Do you have a collection of stuffed animals that seems to reproduce before your very eyes? I do. I inherited a collection of Beanie Babies from my children when they left home. They were so adorable that I had difficulty parting with them. Naturally they ended up in my room of misfit toys, my therapy room. I have them stored in a shoe storage unit that fits over a door. As people noticed them they added more to the collection. After I started using them for therapy, I found how valuable they truly are.
The animals are very enticing even to some of my older students who have moved on to Minecraft. I have used them for calming distraught Kindergarten students. Teachers have borrowed one for the day to get a student through trauma. Students have used them when they forgot theirs on a “Read to your stuffed animal day.”
I have used them when reading animal stories. Students take a animal from a grab bag and listen for the part of the story where their animal shows up. It keeps them focused on the story and gives something for their hands to hold.
I have some unusual ones that become a help for expanding vocabulary. For example, some students have not had exposure to a jelly fish. I know my stuffed animal is not an exact replica but does give the idea. This leads to a discussion to what is different about a real jellyfish and the stuffed version. My jellyfish has the typical stuffed animal round eyes which led to the question, “Do jellyfish have eyes?”. We explored this on the iPad and it provided a very interesting topic.
They are great for categorization according to traits. A favorite activity I made up is ” Mystery Animal”. I especially like this activity for its use of questions and cognitive skills. It is a memory and cognitive task to remember the details and use that information in a meaningful way. I have a velvet box that is the mystery box. One student hides an animal in the box and the other students ask questions to determine its identity. The rule is they need to ask a descriptive question before they can identify the animal. Some of my students have difficulty coming up with relevant questions or ask the same questions several times. I made this communication board to help them with formulating questions.
This is a pdf version you may be able to download and print for use. What animal
They have been used as rewards for behavior plans. Students earn animal babysitting priveledges and swap one out occasionally. This keeps the incentive going. It is nice to have an incentive that doesn’t need funding or involve food.
Amazingly, I have only lost a few over the years. They seem to find their way back to my room at the end of the school year.