I have a large collection of stuffed animals that come in various colors, textures, and sizes, and recently received a question from a reader asking if I had any tips for choosing stuffed animals or plush toys for kids with visual impairment (inclusive of low vision/blind). I started examining my personal collection to determine which qualities I gravitated towards when looking for plush animals, and today I will be sharing tips for choosing stuffed animal for visually impaired kids, or kids at heart.
Size of plush
There is no ideal plush size for kids with visual impairment, though I recommend choosing something that can be easily picked up and moved around by the child without having to ask for help. Small plush animals often have more detail or different textures, while large plush have more surface area to touch and explore. I prefer to have plush animals that can rest comfortably on top of a bed or on a shelf, as having things on the floor can create a tripping hazard.
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Embroidered and tactile details
Braille and pre-braille learners rely on touch for a lot of information, and having a plush with embroidered or tactile details can make it easier to visualize what it might look like. I prefer embroidered details over plastic eyes or removable parts when purchasing for someone else, because some younger kids may put the stuffed animals near their mouth to get information, or may have edges that can become sharp.
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Best fabrics for stuffed animals
The teddy bear my parents chose for me as a baby/toddler has a ribbed, sock-like fabric and embroidered details, which felt soft to the touch and comfortable for me to hold against my skin. I like that the fabric has a unique texture and weave, and most kids who are blind/low vision will be more interested in how a plush animal feels vs how it looks. I didn’t like fabrics that felt stiff or “crunchy” and preferred something that was noticeably soft to the touch.
I would also avoid stuffed animals that had “shedding issues”, or super fluffy fabric that would fall off or rub onto other surfaces easily, have things get stuck inside, or where the texture would drastically change over time. When purchasing a plush, run a hand through the fabric and see if any of the fur gets loose or rubs off onto other items.
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Choose something with durable construction
Can the limbs or tail be tugged on without being ripped off? What if a door is accidentally closed on them? Detached stuffed animal limbs can pose a choking risk for children or real animals, and may be difficult to fix as well. I try to avoid stuffed animals that have very long tails or limbs since it would be difficult for me to fix them if they broke.
High contrast colors for easier location
My friend’s cat is nicknamed “poor contrast kitty” because they are a black cat who enjoys sitting on a black couch, and I have accidentally sat on them multiple times because I didn’t see them. I share this example because high contrast and saturated colors are helpful for kids with low vision who might have trouble locating an item that matches the color of their bedspread, rug, or other common surfaces in the house. For example, if a child with poor contrast vision has a room with a white rug, it will be easier for them to find a stuffed brown bear or black bear on the floor compared to a polar bear.
What about the stuffing?
There are a few different stuffing options for stuffed animals and plush toys, and every person has their own preferences. When I asked some of my blind and low vision friends about their favorite stuffed animals and what they feel like, some responses I received include:
- “I love noisy stuffing or items that make a noise when you hug them, like beanbags”
- “One of my favorite stuffed dogs has a lot of stuffing inside, so it doesn’t lose its shape”
- “My daughter really likes plush animals with beads inside, they feel more firm”
- “I like something that is super soft, and doesn’t have a lot of structure”
- “I want something that can hold up to hugs or accidentally being trapped under furniture without losing its shape”
- “When my mom bought me stuffed animals, she would add additional stuffing inside so it was more comfortable for me to hold”
I personally avoid stuffed animals with rods or incredibly stiff structures, and many of my friends have said the same thing as they do not feel comfortable to hug.
Sources for my favorite stuffed animals for kids with visual impairment
Looking for a new stuffed animal or plush toy for kids with visual impairments? Some of my favorite sources include:
- Build-a-Bear Workshop. Bonus- stuffing contents can be adjusted or re-stuffed as needed
- Aurora and Wild Republic
- Vintage/1st Generation Webkinz
- Pillow Pets- read more about how I use Pillow Pets in How I Use Pillow Pets To Help With Balance Issues
- Yogibo mates- read more about Yogibo in Yogibo For Chronic Pain