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Healing Our Inner Child with Toys

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SDSU chapter.

Sometimes I can’t believe I am twenty years old and working at a toy store, yet I find joy in selling and being surrounded by toys. Lately, I have noticed that it has not been only children and their parents purchasing toys for them, but I have been seeing a lot of young adults purchasing toys for themselves! Adults purchasing children’s toys have become more normalized post-pandemic after the lonely quarantine, where we replaced human relationships with stuffed animals and figurines. Working at a toy store, I have had to find self-control in spending my hard-earned money on toys like soft Jellycat plush animals or surprise blind bags. 

Recently one of the latest toy trends has been Smiskis, which are glow-in-the-dark figurines made by a Japanese company, and have been a hit at my job. Dreams Co. trademarks Smiskis as “curious little creatures that love hiding in small spaces and corners of your room” which best describes these figurines that are placed on bookshelves, night stands, vanities, etc. We had a handful of boxes of Smiskis, varying in different series, which are different themes that give the Smiskis different poses and expressions. Some series, like the “Cheer” Smiskis, gave them pompoms and marching percussion drums, then there are some like the “Dreams” series, where there are Smiskis reading books and some wearing nightcaps while holding pillows. I noticed the only people who purchased Smiskis were teenagers and young adults, usually in a duo or with their group of friends. They spend a few minutes picking out the boxes that they believe hold the Smiski figurine they want the most. After buying the Smiski blind boxes and wishing them good luck on getting the Smiskis they are hoping for, they usually run out to open them immediately. 

Seeing groups of friends buying Smiskis together and the anticipation of not knowing what you will receive is endearing to me. It brings me back to when I worked at a summer camp. During the first week, one day my coworkers and I went to the boba place with cups that have surprise plush keychains as the first hangout. We all had to get the drinks that came in these cups and we circled around after we all got our drinks to open up our cups. We were so excited to see which ones we got, very certain we would get ones like the ones on display, which were Sanrio characters and bears with satchels. We bonded over these silly keychains and carried them every day on the lanyards we wore for work. During the last week, we celebrated our work and friendship by going to the same boba spot to get new Umees, the name we gave the keychains. My friendship with them felt pure, we had the chance to be kids with one another. This is the type of bond I see with the young adult friend groups who come into the toy store and buy toys meant for kids. Most of the friends we have now, we have met more recently and not during our childhood years. Having this chance to become kids with one another for the first time brings a new side to the friendship. 

Dreams Co. has another figure I believe many are familiar with because of the quirky naked baby with wings and hats. A Sonny Angel is “a little angel boy who likes wearing all sorts of headgear” which explains the various hats the Sonny Angels can have. Like the Smiski figurines, Sonny Angels has different series like Halloween, Cat Life, Space Adventure, Valentine’s Day, and more. I see Sonny Angels as the new worry dolls for the rising adults of Gen Z. The tiny naked babies are becoming a necessity for some women’s purses, keeping one or two on deck, and for many adults to have lined up on shelves. Gathering events for buying, selling, and trading are happening all over and in San Diego. There have been some meet-ups held at Kate Sessions Park, Balboa Park, and at small business markets. A TikTok trend that has appeared on my for you page of women showing what they carry in their purses and what they “bring to the table” when they are out on dates at restaurants. In most of these videos, they are pulling out nothing but Sonny Angels instead of the usual purse components.            

All trends have their moment to shine but eventually die out. The specific toy that sparked my toy collection is Squishmallows, which are not as popular anymore but when they were I went crazy for them. I believe I had around thirty-something, varying from the jumbo 24-inch Costco ones to smaller 5-inch ones. During my freshman year, my roommates and I would go on squish hunts to stores like Five Below, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, etc. to find the cutest Squishmallows. One of my core memories in terms of Squishmallows was with my coworker and friend Alyssa, who was also an avid Squishmallow collector. We were opening a new shipment box of Squishmallows and lo and behold, we found the rare Ronnie the Cow inside . 

Jellycats, I recognize as the new Squishmallows, are plush toys that are originally from London and have taken the internet by storm with their amusable facial expressions on animals, food, plants, and other designs. Soft plush toys and animals can be emotional support items for us. I was reading a Reddit column of a user asking how old most Jellycat collectors are and the responses amazed me. Ages ranged from late teens to late thirties; some were diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, and for some it helps with their anxiety. This shows you can never be too old for a stuffed toy.

The quirks with the naked baby, glow in the dark creature, and the soft plush toys with quaint emotions have been popular with an audience that the toys may have originally been directed to. Yet the phenomenon of surprise toys and stuffed animals have given adults immense joy and similar feelings they once felt when they were children. 

I am a proud owner of a few JellyCats, like a jellyfish wearing a beanie and a whale wearing a knit sweater, that currently reside on my bookshelf. Sixteen Sonny Angels and a few Smiskis reside on my bookshelf, with other figurines from blind boxes, like two fancy cats wearing hats and a Tokidoki Tuxedo Sam eating popcorn. I will continue to purchase anything that brings me joy, even if it is a silly toy.

Hello! I am Lealyn De Leon and I am a third-year liberal studies in elementary education major at San Diego State University from Fremont, California. In my free time, I enjoy reading romance books, listening to Taylor Swift, collecting trinkets, and going to the beach when the weather is right. I am ecstatic to write for HerCampus and share all my thoughts in a space other than my diary.