Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Teen Program in a Box: Nostalgia and Stuffed Animals

Since this week is all about nostalgia and we look back at 10 years of TLT, I thought I would share with you a program outline for a program that taps deep into nostalgia. It begins with a stuffed elephant named Pinkerton.

Pinkerton, in the before times

Pinkerton is a pink stuffed elephant that my dad won for me at a county fair when I was around 7. It has traveled with me for 40 years from state to state and home to home and as you can see, she is well loved. So I recently decided to try and do some Doc McStuffins like rehab for my beloved friend.

Viva Ventina @viva.ventina is a popular Tik Toker who helped rehab stuffed animals. There have been some write ups about her online and she is a popular and great resource of information: https://www.dailyadvent.com/news/bcbc839611a209bf8c85d5f21cffcb66-TikToks-Viva-Valentina-Restores-Stuffed-Animals-and-Childhoods-at-the-Same-Time

There is also a British show called The Repair Shop that you can watch on Netflix that talks about restoring all kinds of family treasures, including on occasion stuffed animals. I thought my kids would hate this show but they both loved it.

So, here’s what I did and then after I walk you through the steps, I will share my program ideas.

Supplies Needed:

  • 1 well loved stuffed animal in need of repair
  • Seam ripper
  • Stuffing
  • DAWN dish washing detergent
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing needle
  • Optional: A wash basin, hair dryer, towels

To begin, we gently ripped a seam out of the back of Pinkerton and removed the stuffing. It was old, gross and disintegrating. You’ll want to have a trash can nearby to throw it directly into.

I then gently washed Pinkerton in the sink using cool water and Dawn dishwashing detergent. I figured if Dawn is good for those oil covered baby ducks, it was probably safe for Pinkerton. I didn’t use a lot. To do this in a library space, I would use a small sink basin prepared with cool water and soap. And if I had the space, I would do it outside.

I then let Pinkerton mostly air dry. At the end I did get impatient and use a blow dryer to finish, but she was mostly dry at that stage.

We then re-stuffed Pinkerton using doll stuffing we bought at the local craft store. We used Polyster stuffing. You can read more about doll stuffing here: https://www.funkyfriendsfactory.com/blog/toy-stuffing/. Because of the sentimental value of Pinkerton to me, I also printed a picture of my dad and I and placed it inside.

We then gently sewed her back up. And Tim wants you to know by we I mean he did. Tim sewed Pinkerton back up for me.

This is what she looked like after all of those steps were completed.

She was firmer and sat up better, and was slightly cleaner. But as you can see, there were still a few problem areas. Over the next few days I would gently brush her out with first a comb and later a gentle brush. This is what she looks like now.

I am so happy to have my Pinkerton back in a huggable form. This memory is so important to me.

But wait, you are thinking: What does this have to do with teen programming? Well, both of my girls and many of my tweens and teens have beloved stuffed animals. And even now, they are sharing some real love, by which I mean wear and tear. So I think this is definitely a program idea that you can do with teens, just walking them through the steps of reviving a beloved stuffie with the help of a famous TikToker.

But you can take this a few steps farther with teens:

You can set up a photo booth and teach them how to take photos of their stuffies. Or them and their favorite stuffies.

You can teach them how to make stop motion pictures using their favorite stuffed animals.

If you want to go a much cooler and more morbid route with old toys, you can do FrankenToys, where you take bits of pieces of old toys and make new ones.

Have a Toy Story marathon in the background while you talk about, share, and revive your favorite childhood toys. The teen years are really interesting, teens are not yet adults and no longer really children, so I have found that they often like to have “nostalgia” like programs that allows them, for just a moment longer, to rest in the safe space of childhood.

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