Having stuffed animals in the classroom can provide emotional comfort and academic support. Here are five ways you can use stuffed animals in the classroom.
This is probably the most common way that teachers use stuffed animals in the classroom. If you use The Daily 5 for your reading block, you know that Read to Someone can often leave a student left to read alone when a child is absent or there is an odd number of students. When this happens, students can choose to read with a stuffed animal instead. Also, when students need to practice their oral reading fluency, stuffed animals make terrific listeners! They won’t interrupt, they maintain eye contact, and they don’t seem to intimidate or make the student nervous while reading which helps build student confidence.
As I mentioned earlier, stuffed animals make incredible listeners! You can set up a station in your classroom where the animals can listen to a child’s worries, help a child celebrate an achievement, or even lend an ear to a tattle or two.
Speaking and listening skills are something students need to practice. I know I was always terrified to stand in front of the classroom when I was growing up. I may have tackled the ability to stand in front of a classroom full of students, but please don’t make me stand up in front of adults. Chances are some of your students are feeling the same way. Before a student gives a presentation or report in front of the class, you can allow that child to practice in front of a captivating audience of stuffed animals.
Stuffed animals can also be used as class pets. They provide comfort and conversation without the fear of making a mess or triggering allergies. Years ago, I introduced my students to Brownie and Rocks. These two pups traveled home with my each of my students. The students would write a letter to the class sharing about their adventures with the class pets. We never had a lost pup all year long and the pups were very well taken care of. You can read more about these adventures here. Still, if you fear that something will happen to your treasured stuffed animals, you could have your students write letters to the class pets during class time instead.
Stuffed animals can also be used to assist with your classroom management. If you are as grossed out about hall passes as I am (eww, germs), you can have your stuffed animals be seat fillers. When a child goes to the bathroom or the office, simply place the stuffed animal in the child’s seat. You can also choose to recognize appropriate behaviors you see in the classroom. When the class becomes particularly chatty, you can gently pick up the stuffed animal, walk up to a quiet student, and say, “Pete the Cat sure thinks you are groovy because you are working quietly. Can he come sit by you for a little while?” The other students will quickly quiet down because they, too, want to have Pete the Cat sit on their desk.
If you are interested in building up your collection of stuffed animals, you don’t need to get carried away with spending a lot of money. You can ask families to donate gently used stuffed animals or even check out some local yard sales. If you are looking for specific characters, keep an eye out at Kohl’s. The Kohl’s Cares program carries popular book characters and Kohl’s donates the money towards different charitable organizations. I have also found a few friends on Amazon.
Caring for & Storing Friends
Where will you keep your stuffed animals? That is up to you. I definitely recommend having a designated area for your new friends. Not only will this help teach responsibility, but you will easily be able to see if a friend is missing and whether a friend needs a little TLC. I have seen stuffed animals kept on bookshelves, in a large plastic tub, and even next to the window. Find a space where students can easily access them. You also need to make sure your new friends are machine washable. They will need to get a bath occasionally to keep them safe and clean. If you have a stuffed animal that is not machine washable, you might want to consider leaving that friend at home or just keeping it on display.
Do you use stuffed animals in your classroom? I’d love to hear more about how you use them with your students!