A stuffed toy is a toy with an outer fabric sewn from a textile and stuffed with flexible material. In North American English, the toys are variously referred to by many names, such as plush toys, stuffed animals, plushies, stuffies, or snuggled animals. In British English, they are called soft toys or cuddly toys. Textiles commonly used for the outer fabric include plain cloth, as well as pile textiles like plush or terrycloth, or even socks. Common stuffing materials include synthetic fiber batting, cotton, straw, wood wool, plastic pellets, and beans.
The toys developed in their current form in the early years of the 20th century and have remained consistently popular with children throughout. Different fads have caused specific toys to surge in popularity among adults and collectors; noticeable examples include Tickle Me Elmo (1996) and Beanie Babies (1993–) Stuffed toys are made in many different forms, but most often resemble real animals (sometimes with exaggerated proportions or features), legendary creatures, cartoon characters, or inanimate objects. They can be used as comfort objects; for display or collecting; or given as gifts, such as for graduation, illness, condolences, Valentine's Day, Christmas, or birthdays. They are commonly gifted to children, but can be given to anybody.
The first commercial concern to create stuffed toys was the German Steiff company in 1880. Steiff used newly developed technology for manufacturing upholstery to make their stuffed toys. In 1892, the Ithaca Kitty became one of the first mass-produced stuffed animal toys in the United States.
In 1903 Richard Steiff designed a soft stuffed bear that differed from earlier traditional rag dolls, because it was made of plush furlike fabric. At the same time in the US, Morris Michtom created the first teddy bear after being inspired by a drawing of President "Teddy" Roosevelt with a bear cub. In 1903, the character Peter Rabbit from English author Beatrix Potter was the first stuffed toy to be patented.
Simple stuffed toys can be sewn using a cloth such as felt and stuffing such as cotton.
Pillow Pets are a brand of stuffed toys that can be folded from a pillow into a stuffed animal. Some other companies include funko, plushland, sanshee, suki, and TY.
Several brands of electronic and robotic plush toys were fads when they were first released. These include Tickle Me Elmo, a laughing and shaking plush toy based on the character Elmo from the Sesame Street television show, released in 1996, Furby, a robotic talking plush toy with its own language, released in 1998 and Zhu Zhu Pets, a line of robotic plush hamsters released in 2009.
Some brands of stuffed toys use marketing strategies to encourage the collection of a series of stuffed toys, such as Beanie Babies. They are very popular.
Webkinz stuffed animals were created by Ganz in 2005. Each Webkinz toy comes with a unique "Secret Code" that gives access to the Webkinz World website and a virtual version of the toy for online play. Disney's Club Penguin and Build-A-Bearville from Build-A-Bear Workshop are other online worlds with content that can be unlocked from codes found on associated stuffed toys. In 2013, Disney launched its first collection of Disney Tsum Tsum stuffed toys based on characters from different Disney properties, inspired by the popular app of the same name.
Stuffed animals are commonly used for comfort, and for those in need.
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