How to grow a zoo – of stuffed animals
Always loved stuffed animals, but didn’t think you could have your own as an adult? We explain why we have stuffed animals and three steps we used to build our own stuffed animal zoo.
Seriously, who doesn’t want a zoo of stuffed animals? They’re cute, cuddly, require no feeding (or really any maintenance whatsoever), and yet still smile and let you hug them whenever you want!
If you are thinking, “Sounds pretty awesome to me!” Read on my friend, read on and we will walk you through how you too can have your own stuffed animal zoo.
As kids, the majority of us probably had a stuffed animal (if not several). At the time we didn’t think much about them. We didn’t worry about where to put our stuffed animals in our room. We didn’t ponder how to acquire them. And we definitely didn’t consider what others thought about us for having them.
However as an adult, that all changes…
Our society isn’t much into encouraging behavior that seems “inappropriate for our age”.
We are constantly judging each other and social media has only made those judgments easier than ever.
Even if no else knows about our stuffed animal, we may feel an internal guilt for having that animal. Why? Well I think it may be because we know others would judge us negatively for it despite the known benefits.
Several published articles tout the benefits to having a stuffed animal for children. Among those benefits are learning language, relating to or getting along with others, dealing with emotions, and gaining confidence and independence.
As an adult, most of us don’t need to learn a language anymore. However the vast majority of us could still benefit from improved relations with others and some support with handling our emotions. And even the most successful folks need a boost of confidence every now and then.
Even more interesting is the study that showed the benefits of stuffed animals or dolls for patients with Alzheimer’s. This studied noted increased happiness, activity/liveliness, and ease of care for patients. I’m game for increasing my happiness! How about you?
If the above information doesn’t convince you it’s okay to have your own stuffed animal, how about the
2011 study that found 35% of adults sleep a stuffed animal!
So now that we understand the totally cool benefits and that we aren’t alone in our love of sleeping with a stuffed friend, how do we go about starting a stuffed animal zoo?
Well, if you are like us, it can be a little awkward and difficult for a couple reasons.
1. We have kids
While this might not seem like a big deal, trust me, it is. Our goal is to raise healthy, well-adjusted, independent adults that contribute to the good of society.
If even a minority of adults would judge us negatively for this, just think about how other kids would judge and tease ours for things we do that they have no control over.
Because we all know, kids are even more cruel than adults can be. Anyone else remember a tough recess or two when someone was teased for some minor social infraction like bringing a “knock-off” Trapper Keeper? Or as the scene in Home Alone goes when the main character Kevin is speaking with the neighbor:
Kevin: Last year I got a sweater with a bird knitted on it. Neighbor: Oh, that's nice. Kevin: Not for a guy in the second grade. You can get beat up for wearing something like that. I have a friend who got nailed...because there was a rumor he wore dinosaur pajamas.
That said, our kids do know about our animals.
As a matter of fact, they have contributed to our zoo. We have been very straight forward with them that not all adults have stuffed animals. We have told them each individual is different and it’s okay to be different.
Some differences are embraced by others and some are not, but there is still nothing wrong with doing things differently.
2. Placement of our stuffed animal zoo
The goal is to place the animals where they are easy to access, but not somewhere where they will invite undue comment from guests.
This challenge is a little easier to navigate than the first.
We have a two story home with the bedrooms on the second floor and rarely are guests upstairs. Our stuffed animals reside on top of a tall dresser tucked in the corner of our bedroom. In this location, the stuff animals are visible from the hall when the door is open.
This poses a problem because often guest’s children are upstairs even when the adults are not and overnight family guests sleep upstairs too.
If you have any experience with kids, they say the darnedest things – that are often true! So when guests with children come over, we close and lock our bedroom door. Prior to taking this precaution we would often find all sorts of random toys in our room. Our neatly made bed was almost always a causality too (because apparently there is an invisible kid magnet hiding in the middle of our mattress).
It is not as easy to keep the door shut with overnight family guests (of whom my family has no issues asking rude and/or inappropriate questions about things that aren’t their business). To address this,
we have carefully crafted the building of our zoo to allow explanation without degradation.
Which leads us to why you are probably reading this article to begin with, how we have a stuffed animal zoo and enjoy it too.
Building your zoo
Step 1: Lay the groundwork for stuffed animals using kids as a cover
Let’s be honest, many of us can’t just decide one day we want to collect stuffed animals to sleep with.
Maybe if you had a stuffed animal from childhood that would be considered okay because, “it’s always been Timmy’s favorite lovey”. But if you don’t have any stuffed animals from childhood, it’s hard to just up and decide you want one for yourself. At least not without people asking potentially uncomfortable questions.
So, shamelessly use your kids, niece/nephew, or friend’s kid as cover to start your collection. We used our daughter, let’s call her Girlfriend, and her love of stuffed animals.
Note: Girlfriend is always said with a little sass to reflect our daughter’s independent attitude that was evident from birth.
She always has stuffed animals littered everywhere, even our bedroom. As a result, the animals are often put on our dresser when we find them and stay there for a while.
Soon enough it became common to see stuffed animals in our room and no one thought twice about it.
If you have no bio kids living with you this may turn into a gift that just never made it to its intended recipient and now it’s too late to give (or return).
After you establish a bit of normalcy by having a stuffed animal in your personal space, it’s time for step two.
Step 2: Receive a gift of a stuffed animal
Now, most adults can’t just openly ask for a stuffed animal from the unaware vanilla crowd. (If you can, kudos to you. I’d love to hear your story!) So approach this gift receiving gently to make it a natural progression of adding to your current stuffed animal.
Leave subtle verbal hints to those you know about, “how I’ve gotten so used to my stuffed animal friend, but s/he looks a little lonely by her/himself.”
We accomplished gift receiving when hosting a kid contest. During the search for prizes, we passed over some stuffed animal options. At the time we commented on how super cute some of the stuffed animals were. Alas, they were a little too much of a prize for that contest.
When Valentine’s Day came around, my husband gifted me one of the “super cute” stuffed animals.
For some reason, it’s more acceptable for a grown woman to receive a stuffed animal than a grown man in our society…
If you don’t have a grown female in your life, no worries! Plant the seed of a stuffed animal gift with a kid that will insist to their parents that it is the ideal gift for you.
My daughter did exactly this for one of my husband’s stuffed animals, Kolache. She even named Kolache. Good job, Girlfriend!
As a result of laying the ground work and receiving gifts we grew our zoo to two animals with no one the wiser.
Now two animals may be enough for you, and that’s great. But if you want a truly robust zoo with many animal friends to sleep with, carry on to step three.
Step 3: Capitalize on unexpected opportunities to purchase additional animals
There is the saying, “seek and ye shall find” that, frighteningly holds true. Use this crazy phenomenon to your advantage. Really pay attention and you will see all sorts of opportunities to grow your stuffed animal zoo. Again with no one the wiser.
For us this was a Build-A-Bear birthday party and a chance encounter with a giant stuffed teddy bear at a big box store.
During the Build-A-Bear trip, Girlfriend couldn’t decide between getting Toothless or Stormfly dragons, characters from the movie How to Train Your Dragon. We jumped all over that. We offered the solution that Mom or Dad could get whichever she didn’t pick and she could borrow it when she wanted. She agreed. Score!
As for the bear, we had laid ground work with friends and family by letting them know Girlfriend wanted a giant teddy bear. As such when a chance encounter dropped the bear in our lap, we were ready. The bear is for the kids, but they don’t always treat it nicely. So the bear stays in Mom and Dad’s room. He occasionally comes down with adult supervision to “ensure he isn’t harmed.”
Even without kids, it’s guaranteed you will find plenty of opportunities to find more stuffed animal friends for your zoo. You just need to look for those opportunities and grasp them with both hands!
So, now that you have a step by step way to grow your own stuffed animal zoo… throw it all out the window.
Yes, you read that correctly. Throw it all out the window.
Because it’s okay to be different, so be bold in your difference!
Go to the store, buy your stuffed animals. When you get them home they will restore all the confidence and independence you need to embrace you!
Do you have a stuffed animal zoo? How did you start and grow your collection? Any favorites you want to brag about?