A Fluffy Apocalypse: The Rise of Stuffed Animals Among Teenagers

Many adults have their childhood stuffed toys and pass them down to their children, but as of late, teenagers have been the main demographic for plush toy companies.


Julker Naeem / Unsplash

Pictured are stuffed animals sold in a mall — just years ago these toys would have been carried around by only toddlers. Now, teens and adults buy them, too.

We all have something that brings us back to our childhood. For some, that might be a meal, or a certain scent. Many people find this in their childhood stuffed animals. 

These cotton-stuffed companions hold a very special place in the hearts of people ranging in ages. However, the current largest demographic for these plushie pals is teenagers. The reasons for this are varied, from comfort to nostalgia to aesthetic purposes.

Here is a photo of my Build-A-Bear Frog, Fructose, in front of a fruit stand. It is mentioned in an Instagram account dedicated to stuffed animals. (Vanessa Encarnacion)

Many teenagers have re-discovered a love and appreciation for their stuffed animals as they’ve gotten older, and some have always held them close to their heart. Children are often gifted stuffed animals and many of them grow up to hold onto them for the sake of nostalgia. Comfort is one of the main reasons that teenagers keep their stuffed animals. Comfort can aid in relieving stress, something very prevalent amongst teenagers nationwide.

“Everyone should have a few emotional support stuffed animals, in case you are in need of a hug and/or something soft to cuddle with,” said Zora Kuehne ’24. 

As any coming-of-age movie would ever tell you, adolescence isn’t easy. Each generation of teenagers deals with their own issues, this current generation being no different. There are certain traumas faced that aren’t generation specific, like bullying, abuse, or the overwhelming fears of getting older, but a plethora of new issues are being thrown at today’s youth. Devastating changes in the climate, major inflation, and overall hopelessness for the future are constantly brought up in the media. This constant somber knowledge is everywhere, even in places that are meant to be an escape from the harsh realities of the world. 

Almost all of us have gone back and thought of a simpler time, usually in our childhood years. 

Getting older is one of the many universal heartbreaks among us, losing the young wonder, joys, and innocence. While we acknowledge the maturity that has to be developed with time, there are also lovely reminders of earlier years everywhere. These happy and carefree memories can be associated with tons of things, like a popular song at the time, a certain nostalgic meal, or a stuffed animal that was always there. Knowing that there is a little piece of childhood brings comfort to many. 

These plush toys are time capsules, whether they were bought in childhood or not. 

Naming stuffed animals is another timeless signifier of their significance. “My teddy bear is named Clover, my Pillow Pet ladybug is named Marigold, and my pink puppy is named Pinkie Pie,” said Benzir Raida ’23. Names personify these plush toys. There is a lot of love held within their stuffing. These stuffed animals get names because they’re cared about – they’re given a title that is unique to them and creates a deeper connection with their owner. These deep associations with these stuffed animals give a sense of security.

The way these stuffed animals look also contributes to their popularity, with a great amount of variance between them. One very popular stuffed animal is a Plague Doctor plush, donning black fur, a plague doctor mask, and an adorably macabre demeanor. The backstory of the plush is a juxtaposition to the way it looks, with a dark history looming over the stuffed toy. This is one of the main reasons why this stuffed animal is so popular. The alternative and cuddly appearance of the plush, combined with its tragic backstory, have made it widely beloved among fans of the darker parts of the past.

On the opposite side of the aesthetic spectrum, this admiration for visuals in stuffed animals can be seen through the rise of Sanrio. Sanrio is a brand that has created many iconic and lovable characters throughout the years, some of the most popular being Hello Kitty, Kuromi, and Cinnamoroll. These characters have created a brand and cute aesthetic for Sanrio, that is further shown through their stuffed animals. Recently, Build-A-Bear released a stuffed animal version of Cinnamoroll, a blue-eyed white puppy character in the Sanrio franchise. This particular Build-A-Bear plush had sold out in record time, avidly purchased by devoted fans of Sanrio and those that adore the cutesy exterior of the fluffy toy. 

According to the Stuffed and Plush Toys market found on Future Market Insights, the market for these stuffed toys is 9 billion dollars. One of the top 10 most sold toy brands in the U.S last year was Squishmallows, a plush toy maker with millions of collectable characters. The revenue growth for all stuffed animals was a 27% increase over the past year, with an estimated 95% increase in the next decade. These toys are taking over the world with each stitch inside of them. 

A very large contribution to the rise in revenue for these plush partners-in-crime are the significant amount of teens and adults purchasing them. In addition to nostalgia and aesthetics, there has been an increase in inclusivity in recent stuffed toys, with many of them varying skin tones and features to relate to those who purchase them. This is a probable contributing factor to their rise in popularity – now even more people can see themselves and their childhoods reflected in these toys. 

Judgment is a thing of the past with stuffed animals, as many of the students at Bronx Science believe that stuffed animal ownership isn’t limited to anyone, or any age. “I think it’s great to own a stuffed animal no matter the age you are. The stuffed animals you own don’t determine how mature you are as a person,” said Raida ’23.

According to the Stuffed and Plush Toys market found on Future Market Insights, the market for these stuffed toys is 9 billion dollars.