the series, such was the size of the audience the two movies so far found. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, they’re stories about a boy who wished his teddy bear would come to life. It did, and it still lives with him thirty years later. It’s become a little weary and cynical in that time, just as its owner has, but it’s still a film about the relationship between a man and his childhood toy!

The second example comes from the world of gaming and gambling, which as we know is an activity restricted to adults. Since the internet allowed old-fashioned slot machines to go digital and become online slots, developers have been experimenting with different themes to appeal to different audiences. You can play slot games based on your favorite sport, your favorite movie or even your favorite period of history. It might, therefore, surprise you to find out that one of the most popular online slots of all time is Fluffy Favourites, which is completely based on the adventures of an adorable gang of stuffed toys. The slot is intentionally designed to be colorful and playful, tapping into our sense of nostalgia while offering a great slot gaming experience. If there wasn’t an audience for it, Fluffy Favourites doesn’t exist. Given that it does exist, then we have to assume there are plenty of people out there who still love stuffed toys well into adulthood.

So why don’t we grow out of it? We grow out of every other aspect of childhood; we no longer run around playing tag or kiss-chase, and we don’t have sleepovers anymore, so what makes the idea of owning a teddy bear any different? The answer is probably that we form an emotional attachment with them. There’s some scientific evidence that says in the Western world, children fixate and develop bonds with cuddly toys because we’re separated from our parents and put into our own beds too early.

In America and most of Europe, the idea of a child sleeping in bed with its parents until the age of eight or nine would be considered unusual. In Japan, putting an infant in a cot in another room would be regarded as barbaric. Half of all children in Japan sleep with their parents until they reach their mid-teenage years, and some studies have suggested they have fewer anxieties and cope better with the insecurities of life as a result. Conversely, children put into their own crib or bed at too young an age in the USA suffer from separation trauma, and emotionally attach to their favorite toy as a defense or replacement mechanism. That’s a strong bond at a young age. It would make sense for that bond to translate into a lifelong connection with not only that particular toy, but to stuffed toys in general.

More of our permanent life outlooks than we’re aware of are actually formulated when we’re children. Coming back to that same scientific evidence we mentioned earlier, there was a study done which involved showing adults who had attachment objects (for example a blanket or a stuffed toy) as children a series of photographs, and asking for their reactions as the photographs were cut up. The response group was more upset by images of a teddy bear being cut up than they were by objects with an actual material value, i.e., cell phones, cars and other aspects of their daily lives. In other words, the evidence shows that it’s an emotional response rather than a logical one; and as with anything emotional, we don’t always respond rationally.

Based on the above, if you do still sleep with a cuddly toy, it’s probably because you were separated from your parents’ bed a little earlier than you were really ready for. But that’s OK, because you had a teddy bear to protect you, and on some level, you still believe it’s been protecting you ever since. You’re not weird, you’re not strange, and you’re not alone; as we said at the start of the article, half of America is doing the exact same thing! So don’t hide them away, and don’t be ashamed of them. It’s part of who you are as a person and, based on the statistics, who we are as a nation.

Comments

  1. I’ve never been one for cuddly toys but I still have the teddy that was given to me when I was born. He lives in a drawer as he’s rather delicate now and goes by the name of Edward. There was a time, when he’d lost an eye in the washing machine that he got called Cyclops, after the mythical one-eyed ogre. Whenever we moved house he was always the last thing of mine to be packed & the first thing out!

  2. I think that my mother has a bag or box of my old stuffed animals, packed away somewhere. However, she’s really been downsizing a lot and I’m sure that most of what’s left will soon go.
    Still…
    My two cats sleep at the foot of the bed. There are throw pillows everywhere, even a couple of 2′ x 2′ pillows. I have several body pillows, too. And BLANKETS! We have so many throw blankets. Lots of soft, cozy things that are comfortable and comforting. So, I reckon it’s not a whole lot different than a pile of teddy bears…

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