Written by Vicki Macchiavello for Nannies Plus

Children live in a world of make-believe, and as a nanny, family assistant, or parent, it is important to find doorways into their world.

One of the quickest ways to do this is to personify a stuffed animal by naming it and engaging with it through a child’s day. Giving an inanimate object a name fundamentally changes the way one thinks about the object. Naming a stuffed animal not only brings the toy to life, but when a nanny or family assistant names a stuffed animal with the child(ren) in their care, it also creates an opportunity to connect and create a shared experience.

This is especially effective at the beginning of a relationship with a new family and can help to break the ice between a nanny or family assistant and the children in their care.  

It is likely that the family has a stuffed animal that has not yet been integrated into the child’s life–perhaps one that is part of the toys that are not played with often. If this is the case, engage the children in choosing one to “bring to life.” Make a game of finding the stuffy that you and the kids will name and engage with.

Say, “I think we need a friend to hang out with! Which of these stuffed animals do you think we should take to story time today? Do you like this gorilla swaddled in a banana leaf? Me too! What do you think we should name him?”

Begin the process of brainstorming names for the gorilla. Get a sheet of paper and write down all the names you and the children can think of. Encourage silly, fun names. Do not be afraid to allow multiple middle names or a name that is ridiculous and expensive-sounding! 

Something like Gomez the Gorgeous Gorilla Extraordinaire is fun and funny, AND using a multiple name structure like this can alleviate potential disagreements between siblings. Since there are so many layers to the name, each child can feel included in what the nanny or family assistant and the children decide.

Now that the stuffy is named, it’s time to incorporate the gorilla into everyday activities! Take Gomez to the playground and push Gomez on the swing. Take Gomez to Tilden park and let him sit with you and the children on a train ride. So much connection and learning can be created through the simple act of naming a stuffed animal and engaging the children with it.  

Tell us about a time that you named a stuffed animal and brought it to life for the kids you care for.