The National Toy Hall of Fame hasn’t embraced cuddly toys in a couple of years. Of course I was thrilled to see The Strong honor the rubber duck recently (have you seen my wedding cake?). But it’s the soft, snuggly playthings—the blanket, the teddy bear, Raggedy Ann and Andy—that give me warm fuzzies. These are the toys that comforted us as kids.
Children can’t resist touchable toys. Peanuts fans rarely see Linus without his security blanket against his cheek. Taggies blankets channel that “worrying” impulse by providing ribbon loops for kids to rub. A similar technique helped the Velveteen Rabbit, as well as my own Rocky Raccoon, to achieve stuffed-animal nirvana (a.k.a. utter shabbiness brought on by intense affection). My brother’s plush doggie was so perfect for nuzzling that it had to be re-covered several times in thicker fabrics, becoming more shapeless with each repair. (By the end of its useful life it looked like a flying squirrel.) Some toys soothe kids by preoccupying them. That’s why American physicians providing surgical care in Ethiopia laid Beanie Babies on recovering patients’ pillows to prevent kids from turning onto their tender sides. A strategically placed plaything also helped minimize my separation anxiety. Walking away from Mom and Dad into my kindergarten classroom was nearly impossible until my parents suggested that a My Little Pony accompany me to school. It may not have been plush or squishy, but I was grateful for its calming effects. In a four-year-old’s version of a binding contract, if I had the toy with me, absolutely no tears could be shed. And it worked. I later pocketed the same token to ward off boredom at Girl Scout meetings (this time without my parents’ knowledge). You can see how my husband prompts fits of nostalgia by tucking a trinket into my luggage when I travel alone. Same when my kitties leave their toys in my shoes. Maybe Feesh’s catnip mouse or my brother’s squirrel-doggie will make next year’s National Toy Hall of Fame shortlist. But more realistically, if the Velveteen Rabbit and I have taught you nothing else, please remember that a well-loved toy ends up that way for a good reason. Which plaything stayed by your side through thick and thin?