Stuffed toys exist since the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century and refer mostly to animals or cartoon character replicas made of soft materials. Used materials in question vary from basic the cloth to a much softer plush, hence, the name plush toys mostly used in North America. Stuffing also consists of different types of materials which span from old-fashioned cotton, straw or even beans, to modern day wool, plastic pellets, and synthetic fiber. Stuffed toys have evolved a great deal over these 100 or so years, but not as much as other types of toys. The main advancement, besides in some more contemporary materials is in bigger and bigger mass production.
As aforementioned, first plush toys were made in the early nineteen hundreds. Of course, different kinds of rag dolls existed since much before that, but first, rather realistic soft toys were made by German Steiff company. In fact, Richard Steiff made world’s first teddy bear (not yet known by that name at the time) in 1903.
This toy was made of plush fabric which did a good job in resembling fur for more realistic effect. If you happen to come across one of the Steiff toys, bear in mind the fact that they are highly priced today. At the same time, Morris Michtom created both first US-made stuffed bear and the moniker teddy bear inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s photograph with a bear cub. Soon after that, other animals and even book characters began to be produced. Later came the cartoon characters, and the rest of the story is pretty much straightforward.
Today’s stuffed toys come in a plethora of variations in color, size, and material departments. With market globalization which becomes more advanced by every passing day, both stuffed animals and rest of the stuffed toys are limited only by manufacturers’ imagination. All kinds of cartoon characters are being immortalized by getting plush versions of their own. Some of these like Disney’s or Warner Bros’ cartoons have survived and will survive decades thanks to their large popularity around the world. Some characters are highly popular, but only in certain parts of the world which is the case with some Japanese toys that never made it outside the land of the rising sun. Others, however, are popular for a brief instant before falling into oblivion just like their popularity does.
Most popular plush toys today include those based upon currently popular characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, Peppa Pig, Winnie the Pooh, Elmo from Sesame Street and others. Speaking of Sesame Street, the popularity of stuffed toys was never more popular than during the first decade or so of the show. Of course, Muppet Show also had a lot to do with plush toys’ popularity during its original 5-year run since mid-seventies to the early eighties. Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog are counted among some of the most popular stuffed toys of all times, and so are some of the most ludicrous characters like Animal and Gonzo. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are among those timeless classics that never go out of fashion and so are Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto. In fact, pretty much any cartoon you may think of, had its own plush toy variation which, depending upon cartoon’s popularity remained in the market for more time or less.
Stuffed animals are a similar category which is even more open towards customization. Since these toys aren’t based upon something already defined (like cartoons, TV shows or books), their variety is more vast than the variety of cartoon-based toys. There are many interpretations of teddy bears, from classic yellow/gold bears from Steiff era to huge black or panda bears that are large enough to barely make it through the door. Apart from the bears which have their special place in stuffed animal toy world, one can easily find a great number of stuffed toys influenced by all different kinds of animals like elephants, rabbits, horses, monkeys, dogs, cats, etc. In fact, the list is so long that it isn’t practical writing it. Instead, think about an animal of your choice and go buy it.
As we live in technologically advanced time, it was only natural to assume that stuffed toys and animals are going to advance at some point. Today we have interactive stuffed toys which are capable of speaking, at least, to some extent. It is a great improvement over squeaking beginnings of interactive toys. Today’s versions of these toys can reproduce a number of words or even sentences through their tape recordings which are played thanks to standard batteries. Some plush toys can move executing the same battery pack routine while most advanced versions even show some early signs of artificial intelligence. Robotic pets are already a huge thing in Japan, and it is only a matter of time before they become more realistic and plushy. Of course, the term stuffed toys will have to be coined from the beginning as these pets would be stuffed with circuit boards and microchips instead of with straw or beans.
A more important version of interactive toys are those toys meant to help children learn something. Learning toys can be used for teaching kids a wide array of subjects, going from A, B, C’s, over 1, 2, 3’s, to some more advanced learning routines. Some new versions of plush toys even offer you the chance to play some conventional child games with them. Hide and Seek toys can be hidden somewhere and then traced by other contestants using seeker wands which are included. Toy emits the signal which can be caught up exclusively by the seeker wand. When you get close enough, the toy will sound itself and the only thing that remains is to find it.
All in all, stuffed animals and other toys have been some of our most important toys over the last century or so. They have evolved a great deal, and will surely continue along that path. Thanks to technological development which we are witnessing, future stuffed toys might become substitutes for pets or even friends for that matter. It is a potentially great prospect, but ultimately scary one as well.
Find out more about stuffed toys: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuffed_toy