It’s well known that children suffering from anxiety, stress, sadness, or frustration often find great comfort in toys. But, why? What is it about these products that have the power to lift a child’s mood and brighten his or her day?
As we develop in childhood, there are some things we learn to control, like certain words we use or actions we perform. We also learn there are some things that are beyond our control, like other people’s behavior or weather-related events. Either way, when the day brings upsetting news and happenings, toys are there to help us feel better.
Perhaps the most beloved of all the toy types, plushies are arguably the most widely used incentive to encourage a child to smile or offer comfort in the face of hardships and struggles. Not only are they soft to the touch and gentle on the skin, they are also squishy without losing their shape. So, the soothing hugs can continue almost endlessly without having to be concerned about the toy breaking or causing injury.
2) Anytime Friend
Toys in the form of action figures and dolls can also provide a reliable pretend friend who is always ready to play. Sometimes, other children are not willing to play a certain game, take turns, or play at a specific time. Also, there are times when children choose to play alone or with another group of friends. On such occasions or when bored while waiting on Mom and Dad to run errands, children can stay entertained and practice role-play skills as well as social skills with their figurines.
On that note, some of these toys are modeled after popular characters in animated series or movies. Therefore, children can watch the show or movie to have a back story and scene to act out or they can choose to create their own. The possibilities for entertaining scripts and adventures are limitless!
3) Offers Control
Difficult situations can often leave children feeling out of control. This is particularly the case when emotions are running high or the child is not allowed to do something he or she would like to do. For example, the child may be bullied at school and feel unable to stop the individual’s behavior. This can also ring true when the child is asked to join the family on a hike instead of going to a friend’s house to play. Once the choice is removed, the child can experience negative feelings like frustration, sadness, or anger. However, a toy allows the child to take back some of that control by acting out what he or she would like to happen in the storyline or physically manipulating and, at times, altering the toy item as is the case with puzzles and slime.
4) Gives Voice to Concerns
When children are unable to speak to adults about what is making them sad, toys can offer a less intimidating approach for acting out the event. Also, instead of having to explain what happened, the child can use the toy figure to show adults. This is helpful for younger children as well as shy children or those with speech limitations.
5) Role Playing Inspires Social Strategies
When children are unsure of how to handle a social situation with friends or family members, that uncertainty can make the individual feel sad, scared, or stressed. Toys enable the child to test out a few different strategies until he or she finds one that might work best. This is also great for looking back at how the child, friend, or family member acted in a specific scenario and practicing how that series of actions and words could improve for more positive and effective results in the future.
6) Everyone Loves Surprise Gifts
Another way to make a child smile on a bad day is to surprise him or her with a new toy he or she wasn’t expecting to receive. This could be a small inexpensive item purchased as a get-well toy, a just because toy, or a good behavior toy. Moreover, the toy does not necessarily have to be new. It could be an item that was found in a closet or covered up by other toys that the child had forgotten about. Introduce the new or rediscovered toy as a happy surprise and watch that frown turn upside down into a grateful grin!
7) Icebreaker for Meeting New Friends
Toys do more than help children feel better while they are alone, they also have stress reduction powers in public. For instance, if a child is trying to make friends at school, an offer to play with a popular or interesting toy can be a great way to break the ice. Poof, instant connection.
Therefore, toys are a powerful medium adults can use to add cheer to any child’s mood. Whether using a soft and pliable plushie for comfort, an action figure or doll for developing a healthy strategy that makes a child feel in control, or a surprising gift that will break up the moody blues, toys can make an impact on those harder days and challenging situations.