Tell the truth: You love stuffed animals now just as much as you did when you were a kid, right? Well, we do too! So we’ve rounded up all the best ways you can use stuffed animals in the classroom, for learning, behavior management, and just plain fun. Now you can keep building your stuffie collection, guilt-free!
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1. Curl up with reading buddies.
If you’ve got stuffed animals in the classroom, they make perfect reading buddies! Whether kids are snuggling with them while you read aloud or cozying up with one as they read on their own, a reading buddy makes story time special. Tip: If kids are nervous about reading aloud to other people, have them read to their stuffie instead to build confidence.
Learn more: Stories by Storie
2. Create a class mascot.
If class pets aren’t your thing, try a class mascot instead. Choose a stuffed animal for your class to care for, sending it home with a different student each week. Include a journal for each child to write about their experiences with the mascot during their time with it. This fosters a sense of community and sneaks in writing practice. Bonus tip: Try this with older kids and incorporate social media too!
Learn more: Scholastic
3. Send home an adopted reading pet.
This idea combines reading buddies with class pets to give kids a focus on reading at home. Buy enough small stuffed animals for each kid in your class to “adopt” one. Send them home with your students and tell them that to keep their pets happy, they need to read to them for 20 minutes every night. Every so often, have kids bring their pets in and share their favorite stories and experiences so far.
Learn more: Teach Junkie
4. Encourage them with behavior buddies.
Stuffed animals in the classroom are such a fun way to encourage good behavior! Choose one child each day to reward with a “brave bear” or “listening lion” stuffie. They get to keep the animals at their desk for the day and then take the certificate home to show their family. Kids love to get in on this by nominating each other, too. See how one teacher does it at the link below.
Learn more: Teaching With Crayons and Curls
5. Celebrate with a Birthday Bear.
Kids want to feel special on their birthdays, so let them keep the Birthday Bear at their desk to celebrate! (For kids with summer or holiday birthdays, use their half-birthday instead so no one is left out.)
6. Control a loud classroom with quiet turtles.
Turtles have a reputation for being shy, hiding in their shells when the world around them becomes too noisy. Use a stuffed turtle to reward kids in your classroom who are being quiet; let them keep the turtle at their desk while they work. You can even create a whole herd of mini quiet turtles with pom-poms and felt. (Find more creative ways to quiet a chatty classroom here.)
Learn more: Miss Giraffe
7. Use stuffed animals as manipulatives.
Learn more: Hanging Around in Primary
8. Make them part of a safe space.
Sometimes kids need a place to cool off, calm down, and just feel safe. A soft cuddly friend can go a long way toward helping them feel better again.
Learn more: Pocket of Preschool
9. Teach good behavior with stuffed animal time outs.
Instead of putting kids in time out, put their stuffies there instead! Have each child choose a stuffed animal to hold during a given activity (story time, watching a video, etc.). When the child misbehaves, put their stuffed animal in time out. The student can get their animal back by explaining how they should have behaved: “We have to be quiet during story time and not talk to our neighbor.” Find out more about how this works for one teacher at the link.
Learn more: Blog Lovin’
10. Try a Tattle Tiger.
When you just can’t take one more tattle (“Gina broke the purple crayon!”), redirect kids to a Tattle Tiger. They can either whisper their problems to the tiger or write them down in the notebook. Just be sure they know to come to you directly if they or someone else is being hurt.
Learn more: Glyph Girls
11. Host a teddy bear picnic.
A teddy bear picnic is the old classic use for stuffed animals in the classroom. Invite every student to bring in their favorite bear (and keep a few extras on hand for those who forget), then plan a day of activities around them. The link below is full of terrific ideas for writing, reading, learning, and playing with teddies.
Learn more: Mrs. T’s First Grade Class
12. Build a classroom zoo.
Learn about real animals and their lives by using stuffed animals in the classroom to create a zoo. Teach kids about the animal’s characteristics, where they live, and what they eat. Group them together by type and create a zoo “display” for each. You can even invite their families to come visit! Get more ideas at the link.
Learn more: Kindergarten Kindergarten
13. Teach reading strategies.
Teach reading strategies like skipping or chunking by tying them to specific stuffed animals in the classroom. Bring them out to remind kids while they’re participating in guided reading.
Learn more: Hanging Around in Primary
14. Set up an animal clinic.
Hit the link below to learn how to make DIY pet kennels from storage cubes and wire grid panels. Then add some doctor toys and a white coat to encourage creative play. Maybe you’ll inspire some future veterinarians!
Learn more: De Su Mama
15. Explore STEM concepts with stuffed animals in the classroom.
There are so many ways to learn about STEM using stuffed animals! Explore concepts like predicting, measuring, estimating, and more. Here are all the details.
16. Raise funds to symbolically adopt a pet.
If you’re up for coordinating a class fundraiser, have your kids collect money to symbolically adopt a pet. These programs use your money to support the animals in the wild, while you receive a kit in return that usually includes a stuffed animal. Your class can learn about that animal and the protections it needs. Do this each year with a new class, and you’ll build an incredible collection over time!
Looking for more ideas to get kids reading at home? Try these 18 ways to get kids to read more.
Like stuffed animals, fidget toys can help kids keep their cool in the classroom. Here are 22 teacher-tested, kid-approved fidget toys to try.