Meaning And Symbolism Of Teddy Bears

The teddy bear probably needs no introduction since it is a common sight around the world. Named after former US President Theodore Roosevelt, the first teddy bear was released in the early 1900s and quickly captured the hearts of kids and adults alike.

Over the years, it has gained popularity worldwide and has become available in different colors, sizes, and textures. Today, more than a century after its first appearance, it is considered the most popular plush toy in history.

Meaning And Symbolism Of Teddy Bears

What Does A Teddy Bear Symbolize?

Aside from being a default option for gifting, teddy bears have been the subject of scientific research and are even featured in literature, visual arts, and pop culture. Here are ten symbolisms associated with teddy bears:

1. Innocence And Childhood

While teddy bears can be given to kids and adults, they are more closely associated with children.

Since it is soft, warm, and cuddly, it is easier for small kids to handle and poses less danger, so it is typically one of the first toys a child receives.

As such, a teddy bear could quickly remind you of your childhood. In some cases, teddy bears would even be attributed with childlike characteristics, such as the case with Winnie The Pooh, a famous cartoon character created by children’s book writer A. A. Milne.

Milne created Winnie The Pooh‘s character based on the teddy bear owned by his son Christopher Robin and made it behave like a typical child.

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2. Companionship

When a teddy bear is gifted to a small child, it becomes his first friend.

Most often than not, the teddy bear would accompany the child to sleep, tag along when he goes out to play, and sometimes even join him at the dining table like a family member.

Because of these experiences, the teddy bear symbolizes friendship and companionship for most people. If you had a teddy bear as a child, you might have brought it along as you grew up. Some adults would even bring their childhood teddy bears when they go to university or on trips.

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3. Comfort

According to research, hugging a teddy bear releases feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin.

These hormones have positive effects on the body, such as relieving stress, reducing anxiety, increasing trust, and improving mental health. Because of this psychological effect, teddy bears have been used by firefighters and paramedics during crises to help ease the distress of victims.

This happens because a teddy bear represents something familiar and comfortable, which gives you a sense of assurance that everything is okay and within your control. These feelings stem from childhood memories of a teddy bear staying with you and soothing your worries during scary times.

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4. Unconditional Love

A teddy bear can teach a child about unconditional love.

One reason is that when parents tuck their child to sleep, the teddy bear is usually on the same bed. The bear then becomes associated with the warm feelings that the child experiences during these nightly routines.

At the same time, a teddy bear would stay with you from childhood to adulthood through all the changes and challenges you encounter. It will not judge, condemn, or reject you when you make mistakes. Thus, it becomes symbolic of unconditional love for many people.

5. Loyalty And Trust

The familiar face of your teddy bear becomes a symbol of loyalty and trust because of the years you have spent together.

You know your teddy bear is your best friend, and it will never betray you or leave your side, no matter what happens.

As you grow up, you will be exposed to many unpleasant things. This is part of life and can never be avoided. You may experience betrayal and feel the pain of loss, but your teddy bear is the one constant thing you can rely on.

6. Nostalgia

With the years spent with a teddy bear, memories are bound to accumulate.

Of course, not all experiences are positive, and some may have made you sad or angry at the time they happened. However, as you mature and grow up, you realize that everything you went through has contributed to making you the person you are today.

Having this realization will help you see your past in a new light. And your teddy bear, which was with you through all of these, will serve as a reminder of yourself in each of your growing phases.

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7. Care And Nurturing

Children are selfish by nature, and they automatically assume that the world revolves around them.

However, this does not mean that they are bad. It’s just that their young brains are not yet equipped with the tools needed to be able to see the world from a different perspective.

This changes as the child matures and gets exposed to experiences that will teach him to be more aware of other people and how his behavior affects the environment around him. As a child’s first toy, having a teddy bear will be one of those learning experiences that will train him to care about something other than himself.

8. Affection And Compassion

Teddy bears are given as gifts to people mostly to express affection, a feeling that is described as fondness or liking for someone else.

Aside from parents giving it to their children, it is also commonly given to friends, relatives, and even romantic partners.  Some studies show that the modern design of teddy bears has been purposefully engineered to trigger warm feelings in people.

It makes people want to cuddle it, while others go so far as to attach human attributes and significance to the toy. Children sometimes use the teddy bear as a replacement source of attention and affection in place of parents or friends.

9. Protection And Security

Most children would bring their teddy bears with them to sleep.

If you had a teddy bear as a kid, you might have gotten used to hugging it close to your body, especially during scary times like when there’s a thunderstorm or when you wake up in the middle of the night.

Because of this, teddy bears have been associated with feelings of protection and security. Having a teddy bear beside you can make it seem like you are not alone even when no one is with you.

10. Sense Of Belonging

Teddy bears create a sense of belonging in people, even for those who may be considered socially excluded individuals.

They are perceived as warm, tolerant, and familiar playmates who share the good and bad times with their owners.  A study conducted by The Singapore Management University in 2011 revealed that touching a teddy bear helps alleviate feelings of social exclusion or alienation.

After touching a teddy bear, participants of the study shared that it made them feel good and that they became more amiable and prosocial as a result.


Teddy bears are loved around the world regardless of age or gender. Many associate them with comfort, security, affection, and security because of their warm and cuddly appearance.

Studies have confirmed that teddy bears positively affect people, which is why they have been used to help alleviate distress and anxiety in people during crises.

In many instances, teddy bears are given to kids as their first toy and stay with them until adulthood. Because of this, the bears have also become symbols of companionship, unconditional love, innocence, childhood, and belonging.