This is a very in-depth article about safe stuffed
animal baby toys and also goes through different age groups too. For
more information on baby safe toys, see the links after this article.
The Safest Stuffed Toys for the Kids on your Gift List
Although it's hard to say when the first stuffed dogs appeared, I would
guess that it was soon after dogs were domesticated. We do know that as
long as there have been children, there have been dolls, rattles,
miniature weapons, and hand-made animals. Anthropologists have found
evidence of toys dating back to the earliest records of human life.
Play is universal and cross-cultural. Though it may vary among cultures
and generations, it's clearly instinctive and a key part of our
development. A child's play is his way of learning about himself and his
world. Play opens the door to a child's imagination. Some of our fondest
memories from childhood are recollections of time spent playing with
special people and favorite toys
A classic among childhood toys is the Teddy Bear, who made his
appearance in 1903 and is still popular today. Although the Teddy Bear
may be famous because of his political affiliation (he was named after
Theodore Roosevelt), just about any stuffed toy can become a child's
favorite. Especially for infants and toddlers, there's great comfort and
reassurance in having soft, cuddly companions like stuffed dogs to
snuggle up with.
As surely as children play with toys, their needs and interests change
as they grow and mature. As a child matures, a stuffed toy may come to
represent a favorite animal in nature. Toy stuffed dogs might be
huggable versions of media characters like a cartoon or comic strip dog
("Snoopy", "Scooby Doo", "Blues Clues", etc.). Finally, stuffed dogs can
play the role of imaginary family pets.
When shopping for stuffed dogs for small children, keep in mind the
child's age, interests, and abilities. Be especially careful when
selecting toys for children under age 3. Labels help consumers narrow
down which toys are right for a child, but here are some general
guidelines regarding stuffed toys for children from birth to three years
For children in the one to three year age range, avoid toys with small
parts that could be swallowed, aspirated (inhaled into the air passages
or lungs) or inserted into the nose or ears. The eyes and noses of
stuffed dogs should be securely fastened and the seams well sewn. Avoid
stuffed dogs with any sharp corners, rough edges, or strings.
Here are some specific guidelines to keep in mind according to a child's
Birth to 6 months
For the first few months babies can't grasp with their hands, so choose
toys that stimulate with sight and sound. High contrast, black-and-white
or brightly colored toys and toys that make noise (like a squeeker toy)
will get baby 's attention. Puppets can be used by adults to entertain
Once the baby has learned to grasp, look for textured toys that are safe
for mouthing. Choose stuffed dogs with short pile fabric. Never hand a
toy from the crib, stroller, playpen, etc., or around babies neck
6 months to 1 year
Infants become more mobile at this age and interact more with their
toys. This is also the age when they love to drop things, so nice soft
stuffed dogs will earn points with Mom for the absence of loud crashing
sounds as they hit the floor!! Of course, your peace and quiet could be
spoiled by the fact that toys that squeak when squeezed are popular at
this age. Puppets are still a great way for parents to hold a child's
attention, and there's even one popular brand that doubles as a
washcloth at bath time.
The stuffed dogs you choose should still have a short pile fabric.
Babies start teething at 6 months, and will definitely chew on their
toys, so make sure you buy toys that you can throw in the washing
1 to 2 years
During their second year of like, children love to explore. Their play
is more physical and involves experimentation and imitation of adults.
At this stage, stuffed dogs might be seen as "pretend pets" to befriend
and care for. This could be a good rehearsal for the real thing.
Children are not instinctively gentle with animals. Interactive play
between parent and child, using stuffed dogs as props, can be a fun way
to introduce them to the idea that a pet should be handled with gentle
loving care. At this stage, objects still get mouthed, so stuffed dogs
should still have short pile fabric.
2 to 3 years
Finally, you can graduate to nice, furry stuffed dogs! The long pile
isn't considered a hazard--mainly because children age 2 to 3 no longer
place everything in their mouths.* Kids this age have developed good
hand coordination and like to put it to work with arts and crafts and
simple puzzles. Plain stuffed dogs make use of a creative imagination.
You might also consider a doggie hand or finger puppet. These work the
mind as well as hands and fingers!
*No more thumbs or pacifiers at this age!! It will affect your child's
oral and dental development.
3 to 6 years
After age three, make-believe is a favorite pastime and children
interact with each other, using toys as props. It's common at this age
to develop strong attachments to favorite toys, and express feelings
towards a particular doll, teddy bear, or stuffed dog. Toys representing
favorite cartoon or TV characters might be the objects of affection.
Puppets are also lot of fun for games of make-believe.
6 to 9 years
By now, more sophisticated games and toys are likely to have replaced
stuffed toys. The exception is young collectors, looking for stuffed
dogs to add to their menageries. Collectors defy age categories; the
"beanie baby" craze is a great example of this. Personally, I never
played with dolls as a kid but had an enviable collection of stuffed
animals, and am still a sucker for a cute stuffed toy. Puppets are still
appealing, as well as some of the nontraditional forms of stuffed dogs.
These might include a pair of slippers in the form of a favorite dog
breed, or bookmarks made to look like stuffed dogs.
9 years and up
Especially as they approach their teens, children want to impress their
peers and leave "childish" toys behind. Stuffed dogs, and stuffed toys
in general, are only for young collectors in this age group. There are
variations on stuffed dogs you might do better with. For example, a pair
of dog slippers, a dog backpack or purse, or stuffed dogs suspended from
key chains. Young (and old1) golfers would love a plush golf head cover
in the shape of their favorite dog.
Finally, since your household (or the one you're shopping for) may have
children of different ages, here are some general rules you can follow
for fun and safe play:
TEN STEPS TO FUN AND SAFE PLAY *
1. When shopping for toys, keep in mind the child's age, interests and
2. Read toy or packaging labels for age ranges and safety warnings.
3. Be especially careful when choosing toys for children under three.
Select toys that are free of small pieces (or pieces that separate or
can be broken off), are lightweight, have no sharp edges or points and
4. At home, read instructions for assembly and use. Keep product
literature in case of future questions and complete warranty cards.
5. Remove and discard all packaging from a toy before giving it to a
baby or small child.
6. Consider the home environment in which a child will play with a toy
and younger children who may be there. A toy intended for an older child
may be dangerous in the hands of a younger one.
7. Always provide toys in conjunction with sensible supervision.
Supervise children when they play and set good examples of safe play.
8. Remind caregivers, including grandparents, of play-related safety
9. Do not leave toys on stairs. Choose a safe storage place for toys. (
Anything large enough for a child to climb inside should have a cover
that's easily removed).
10. Check toys at least every three months to determine their safety.
Make any repairs immediately or throw away damaged toys. * Source:
© 2004, Carolyn Schweitzer. Lifelong dog-lover, power-shopper, and
former family dentist Carolyn Schweitzer is owner and editor of "
Great-Dog-Gift.com " . If you need inspiration for stuffed dogs, pay her
a visit. The site offers a wide range of choices for dog gift shoppers,
plus shopping and gift-giving tips. (Also advice on dog care and
feeding.) She's always looking for new dog gift ideas and dog stories to
share with her readers. You can reach her by email at [email protected]