I didn’t get my first teddy bear until I was 18 years old. His name is Quincy and has been my sleeping companion every night since my 18th birthday. I slept with all kinds of stuffed animals growing up, but there was something about Quincy that just stuck. I never questioned the fact that I was sleeping with a stuffed animal as an adult and it turned out I wasn’t the only one. According to Brittany Loggins from TODAY, 16 percent of millennials sleep with something sentimental, even into adulthood. 2,000 Americans were surveyed by Best Mattress Brand and the findings suggested that almost 38 percent of adults slept with a sleep companion as a child which may be why adults continue to sleep with a sleep companion today. This could be due in part to the fact that sleep companions, teddy bears more specifically, have a positive developmental impact on children and can help reduce anxiety as well as strengthen their ability to express themselves.
Teddy bears benefit children in their development because they can reduce anxiety and stress in children. Children get attached to teddy bears because they act as “transitional objects.” New York University Psychoanalytical Institute stated that transitional objects can act “as a defense against separation anxiety.” In early childhood, especially, children have a hard time being separated from their mothers, particularly when they start attending school, and these transitional objects can provide comfort for them. Just being able to hold these transitional objects, or teddy bears, will help a child dealing with separation anxiety. Additionally, these teddy bears can be “indicative of how they will interact with and maintain human relationships.” Children can be found taking care of their stuffed animals like their own children and this can be reflective of how caring and nurturing children will be when they become adults.
Part of the reason why teddy bears provide comfort for children is because these transitional objects give children a sense of protection and security. An article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) suggested that even though “this inanimate object cannot provide reassurance, guidance or affection, its presence provides the child with the sense of protection.” The sense of protection children, particularly infants, feel is why studies have shown that children who sleep with teddy bears are less likely to have problems sleeping. Children subconsciously see their teddy bears as their mother so when they transition from sleeping with their mother to sleeping alone, they have an easier time when sleeping with a teddy bear.
Another development benefit of teddy bears for children is that they can be used as channels of self-expression. An article titled Teddy Bears as an Emotional Support in the Classroom described one teacher’s experience using teddy bears in the classroom as a way of better connecting with her students. The teddy bears of the students became “self objects” or “representations of the children themselves and their emerging identity.” What the teacher found was that her students were more likely to express themselves and how they truly feel by using these teddy bears. For example, the teacher would ask the students “How does your bear feel about…?” rather than “How do you feel about about…?” The result was that “even the most reluctant of children [felt comfortable revealing] how he or she was feeling, with much more ease than if he/she had been asked the question directly.” By experiencing what the teddy bear is “feeling,” children find it easier to express themselves while teachers and parents have an easier time understanding children.