Children everywhere often have a special animal friend--or 50 of them-- that they treasure. Sometimes, it is hard to know how to play with stuffed animals beyond cuddling up with them.
In this list, there are 23 fun games for stuffed animal fans that are engaging and secretly practicing skills kids need. From teddy bear picnics to movement and STEM challenges, kids will be delighted to try these games with stuffed animals.
1. Name the Stuffed Animal
This game involves using the sense of touch to try and guess which animal friend is in hand. To play, blindfold players and have them guess 3 times before asking for a hint! This could even be a fun birthday party activity for kids--everyone can bring their favorite stuffed animal and join in the game.
Learn More: Blindfold Sensory Play
2. Craft them Some Costumes and Style
Children love to play dress-up to imitate their favorite characters on tv and games--even their favorite animals. So, why not dress up the animals this time? Give them glasses, hair, some shorts, perhaps even jewelry! Role-play using the newly made plush toys and have an animal fashion show!
Learn More: Inner Child Fun
3. Search for the Stuffies!
A good searching game can keep kids busy for hours. Sometimes, families end up hiding things over and over again in different rooms than before, just because search-and-find is so fun. Make sure the children get a visual list of what they're looking for and send them on the hunt for their stuffed animal friends.
Learn More: Toddler Approved
4. Create a Personal Habitat for your Huggable Friends
Everyone needs someplace to call home, so build an animal shelter for any plush toy friends in your care. Get creative and make a doghouse, kitty condo, or bear's den. Add some details about the animal's natural habitat, like grass or trees. Take care of those special animals by giving them a special place of their own!
Learn More: Toddler Approved
5. Stuffed Animal Parade
The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests collecting many plush toys for this game. Great for a party or classroom, the stuffed animal parade will have everyone counting, sorting, lining up, and marching to the band!
Learn More: NAEYC
6. Pretend Play: Vet's Office
A toy doctor kit and all the plush animals around can make for a game of animal hospital. Children are getting real-life skill experience playing the vet in this fun game. Through their pretend play and interactions with the furry "patients" they are practicing kindness, empathy, and problem-solving skills.
Learn More: World At Home Bright Horizons
7. Make an Animal Ice Cream Shop
Once the plush animals are feeling better from seeing the vet (see above), they might want a treat for being so good at the doctor's. Have an animal ice cream party with homemade flavors (paper foods). Follow along with the video and have tons of fun!
Learn more: Lixie Pig Crafts
8. Soft Toy Toss
Throwing things to a target is a classic party game, and this time it's with a plush animal twist. This activity can be modified for many players or just one. Launch the animal airborne and try to get it into the laundry basket. Having fun prizes on hand will motivate kids to aim and toss!
Learn More: Learn With Play At Home
9. Have a Teddy Bear (or any other animal friend) on Picnic Day
The teddy bear picnic idea has been around for many. many years thanks to the old nursery story. Have a picnic for your stuffed animal sidekick by getting outside and finding a cozy spot under a shade tree. Take a book along with you and enjoy the afternoon snacking and reading to your plush toy.
Learn More: Happy Days 365
10. Hot Potato--but with a Squishmallow
A list of stuffed animal games and activities would be remiss without mentioning Squishmallows. Squishmallows are plush animals and other characters (fruit for example) and come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. They have gained popularity online and have become quite a collectible item. The classic game of hot potato is a great way to get kids using those Squishy plush toys for more than just a display.
Learn More: Empowered Parents
11. Stuffed toy parachute game
Get your special animal airborne again with a parachute game. Inside or outside, colorful parachutes like the ones you remember from gym class are tons of fun on their own--let alone when you add a bunch of plush animals on top!
Learn More: Preschool Bookclub
12. Manage a Stuffed Animal Zoo
Create a zoo where guests can visit and learn. Young children can sort their collection of animal friends into "cages" and tell others about each one as they go on a tour.
Learn More: Teaching Everyday
13. Alphabetize them
Practicing early reading skills at home is essential for preschool and early elementary. Lay out the stuffed animal collection and sort it by beginning sound. Missing some? Make it a point to look for more to add to your collection.
Learn More: Teaching Everyday
14. Practice the real-life skill of pet grooming
Much like the idea of pretend play animal hospital, take your furry friends to the groomers and have a spa day. Life skills like cleaning, combing, and managing are practiced, all while having a good time.
Learn More: Sunny Day Family
15. More pretend play with a pet store
Set up a pet store at home and role play as shopkeepers and customers. Put the plush toys in comfortable habitats and have adoption forms to fill out once a selection has been made.
Learn More: Pocket Of Preschool
16. Crab walk with your stuffy--a gross motor exercise
Get the dog back home! Or the rabbit back in the burrow! Get moving and help your furry friend. For a twist, don't just crab walk--pretend you are the animal you are taking home as you cross the floor.
Learn More: Hands On As We Grow
17. Show-and-tell + STEM+ Stuffed Animals=Fun
STEM activities involve many skills and several steps. This particular one involves measuring, classifying, and comparing animals like a scientist!
Learn More: We Are Teachers
18. Upcycle them into something new
As children grow into tweens, sometimes the allure of the plush toy fades away. Give old animals new life by upcycling them into cool stuff, like lamps or phone cases. Watch the video for more ideas.
Learn more: Crafts That Slap
19. Stuffed animal counting (and squishing) math game
We refer to this one as counting and squishing because it involves fitting as many animals as possible into different household containers. It encourages counting practice, having kids identify the number of animals they've squished in.
Learn More: Happy Toddler Playtime
20. Do a science sort
For older elementary and middle school kids, using plush toys as learning tools gives them new life again. Use animals to sort and classify groups of herbivores, carnivores, predators, prey, etc.
Learn More: No Time For Flashcards
21. Give it a glowing heart
Add in even more science experiences with your stuffed friends by giving them a glow-up. This activity goes through the steps of adding a small battery-operated light into the "heart" of the cuddly creature.
Learn More: Makezine
22. Create your own
DIY stuffable animals are made by following patterns and doing a small amount of stitching. Learning basic sewing skills and crafting techniques like measuring and stuffing is great for kids to develop to use in other areas of life. Consider how sewing a small koala could impact a child's choice of career after learning to sew!
Learn More: Frugal Momeh
23. Create your own carnival games and hang up as prizes
Use stuffed animals as prizes for homemade carnival games. Balloon popping or ring tossing are fun challenges that get kids excited. Using their own old animals as new prizes will make children want to try lots of the classic game skills out!
Learn More: Listotic