A stuffed toy is a toy with an outer fabric sewn from a textile and then stuffed with a flexible material. In North American English, they are variously referred to as plush toys, stuffed animals, plushies, snuggies, stuffies, or snuggled animals. In British English, they are soft toys or cuddly toys.
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 and Beanie Babies.
Textiles commonly used include plain cloth and pile textiles like plush or terrycloth. Common stuffing materials are synthetic fiber batting, cotton, straw, wood wool, plastic pellets or beans. Stuffed toys are made in many different forms, often resembling real animals (sometimes with exaggerated proportions), legendary creatures, cartoon characters or inanimate objects. They can be used as comfort objects, for display or for collecting; or given as gifts, such as for graduation, Valentine's Day or birthdays.
The first commercial concern to create stuffed toys was the German Steiff company in 1880. Steiff used new technology developed for 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 bear that differed from earlier traditional rag dolls, because it was made of plush furlike fabric. At the same time in the USA, Morris Michtom created the first teddy bear, after being inspired by a drawing of Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt with a bear cub. The character Peter Rabbit from English author Beatrix Potter was the first stuffed toy to be patented, in 1903.
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.
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.
Goffa, a stuffed toy manufacturer, produces a variety of unique stuffed toys including not only stuffed animals, but other stuffed toys as well. The company has even produced banana stuffed toys, one even having a mustache!
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.
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