Stuffed toy

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Replica of an original 1903 Steiff teddy bear, Steiff-Museum Giengen, Germany

A stuffed toy is a toy doll with an outer fabric sewn from a textile and stuffed with flexible material. They are known by many names, such as plush toys, plushies, stuffed animals, and stuffies; in Britain and Australia, they may also be called soft toys or cuddly toys. The stuffed toy originated from the Steiff company of Germany in the late 19th century and gained popularity following the creation of the teddy bear in the United States in 1903. At the same time, German toy inventor Richard Steiff designed a similar bear. In 1903, Peter Rabbit was the first fictional character to be made into a patented stuffed toy. In 1921, Christopher Robin's stuffed toy, given to him by his father, A. A. Milne, would inspire the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh. In the 1970s, London-based Hamleys, the world's oldest toy store, bought the rights to Paddington Bear stuffed toys. In the 1990s, Ty Warner created Beanie Babies, a series of animals stuffed with plastic pellets that were popular as collector's items.

Stuffed toys are made in many different forms, but most resemble real animals (sometimes with exaggerated proportions or features), mythological creatures, cartoon characters, or inanimate objects. They can be commercially or home-produced from numerous materials, most commonly pile textiles like plush for the outer material and synthetic fiber for the stuffing. Often these toys are designed for children, but stuffed toys are popular for a range of ages and uses and have been marked by fads in popular culture that sometimes affected collectors and the value of the toys.


Stuffed toy animals for sale

Stuffed toys are distinguishable from other toys mainly by their softness, flexibility, and resemblance to animals or fictional characters. Stuffed toys most commonly take the form of animals, especially bears (in the case of teddy bears), mammalian pets such as cats and dogs, and highly recognizable animals such as zebras, tigers, pandas, lizards, and elephants. Many fictional animal-like characters from movies, TV shows, books, or other entertainment forms often appear in stuffed toy versions, as do both real and fictional humans if the individual or character is famous enough. These toys are filled with soft plush material.[citation needed]

Stuffed toys come in an array of different sizes, with the smallest being thumb-sized and the largest being larger than a house.[1][2] However, the largest somewhat commonly produced stuffed toys are not much bigger than a person.[citation needed] Most stuffed toys are designed to be an appropriate size for easy cuddling. They also come in a wide variety of colors, cloth surfaces, fur textures, and humanizing embellishments.[citation needed]

Stuffed toys are commonly sold in stores worldwide. Vendors are often abundant at tourist attractions, airports, carnivals, fairs, downtown parks, and general public meeting places of almost any nature, especially if there are children present.[citation needed]


Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote in 1835: Bring’ uns, lieber Weihnachtsmann, Bring’ auch morgen, bringe Musketier und Grenadier, Zottelbär und Pantherthier, Roß und Esel, Schaf und Stier, Lauter schöne Dinge! Translation: Dear Father Christmas, bring us musketeer and genadier, shaggy bear and panther, steed and donkey, sheep and steer: lots of lovely things. Forty-five years later, the first stuffed felt elephant originally sold as a pincushion, was created by Margarete Steiff, founder of the German Steiff company in 1880.[3] Steiff used newly developed technology for manufacturing upholstery to make its stuffed toys.[4] In 1892, the Ithaca Kitty became one of the first mass-produced stuffed animal toys in the United States, which was sold as "The Tabby Cat" printed pattern on muslin by Arnold Print Works.[5]

Homemade sock monkeys have been part of U.S. and Canadian culture since the Great Depression.

The toy industry significantly expanded in the early 20th century. In 1903, Richard Steiff, nephew of Margarete, designed a soft stuffed bear that differed from earlier traditional rag dolls because it was made of plush furlike fabric.[4] As an art student in Stuttgart he visited the zoo and sketched the bears, which became the inspiration for his first life-like toy bear, known as "55 PB".[6] 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.[7] In 1903, the character Peter Rabbit from English author Beatrix Potter was the first fictional character to be made into a patented stuffed toy.[8][9] The following year they went on sale and were mass produced by Steiff.[10] The popularity of stuffed toys grew, with numerous manufacturers forming in Germany, the United Kingdom,[3] and the United States.[4] Many people also handmade their own stuffed toys. For instance, sock monkeys originated when parents turned old socks into toys during the Great Depression.[11]

In 1921, A. A. Milne bought a stuffed toy from Harrods department store in London for his son Christopher Robin, a toy which would later inspire the author's creation of Winnie-the-Pooh.[12] Stuffed toys of Paddington Bear, a character created by Michael Bond, were first produced by the family of Jeremy Clarkson in 1972, with the family eventually selling the rights to London-based Hamleys, the world's oldest toy store.[13] More recent lines of stuffed animals have been created around unique concepts, like Uglydoll, introduced in 2001, with a number of recognizable characters and overarching style.[14]

Modern plushies from Japan are known for kawaii styles, generally thought of as (at least globally) starting with Sanrio's Hello Kitty, with many popular characters from popular media like Pikachu and Eevee from Pokémon, and characters from stationery company San-X including Rilakkuma and the Sumikko Gurashi characters.[15] There is also a trend of Japanese plushies being shaped like mochi.


Children, as well as adults, can form connections with their stuffed toys, often sleeping or cuddling with them for comfort. They can be sentimental objects that reduce anxiety around separation, self-esteem, and fear of the night.[16] In 2019 about a third of British adults reported sleeping with soft toys, and almost half had kept their childhood toys.[17]


A teddies shop in Lima, Peru

Stuffed toys are made from a range of materials. The earliest were created from felt, velvet, or mohair and stuffed with straw, horsehair, or sawdust.[3][18] Following World War II, manufacturers began to adopt more synthetic materials into production,[3] and in 1954, the first teddy bear made from easily washable materials was produced.[1] Modern stuffed toys are commonly constructed of outer fabrics such as plain cloth, pile textiles like plush or terrycloth, or sometimes socks. Common stuffing materials include synthetic fiber, batting, cotton, straw, wood wool, plastic pellets, and beans. Some modern toys incorporate technology to move and interact with the user.[19]

Manufacturers sell two main types of stuffed toys: licensed, which are toys of characters or other licensed properties, or basic, which take the shape of ordinary animals or other non-licensed subjects.[19]

Stuffed toys can also be homemade from numerous types of fabric or yarn. For instance, amigurumi is a traditional Japanese type of knitted or crocheted stuffed toy typically made with an oversized head and undersized extremities to look kawaii ('cute').[20][21]

Cultural impact, marketing, and collectors[edit]

Stuffed toys are among the most popular toys, especially for children. Their uses include imaginative play, comfort objects, display or collecting, and gifts to both children and adults for occasions such as graduation, illness, condolences, Valentine's Day, Christmas, or birthdays. In 2018, the global market for stuffed toys was estimated to be US$7.98 billion, with the growth in target consumers expected to drive sales upwards.[22]


Some Beanie Babies on display by a collector

Many stuffed toys have become fads that have boosted the industry overall.[19] Teddy bears were an early fad that quickly grew into a cultural phenomenon.[4] Close to 100 years later, in the 1990s, Ty Warner created Beanie Babies, a series of animals stuffed with plastic pellets. The toys became a fad through marketing strategies that increased demand and encouraged collection.[23][24] Pillow Pets, which can be folded from a pillow into a stuffed animal, were another successful brand, launching in 2003 and selling more than 30 million toys between 2010 and 2016.[25]

Other recent fads have involved toys paired with technology. Tickle Me Elmo, a laughing and shaking plush toy based on the character Elmo from the Sesame Street television show, was released in 1996 and was soon in demand, with some people buying and reselling the toy for hundreds of dollars.[26] This popularity sparked similar fads, including the robotic talking plush toy Furby released in 1998[27] and ZhuZhu Pets, a line of robotic plush hamsters released in 2009.[28][29]

The Internet also presented an opportunity for new stuffed toy fads. In 2005, Ganz launched its Webkinz stuffed toys, which each came with a different "Secret Code" that gave access to the Webkinz World website and a virtual version of the toy for online play.[30][31] Webkinz's success inspired the creation of other stuffed toys containing codes to unlock digital content, such as the former online worlds Disney's Club Penguin and Build-A-Bearville from Build-A-Bear Workshop. 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, Tsum Tsums were first released in Japan (an example of mochi shaped plushies) before expanding to the United States.[32] More recently, in 2021, Squishmallows have made an appearance as a popular Internet fad and collector's item.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Laliberte, Marissa (2019). "11 Adorable Facts You Never Knew About Teddy Bears". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  2. ^ "Largest teddy bear". Guinness World Records. 28 April 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Soft toys. (2003). In J. Miller (Ed.), Miller's antiques encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Mitchell Beazley.
  4. ^ a b c d Gary S. Cross (1999). Kids' Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood. Harvard University Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN 9780674030077. Archived from the original on 4 January 2016.
  5. ^ Sachse, Gretchen (28 July 2016). "Ithaca Kitty was a success across America". The Ithaca Journal. Ithaca, New York. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  6. ^ Cronin, Frances (26 July 2011). "The great teddy bear shipwreck mystery". BBC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  7. ^ "Teddy Bears". Library Of Congress. Archived from the original on 5 December 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  8. ^ Lanzendorfer, Joy (31 January 2017). "How Beatrix Potter Invented Character Merchandising". Smithsonian. Retrieved 6 October 2022.
  9. ^ "The life of Beatrix Potter - Peter Rabbit". Archived from the original on 17 January 2012.
  10. ^ "Steiff Peter Rabbit 1904 Replica". Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  11. ^ Boschma, Janie (5 November 2007). "History of the sock monkey: Stuffed animal created during the Great Depression". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 18 December 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  12. ^ "Winnie-the-Pooh goes to Harrods in new authorised AA Milne prequel". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2023. The story of how Winnie-the-Pooh went from a Harrods toy shelf to the home of Christopher Robin and the Hundred Acre Wood is set to be told for the first time, in an official prequel to AA Milne's original stories.
  13. ^ "Inside Hamleys at Christmas". Inside Hamleys at Christmas. December 2018. Channel 5 (UK).
  14. ^ "Toy Industry Association 2006 Award Winning Products and Nominees. List of awards". Archived from the original on 24 June 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  15. ^ "San-X net". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  16. ^ Kale, Sirin (5 January 2020). "'My bears are my lifeline': the adults who sleep with soft toys". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  17. ^ Reid, Rebecca (20 May 2019). "1 in 3 British adults still sleeps with a soft toy". Metro. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  18. ^ Jaffé, Deborah (2006). The History of Toys: From Spinning Tops to Robots. Sutton Publishing. p. 155. ISBN 0-7509-3850-1.
  19. ^ a b c Byrne, Christopher (2013). A Profile of the United States Toy Industry : Serious Fun. Business Expert Press. pp. 14, 62–63.
  20. ^ Mary Beth Temple (2009). Hooked for Life: Adventures of a Crochet Zealot. Andrews McMeel. pp. 40–41. ISBN 978-0-7407-7812-4. Retrieved 20 March 2010. Amigurumi.
  21. ^ Mary Belton (2006). Craft, Volume 1: Transforming Traditional Crafts. O'Reilly Media. pp. 41–42. ISBN 978-0-596-52928-4. Archived from the original on 28 December 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2010.
  22. ^ "Stuffed Animal & Plush Toys Market Size, Share - Industry Report, 2025". Grand View Research, Inc. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  23. ^ Wickman, Kase (30 August 2017). "The Life and Death of the Princess Diana Beanie Baby Market". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  24. ^ Getlen, Larry (22 February 2015). "How the Beanie Baby craze was concocted — then crashed". New York Post. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  25. ^ Glazer, Joyce A. (31 January 2017). "Celebrating Women: Jennifer Telfer". San Diego Magazine. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Just Tickled" Archived 2014-06-02 at the Wayback Machine. People, January 13, 1997.
  27. ^ "New toy an interactive fur ball". CNN. 5 October 1998. Archived from the original on 16 June 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2007.
  28. ^ Mabrey, Vicki; Janik, Kinga (20 November 2009). "Zhu Zhu Pets: Hamsters to Save Christmas?". ABC News. Archived from the original on 22 November 2009.
  29. ^ Anderson, Mae (27 November 2009). "Robotic hamsters are holidays' unlikely new craze". Denver Post. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  30. ^ Pardo, Steve (11 April 2007). "Kids hooked on Webkinz world". The Detroit News. Retrieved 23 April 2007.
  31. ^ Barakat, Matthew (13 July 2007). "Review: Webkinz pleases parents and children". NBC News. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  32. ^ Walujono, Amanda (26 February 2015). "How Disney's Tsum Tsum Craze is Taking America By Storm". Character Media. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  33. ^ Lorenz, Taylor (16 March 2021). "Squishmallows Are Taking Over". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 December 2021.