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Teddy Bears: Why We Need Them
Teddy Bears have become a phenomenon credited with the healing and soothing of hearts and minds the world over. Why we need them may be as mysterious as the magic power they wield. From the time Morris Michton and his wife displayed the first “Teddy’s Bear” in their storefront window in 1902 the world has embraced the Teddy Bear. Started as an idea inspired by Clifford Berryman’s cartoon depicting Theodore Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a tethered bear, the Teddy Bear has enjoyed over one hundred years of devotion and evolution. In a synchronistic move in the same year a German toy designer created his own version. By 1906 society ladies carried them everywhere, child portraits were enhanced by the furry props, and many companies entered the competitive fray. Soon the bear became truly international when England, France and Australia joined the fervour. In spite of some lean years between the 50s and 70s the Teddy Bear bounced back as softer, washable and mass produced. While still mass produced today’s bears have entered the designer and collectible world and have progressed to being therapy tools.
Value of Teddy Bears
As early as 1955 surgeons employed the Teddy Bear to alleviate children’s anxiety. In the operating room the child was given a Teddy Bear which administered a low dose of gas through a tube in its snout (Time). After he or she was sufficiently sleepy they were given a higher dose with a mask. It’s doubtful that today’s child would be subjected to such tactics, but the bears are still employed worldwide in a variety of ways to soften the blows of trauma. Paramedics, police, and hospitals have all discovered the magic a Teddy Bear brings to a child under stress.
Actual Teddy Bear hospitals now exist where children are introduced to the routine of a hospital stay “to reduce children's anxiety about visiting the doctor and to help medical students improve their communication skills with children” (Student BMJ). Through diagnosing and treating their own bears and consulting with student doctors, the child becomes familiar with various hospital equipment and procedures. Similar projects have been undertaken in countries such as the UK, Norway, the Netherlands and Taiwan. But the benefits of Teddy Bears don’t stop with children. A study done in 2006 has discovered that Alzheimer’s patients respond to the stuffed bears. In Newcastle General Hospital doctors undertook a study “after seeing how a patient bonded with a teddy bear from her son” (Bio Medicine.org). The study concentrated on 14 patients and they discovered anxiety was reduced and communication with staff and residents improved. Dr. Ian James stated the bears don’t “reverse dementia, but it did seem to improve quality of life,".
Why Teddy Bears?
Where does our love of Teddy Bears come from? Is it a tactile need for something soft and comforting? Yet, not until this last generation have bears been so approachable in the tactile sense. So there is more to the allure of the bear. Many have suggested Teddy Bears remind us of a special childhood bear who listened with round furry ears and comforted with quiet button eyes, or they take us back to memories now longed for. But what of those who never had such a childhood friend or fond memories? Teddy Bears go deeper yet. Perhaps they speak of an instinctual connection to nature which has all but been bred out of us. We crave the peace and solitude the bear represents especially in this technological era. Since “Teddy’s Bear” made its first appearance we have seen two world wars and countless other conflicts which continue to grow and expand in threat and intensity beyond our understanding. Today, more than ever, we need a Teddy Bear’s touch upon our injured psyches – something to remind us of simpler, more natural times.
Works Consulted and Cited
1) “Dolls and Teddy Bears May Help Alzheimer’s Patients.” 9 July 2006.Bio Medicine. Org. 13 Oct. 2009 bio-medicine.org/medicine-news/Dolls-and-Teddy-Bears-may-Help-Alzheimers-Patients-12099-1/
2) “Teddy Bear Hospital.”June 2004. Student BMJ. 13 Oct. 2009 archive.student.bmj.com/issues/04/06/life/248.php
3) “Teddy Bear.” Wikipedia. 13 Oct. 2009 //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_bear
4) Kaplan, Mira, M.D. “Teddy Bears as a Tool for Health.” 2002. Teddy Bear and Friends. 13 Oct. 2009 teddybearandfriends.com/archive/articles/health.html
5) Clay, Marianne. “The History of the Teddy Bear.” 2002. Teddy Bear and Friends. 13 Oct. 2009 teddybearandfriends.com/archive/articles/history.html
6) Bellis, Mary. “Teddy Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear.” About.com. 13 Oct. 2009 inventors.about.com/od/tstartinventions/a/Teddy_Bear.htm
7) “Medicine: Anesthesia via Teddy Bear.” 26 Dec. 1955. Time Magazine Online. 13 Oct. 2009 time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,808014,00.html
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