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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Stuffed animals are for everyone, according to Davis locals

Plush toys often have nostalgic meaning for adults and can be beneficial for relieving stress

 

By KACEY CHAN — features@theaggie.org 

 

Through all its ups and downs, adulthood is certainly filled with stressors. At times, individuals may want to revisit the nostalgic simplicity of childhood. Many achieve this through collecting plush toys. On social media, a variety of childlike, stuffed toy lines including Squishmallows, Build-a-Bear and Jellycats have been trending recently. Whether students are dealing with anxiety and academic stress or are just in need of a little cheering up, stuffed toys provide a great deal of comfort for adults as well as children. 

Janis Lott, who co-owns the local business Newsbeat with her husband Terence, can certainly attest to the popularity of Jellycats in particular amongst students in Davis. 

“A lot of [Jellycat toys] go to adults,” Lott said. “A lot of students buy them for themselves, and I have heard so many stories of adults buying a toy for their loved ones.”

When someone enters Newsbeat, they are welcomed with a great selection of lovable plushes, from vegetables to quintessential bears. Lott recalled a myriad of stories, including one where someone bought a plush toy resembling a beet for their husband, which still hangs in his lab today. In another instance, a Ph.D. student bought stuffed vegetables resembling the actual ones he was studying, including a pumpkin to a strawberry.

Lott said she first started small when stocking the Jellycats plush line, not thinking the England-based brand’s product would reach the popularity it has today in the store. 

“I didn’t know at first and thought I could do it very basic, but turns out there’s a very rich demand,” Lott said. “We have a very international campus and they are very excited to see it. It had this life that sort of blossomed over time.” 

Jellycat markets itself as a brand providing a “lovable combination of soft squidginess and quirk[iness],” according to their website, which Lott said contributes to the brand’s appeal for college students.

“It’s just charming,” Lott said. “I think people like the comfort and cuteness they provide. So many people have bought the toys for someone else only to keep it and have to buy another toy again. They have a wide variety, so there’s just something for everyone.”

An Vuong, a third-year biotechnology major, has accumulated a collection of stuffed toys over time. 

“I think what makes me attached to my stuffed animals is mainly what they mean to me personally and the physical touch of them,” Vuong wrote in a direct message on Discord. “I like to be around my plushes and hold them because it gives me a sense of peace. It feels like home with them in my room or on my bed.”

The student pointed to childhood nostalgia and stress relief as key reasons for why adults still collect stuffed toys. 

“For me at least, there’s a lot of memories and emotional attachments surrounding the plushies I was around,” Vuong wrote. “My favorite one is still my Yoshi one that I still have [from] when I was about nine.”

Lott also said that the tactile feeling of the toys is a big factor in the childlike comfort the toys provide for her customers. 

“Virtually all [Jellycat] plushies are suited for birth,” Lott said. “The quality of the fabric is so high, you could give one to a newborn and it’d be safe for them.”

Furthermore, multiple studies have revealed benefits for adults owning stuffed toys. In one study conducted in 2016, it was found that hugging a stuffed animal during group therapy sessions improved college students’ ability to comfort themselves. According to an article from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, this action can release the hormone oxytocin, which can be helpful in reducing reactivity to stress.

Lott noticed stuffed animals become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown when Newsbeat was one of few businesses in downtown Davis that remained open. 

“Jellycats were especially good for us during COVID because they helped us make the bottom line,” Lott said. “A lot of people were seeking comfort during those times and they were essential for us in making ends meet.”

When school or work gets overwhelming, finding an adorable stuffed companion to hug is one option to relieve stress. 

“If I could, I would stop the world to catch up on my work,” Lott said. “But in the meantime, I’ve got my stuffed friend, Bo Bigfoot, and my dog.”

 Written by: Kacey Chan — features@theaggie.org