Social Emotional Learning (SEL) toys can help boost communication and aid emotional development. | Source: What Do You Meme?

Any caretaker can relate to those days when emotions are running wild and the little ones can’t find a healthy way to process it all. Sometimes, that leads to an avoidable accident like artwork on the walls or a full-blown tantrum (yikes). It’s important to arm your toddler with all the tools they need to recognize, name, and honor their emotions as they rise — seemingly out of nowhere. 

Introducing social-emotional learning (SEL) toys to kids can be a helpful way to teach them more about their emotions. We recommend toys that are expressive, feature a range of emotions, and are simple to understand. For toddlers ages 2 and up, the Ouch & Oops Apology Plushies by What Do You Meme? are simple, soft, expressive plushies that work wonders on emotional recognition and communication. 

The set includes two plushies in purple and blue, each featuring an expression that communicates an emotion. The purple plush character has a sad expression, with tears pooling around the corner of its eyes and a downturned mouth. It features the word “ouch” embroidered on the front. The blue plush character has a surprised expression, with raised eyebrows, pink cheeks, a pouty mouth, and the word “oops” embroidered on the front. Both plushies have Velcro arms that preschoolers can use to connect or disconnect the plushies. They can also use the Velcro to change the placement of the plushies — making one come before the other. 

Each plush features Velcro hands that kids can use to connect the plushies together or switch their order to rank their emotions. | Source: What Do You Meme?

Parents can explain what each emotion represented on the plush toys means and walk them through its expressions. Toddlers can then use each plush toy to communicate their emotions. If they feel they have been wronged, they can pass the wrongdoer the Ouch plush character. If they feel they have done something wrong themselves, they can pass the victim the Oops character. The plushies are not an overall fix for bad behavior, but a great way to begin a healthy dialogue between you and your toddler (or between your toddler and other toddlers). 

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During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents, caretakers, and teachers began looking for ways to help maintain socialization and the learning that comes from simply being together. SEL toys like the Ouch & Oops Apology plushies are a great way to teach kids to communicate their needs and to confront one another in a healthy way — skills that could need help after spending their earliest years in quarantine. Now that schools are back to in-person classes, many teachers are implementing SEL plushies in their classrooms to facilitate healthy dialogue. 

The plushies are simple to use and straightforward, making them perfect for young kids. | Source: What Do You Meme?

The Ouch & Oops Apology plushies are especially helpful for teachers or parents with young kids, who may need an easy-to-understand, straightforward toy to help navigate their troubling feelings. In comparison to other SEL toys, which could have multiple moving parts, could involve writing or drawing, or could be made of hard uncomfortable materials, this plush set stands out. It’s simple and easy to understand, requires no major setup, and has no small moving parts — making it ideal for toddlers and preschoolers, little ones who are learning multiple languages at once, or kids who might just need a little more help understanding things. 

No one really knows what is going through a kid’s mind, even if their emotions or actions seemingly point to the perfect answer, and while there’s no win-all solution, parents can help arm their little ones with the tools they need to honor their emotions and communicate them individually. Who knows? Maybe in the future, there will be a little less to cry about and a lot more to talk about.

About the author

Annabelle Canela

Annabelle Canela

Annabelle Canela was an editorial assistant at The Pop Insider, The Toy Insider, and The Toy Book. When she’s not writing about her favorite toys and fandoms, she loves creating poetry, taking her puppy to the park, and chefing up new creations in her Brooklyn kitchen. You can usually catch her reading Spider-Man comic books on the subway or eating dim sum in Chinatown. This New York City native has traveled all over the Caribbean, including to her family’s home country of Dominican Republic. Naturally, she does it all por mi gente.