Extending play: stuffies and dolls
Stuffed animals encourage loving hearts, creative play and language development. From babies to older kids, stuffed animals are perennially popular educational toys. Read more about Why Your Kid Should Play With Stuffed Animals and Dolls.
But what can you do with the pile of cuddly buddies your kiddo has collected?
Here are a few of our favourite play ideas for stuffed animals:
Host a tea party
Get creative! Make invitations for all the attendees, make a mailbox out of a cardboard box, make some decorations or placemats out of construction paper, create a centrepiece or bake some muffins together. Make party hats for everyone and call it a birthday party. You can make this take all day if you want! When I was a kid, I used to love it when my mom would help us throw tea party picnics. For some reason, setting up our toy tea set and stuffies on a blanket in the living room seemed like the most exciting thing ever - just because it was a bit out of the ordinary!
Play vet or doctor
Use a vet or doctor's kit or gather some first aid supplies you have at home (such as band aids or bandages or a small stick for a tongue depressor, a pad of paper for a doctor's prescription pad). Talk about what happens at a check up. Take the animal's temperature, apply some imaginary cream and pop on a bandage. Check out our Pinterest page for free vet themed printables.
Get some paper and pencils, flash cards or ABC blocks and some books your kids know well enough to "read" to the class. Kids love to be in charge (but you knew that already, didn't you?). I actually love being my son's student along with a selection of stuffies. It's hilarious to hear him spout incredibly fantastical "facts" or give me praise for doing a good job. I also love to hear his take on stories we love reading together.
Play Dress Up
Make some super simple, no sew accessories for stuffies out of felt like the crazy easy DIY superhero cape in the photo below (super unicorn to the rescue!). The felt just kind of sticks to itself or if you want to make it more permanent you pop a bit of glue on there.
Or grab some yarn and pipe cleaners to give your soft pals a wig and glasses disguise. I am NOT a crafty person, so I really appreciate simple no fuss things I can do to elevate my son's play. As a bonus, this kind of "craft" is so easy, he can manage it himself.
Create a safari
This can be as simple as hiding animals around your home and letting your kid go exploring. You can add props like binoculars, a map (handmade or from a book) and a notebook for field notes and drawings. Our son loves to "pack" for his trip (it's hilarious to see what he considers a travel essential) and then role play going to the airport first. Ask your kiddo all about what they saw on their adventure when they return. This is a great imagination building activity!
Make them a part of your bedtime routine
Having a child "put someone to bed" can help them prepare for going to bed themselves. Perfect for encouraging nurturing and care for others. Keep a stash of retired baby clothes to dress up stuffies to jump start creative, nurturing play. You can create a bed for dolls out of cardboard (see our Pinterest page) or if you have smaller dolls or stuffies, Maileg makes some real beauties like this one and this one.
Stuffed animals help kids develop creativity, compassion and language skills, and are almost every kiddo's favourite toys. If you think stuffed animals aren't very educational, please read our post all about why stuffed animals are an essential part of your kid's toy box.
Check out our full Stuffed Animal collection.