Childhood is a time where minds are developing and fairy tales can be real. Imagination is sparked by even the most mundane everyday objects, allowing the creation of wondrous worlds and kooky characters. Stuffed animals are a great way to spur a child’s imagination. Next to invisible friends, stuffed animals give children companionship on their creative journeys. One study sought to measure the power of stuffed animals on children. They wanted to see if they could use the familiarity and friendship shared by children and they’re animals could inspire improvement in other areas of a child’s life, like reading.

The results are quite impressive, and the testing used to reach their conclusion is absolutely adorable. The test took place in 2014, at Okayama University in Japan. Doctors invited parents to enroll their children in the experiment, consisting of a stuffed animal sleep over. They hoped, in addition to improved reading, the children would also further develop their social skills. The experiment was conducted by asking the children to leave their stuffed animals in the library overnight. During the night hours, researchers would photograph the stuffed animals “looking” for books to read, followed by setting the books in front of the animals so it would look like they were reading, both together and separated.

In the morning, children would collect their animals along with photos of the stuffed animal’s nighttime adventures. Children are also given books “chosen” by the animals.

Amazingly, because of the wonder of a child’s imagination, they believed the plushies were actually reading the books. Since they’re friends were reading, the children wanted to read too. As the study progressed, researchers noted that children began to read books to their stuffed pals. It was noted that the experiment also encouraged social behavior as children chose to read the books their stuffed animal read.

The effects of the experiment were long lasting, as children continued reading in this way after testing was over. The effects were so surprising, that even the lead author of the experiment, Dr. Yoshihiro Okazaki couldn’t believe it.

The power of imagination truly is a significant one in the development of children. If you’re child doesn’t have a grasp of reading, or is simply uninterested, try replicating the experiment. A love of reading spurs the mind and gives it more food for thought. If your child views reading as dorky or an uncool thing to do, showing them that their friends enjoy reading may break that barrier.

If you’re child doesn’t have a stuffed animal yet, or if they haven’t really latched on to their current collection of stuffed pals, try buying a new one. Consider their interest, or the kind of cartoons they’re into. If they like science or are into animals, realistic stuffed animals could be a great way to give them a new companion to take on their imaginative adventures! Having a stuffed animal, realistic or otherwise, is a great way to provide security to a child if they’re feeling a bit blue or afraid of something, like the monster in the closet or under the bed.