Wolf Plush Toys

If you still think wolves are scary, spend some time with our wolf plushes!

If you've always dreamt of having your own pet wolf, a wolf plush is definitely the perfect option for you! Warm, soft and with plenty of love to spare, these stuffed animals are great companions able to make you overcome any sadness.

More love and softness from our wolf plush toys on the other page!

What is a wolf plush?

The wolf plush refers to an object that has been used for a long time to reassure the child in moments of fear or tension, an object whose definition we will retain as a description that Vincent Malone makes: "It is all soft, all gentle. But I take it everywhere. It's my cuddly toy, my cuddle. He has very bad taste. "(in Gautier-Langereau, 2007, p. 2).

Children's literature has shown an increase in interest in the subject over the past fifteen years (Chenouf, 2009). Its presence has become so widespread in American families that it is now common to include it in kindergarten, particularly at the time of welcoming and separation from parents. Teachers have become accustomed to talking about plushies and pacifiers at meetings preparing for the first schooling, and these objects are often integrated into the organization of the children's classes, for example in the morning "rituals" (Garcion-Vautor, 2003).

Pauline Kergomard, the founder of the French nursery school, noted as early as 1886 the anxiety and crying of some children when they entered the classroom and advised the headmistresses to let them bring a reassuring object: "The child's acclimatization would be easier if he or she brought his or her toy to the nursery school. The little one who feels his little load of marbles in his pocket, the one who has his trumpet slung over his shoulder, the little girl who has her doll in her arms and her little supply of rags in her basket, would all leave with a better heart in the morning, and perhaps we would hear less crying during the first hour, perhaps we would see fewer little chests lifted up by sobs, for it must be admitted that this is a frequent occurrence. The child who would bring his toy to school would come to school with more pleasure. "(Kergomard, 2009, p. 49).

We know how little she was followed on this point by the teaching staff. Times have changed, school professionals are now encouraged to get closer to families and their private practices, and the wolf plush has naturally taken its place in the classroom. But, paradoxically, the official texts speak little about it. Although the 2008 programs do not mention it, the accompanying document Pour une scolarisation réussie des tout-petits (For a successful schooling of toddlers) mentioned it previously in these terms: "The favorite 'teddy bear' that one keeps at school, the fabric clutched in one's hand that one does not leave, can constitute the securing elements of the first weeks of school, the necessary link to pass from one world to the other. Once the world of school is accepted, these objects will no longer be necessary. "(Ministry of Youth, National Education and Research, 2003, p. 12). The guide for parents, which the Ministry entrusted to AGEEM (Association générale des enseignants des écoles et classes maternelles publiques) to write in 2008, mentioned in the section "Emotional needs" the need to welcome "each child and his or her wolf plush for as long as necessary", but the object disappeared from the 2010 guide, which was written solely by the Ministry of National Education. This weak presence of the "wolf plush" or even its disappearance in official documents intended for parents contrasts with the abundance of advice given to families about the wolf plush through the press and specialized programs.

The purpose of our article is to analyze how family socialization and school socialization are more or less well articulated around this very private and at the same time eminently social object that is the wolf plush. We consider, in line with Durkheimian thought and his approach to suicide, that subjects that are a priori psychological can be approached sociologically, as other researchers have already done with regard to anorexia (Darmon, 2003) or "gifted" children (Lignier, 2010)1.

We will use part of the results of a research project on socialization and more specifically on issues of authority and discipline in French kindergartens conducted between 2006 and 20092 in a socially mixed school with nine classes: 23 children were followed for three years from their first year, interviews were conducted at the end of the first year with their parents and teachers, and observations were carried out in the school and in the classes.

The wolf plush as a social object

In today's western societies, it seems obvious that young children become attached to a singular material object (stuffed animal, piece of cloth, toy) that allows them to gain confidence in the progressive detachment of the link with their parents and in particular their mother. The representations of this "transitional object" are so naturalized that we sometimes forget its cultural and social dimension, which was already underlined in 1969 by Donald Winnicott (1992, p. 169-186).

The child's attachment to a wolf plush is not universal: in most Asian, South American and African countries, parents mainly use physical proximity (rocking, singing, breastfeeding, body contact) to reassure and put the child to sleep (Cerutti, 2001; Stork, 1993). The presence of a transitional object during the child's development is linked to socially oriented mothering practices: there are societies with wolf plush and others without, as Marcel Mauss said that "humanity can be divided into people with cradles and people without cradles" (2009, p. 377).

This is not to deny the universal nature of the psychological tensions experienced by the young child, particularly the anxiety with a depressive tendency described by Donald Winnicott, nor to obscure the simple neurophysiological pleasure that the child experiences when he or she begins to discover and touch his or her wolf plush, but to observe the ways in which adults proceed with the wolf plush, thus reinforcing or not the attachment that the child has with it. Nick Lee (2008) describes the stages of the different social interactions around the wolf plush: the child first encounters an object whose contact is pleasant to him, then the adult who takes care of the child notices this particular relationship and takes it into account, giving the object to reassure him or avoiding provoking his protests by taking it away. The use of the wolf plush is thus part of the "physio-psycho-socio-logical assemblies of series of acts" analyzed by Marcel Mauss (2009, p. 384) during which the child learns a social relationship to the adult and to himself. Just as play is not natural in children (Rayna & Brougère, 2010), the wolf plush refers to a cultural activity, socially constructed in practices and associated emotions (Montandon, 1992).

The wolf plush could enter the class only in certain conditions, socio-historically constituted, in particular the appearance of a "school form" (Vincent, 1980) during the xvie and xviie centuries in the modern Occident, which privileges the writing, values the knowledge rather than the "to make", It leads to the separation of the "schoolboy" from adult life and "requires submission to rules, to a specific discipline" replacing "the old personal relationship tinged with affectivity, which therefore creates - historically - a new social relationship" (Vincent, Courtebras & Reuter, 2012, p. 112).

The republican school was constructed with reference to secularism as a space in principle common to all little American children (Gautherin, 1999). It goes without saying that in such conceptions, an object as private as the wolf plush could not be recognized by school professionals in the same way as anything that came from families or community particularisms. But the boundaries of the past have changed and the school form has become porous to external behaviors and objects (Bautier & Rayou, 2009). These historical changes in the relationship of the school to society were necessary for the wolf plush to be accepted in the classroom, but one may wonder to what extent the school accepts this private and personal element, and whether and how it intervenes in its uses.

The analysis of wolf plush practices is an opportunity to observe how children are subject to different, possibly contradictory, norms between school socialization and family socialization. The approach adopted here does not, however, consist in making a term-by-term comparison between the two environments, firstly because the methodological approaches are not entirely equivalent and each opens up a particular window: the grain of analysis is finer in the school, where observations of pupils, teachers and ATSEMs were crossed with interviews with professionals and informal discussions with the children, whereas in the family, only one interview was carried out at the end of the first year with the parents.

Secondly, the two types of socialization are not entirely comparable, even though they both fall under the heading of "primary" socialization (Berger & Luckman, 1996) that the individual experiences in childhood, in a strong affective context of identification with a limited number of "significant others", mainly parents. The kindergarten can be considered a "hub of primary socialization" (Darmon, 2006, p. 61) in which parents are encouraged to take part in the development of their children. 61) into which parents are encouraged to enter, but which represents a different context and different issues from the family universe: even if it is concerned with the emotional security of young children who may become attached to a professional, it is still a school that corresponds to an institutional project of society, with a clearly established learning program and defined professional functions in relation to a group of children of the same generation, separated from the rest of society.

It is in this sense that we assimilate the school to a "public" sphere, one that has been delegated by the State with a defined and supervised objective of educating children, whereas parents provide education in the "private" sphere, which includes functions that are broader than those of the school and not institutionally programmed: physical care, feeding, affection, inculcation of norms and values, assistance in entering the world... (Neyrand, 2010, p. 28).

Although the relevance of the school-based form of education in kindergarten is widely discussed, particularly with regard to other conceptions of childcare and early childhood education at the international level (Brougère & Rayna, 2005; Brougère & Vandenbroeck, 2007), the fact remains that the American institutional choices of recent years confirm the predominance of this mode of socialization in kindergarten. The curricular orientations for kindergarten now emphasize the acquisition of a student's profession, with the notion of learning taking precedence over that of education, with the correlative need to systematize school knowledge and the conditions of its appropriation as well as its evaluation (Garnier, 2009).

How different families use a wolf plush

A world of unshared evidence behind a toy

To understand the processes of socialization around "transitional objects", it is interesting to analyze first the comments of parents whose children do not have a wolf plush. Finally, the parents who are most aware of the socialization work that involves adults in the child's relationship to this object are those who are against the use of wolf plush. Some of these parents, however, tolerated their child's presence when he or she was an infant and are absolutely determined to mark the separation, using means that may seem much more violent than the practices of the nursery school.

The moment of entry into school often comes back as a symbolic frontier to detach oneself from the transitional object: "The wolf plush and the pacifier we got rid of before going to school. I was not progressive, I removed them clearly, I said, it is finished the pacifier, the wolf plush, one arranged that in a wall cupboard, it cried two days! It was hard for two days with two nights, he was asking for them, he didn't want to sleep, but now he's not asking for them at all. "(working-class parents, of Algerian origin). This mother's comments contrast with the stories of protection, attention and affection told by parents who are convinced that the separation from the soft toys can be psychologically difficult for the child.

Can a plush toy become an issue between family members?

The choice of transitional objects is particularly invested in by mothers, as is the education of children in general, with a strong emotional meaning here. When Seraphim's mother confided to us, "He is very attached to his wolf plush, very," we may wonder, given the way she said it and the other comments made in the interview, to what extent she herself is not as attached to this wolf plush as her son, if not more so. Although transitional objects seem to be invested more by mothers than by fathers, they are still the subject of discussion between parents, for example in mixed couples with different cultural habits. Parents are not the only ones involved in the child's socialization to the wolf plush. The extended family plays a role, but not always in the way the mother would like. There are issues around the person who provides the object, who chooses the wolf plush and around the habits concerning these objects. One woman (merchandiser, artisan spouse) explained to us that she did everything possible to prevent her child from getting used to the wolf plush offered by her paternal grandmother, whom she did not particularly like, revealing classic tensions between women and their mothers-in-law (Attias-Donfut & Segalen, 1998). She placed the object in her son's bed, but in a more distant place than the wolf plush she herself had chosen: "I told her, my mother-in-law, you see, it's him, he didn't take it, I'm sorry [laughter]. Anyway, it wasn't her place to pick the wolf plush. "

A little conscious, intense and precise work

Parents whose children have a wolf plush tell the story in a very emotional, almost nostalgic way, which clearly shows that the investment is not only on the children's side. The parents intervene at the level of the choice of the object which they place near the child. Some mothers bought a wolf plush when they were pregnant or when the child was born, although the minimum age for the use of transitional objects is estimated by psychologists at 6 months (Cerutti, 2001).

The second important role played by parents concerns the relationship to the object. For example, Remi's play with his mother around his "wolf plush" led him to name it "Popo," which corresponds to the noise she made with the stuffed animal to make her son laugh. Aside from naming them, plush toys are personalized by children who recognize them by their smell and the damage they do to them. Parents maintain this attachment to individual markings by a form of cleaning that is as unobtrusive as possible (hiding its passage through the washing machine3 , rinsing the wolf plush in the child's bath), by taking it with them wherever they go and by their concern about the risk of losing the object: several copies are bought in case the first one is lost, even though the copy rarely replaces the "unique", "real" wolf plush.

The school normalization of the relationship with the wolf plush

Bringing your wolf plush to school

The first sentence of the programs currently in force highlights two main challenges for kindergarten: helping each child to become autonomous and enabling him or her to acquire knowledge and skills in order to enter into fundamental learning (Ministry of National Education, 2008). The notion of autonomy is currently in vogue at school, which finds an equivalent in psychoanalytical prescriptions concerning the "transitional object" from which it is advisable to distance oneself: just as a child who is too attached to his wolf plush risks developing a pathology due to his inability to create a transitional space of another nature (cultural, relational), the schoolchild is summoned to demonstrate "autonomy".

School requires a very specific kind of autonomy, which requires knowing how to manage on one's own in a certain number of daily activities (getting dressed, putting on shoes, washing one's hands, etc.), but also understanding the principle of impersonal rules that apply to discipline (collective life, rules of living together) and to the cognitive aspect of learning (organization of knowledge according to objectified systems linked to written culture) (Lahire, 2001). Teaching practices related to the wolf plush are obliged to take into account this school form of learning.

As soon as it is accepted in class, the wolf plush is the object of work to make it academically acceptable. There is the issue of focusing the children's attention on certain didactic objects, hence the use of a basket by the early childhood teacher (a common practice for this level) in order to put down comforters, pacifiers and pacifiers after the reception period. In our research, the teachers' demands are becoming increasingly strong concerning the child's separation from these objects, which are perceived as hindering learning for reasons of pronunciation, attention, manipulation and investment in the school task.

Gradually, the wolf plush is an object that is no longer tolerated in the classroom: accepted at the beginning of the year in very small and small sections, it officially disappears from the medium and large section classes. In a large section class, an exercise is carried out at the beginning of the year where the children must arrange in a double column table labels of objects which can be present or not in the class: the wolf plush is not any more part of the authorized personal material. In the end, the school seems to accept the wolf plush at the beginning of the school year only to remove it from the child's preoccupations in order to allow him to adopt a school attitude.5 The wolf plush can also be diverted from the school's agenda.

The wolf plush can also be diverted from its initial functions in order to serve as a pedagogical object: for example, the teacher of the first section uses it to teach the children to say "good morning" in the morning. Finally, the relationship with the wolf plush can be used as an indicator of the student's character, as Pauline Kergomard already emphasized when she recommended observing the child with his toy brought to school. In our research, Seraphim's (engineering parents) excessive attachment to his wolf plush is described as revealing his resistance to school learning; on the contrary, Armand's (working-class parents) distance from his wolf plush is interpreted as characteristic of the boy's overly familiar relationship with school (he is "too at ease"). All in all, the school's work on the wolf plush is similar to that of play (Brougère, 1995): under the guise of accepting a private practice and object, the school carries out a schooling process that normalizes the uses of the wolf plush, removing those characteristics that it deems unacceptable in view of the school form of learning.

How childhood professionals see the wolf plush

The early childhood teacher observed in our research, who is the one most confronted with the management of "transitional objects" and the question of separation from parents, has thought about a specific program that aims to keep the wolf plush away. The teachers of the middle section are less obliged to think about a systematic progression of the group of pupils since only a few children remain concerned; they thus often show a certain punctual tolerance. On the other hand, there is a notable difference between teachers, whose main function is to organize the academic learning of a group of pupils, and the ATSEMs, who, even though they have an educational role, do not bear pedagogical responsibility and are in a more individualized perspective and closer to the children's bodies, which engenders privileged, affective, "mothering" type relationships (Garnier, 2008; Maso-Taulère, 2002), relationships within which they can allow themselves a more tolerant position with regard to the wolf plush, without necessarily deviating fundamentally from the rules established by the teacher, but with personal adjustments (in our observations: using the wolf plush to comfort the child, turning a blind eye to wolf plush hidden in pockets or bags).

The effects of the wolf plush on children

Socialization to the wolf plush can also be indirect, involuntary, as a result of observing students among themselves within the school (Delalande, 2001). Some children have the idea of asking their parents for a wolf plush when they did not have one before. Students compare comforters in the classroom (color, size, condition, etc.), but gradually children integrate the idea that bringing such an object is a lack of maturity, and peer mockery plays an important normalizing role in its gradual evacuation from the classroom. Children internalize the need to distance themselves from their wolf plush as they grow up, to the point of sometimes throwing it in the garbage themselves, like the girl in the book The Garbage Truck Plush (Ati, 2006).

Using the wolf plush at home or at school

How the wolf plush can give support to a child

To speak of "confrontation" does not necessarily mean that the uses and representations of wolf plush are antinomic between the school and the families. Several points of convergence can be identified. First of all, we find this contradictory injunction in the socialization of the wolf plush, which leads parents and school professionals to do everything possible to get the child used to a transitional object in order to reassure him or her in a potentially distressing situation, and then, conversely, to gradually detach him or her from it (the term "weaning" is used by both families and teachers).

Many parents said they relied on the school and professionals described as experts to help them detach their child from the wolf plush, which would be a sign of autonomy, a value shared with the school and dominant in today's Western societies. If we think about it, the very fact of encouraging the use of a wolf plush in the child already values a type of autonomy specific to the distal style of interaction characteristic of these societies that mediate the mother/child bodily proximity (giving a stuffed animal or a piece of cloth, toys, using a changing table, baby carriage and stroller, having a separate bed), as opposed to the proximal style of interaction (holding the child, lying against him, rocking him, patting him, breastfeeding) (Cerutti, 2001).

School and parents must work together to protect the plush toys

The "transitional objects" generate a common attention between parents and school professionals, similar in its contradictory injunction but which can however be shifted in its meaning and temporality. Seraphim is a very good example. His mother insists a lot on the importance of the wolf plush to which he is very close, he is always stuck to it in his nursery class as well as at home, which his mother presents as a "natural" need without seeing in what way these habits without consequence from the point of view of family educational norms can be interpreted as an excessive attachment with regard to school constraints.

There is a misunderstanding here because the teacher believes that Seraphim cannot enter into school activities - "cognitive socialization" as Élisabeth Bautier (2006) would say - if he is too dependent on his wolf plush, whereas the mother is pleased that the wolf plush is accepted in the classroom. This example illustrates how misunderstandings with the school do not only concern working-class families; they can also involve parents who are highly endowed academically (Seraphin's father has a doctorate in chemistry and his mother has a doctorate in pharmacy), and who are very much imbued with psychological convictions that can lead to different interpretations depending on the educational stakes of the adult (caring for his child, schooling a student).

How to care for your wolf plush

Far from being a "natural" attachment, the use of comforters is linked to specific work on the part of adults and children, even if it meets real psychological needs. School professionals are situated in an institutional context and families (especially mothers) intervene in the context of a private, emotionally marked socialization, with convictions regarding the wolf plush that differ little according to social origins (the only notable variation concerns the degree of proximity to the psychological culture) but mainly according to cultural origins (parents who are not of Western origin do not encourage their child to have a wolf plush).

Beyond the school and the family, several actors play an explicit or implicit role of normalization, whether they are professionals from the medical-psychological sphere considered as "scientific experts" or other adults in society. The norms circulate through textbooks, programs and magazines specializing in children's education, but also in a more insidious way within children's literature, where the artistic approach struggles to separate itself from the psychoanalytical conceptions and educational pressures that weigh on the figure of the "wolf plush" (Chenouf, 2009).

The question of the "wolf plush" between school and family goes far beyond parents, children and teachers who are confronted with a heterogeneity of prescriptions between which they are obliged to decide in practice. For even if the initial psychoanalytical theories seem clear and uncontroversial, their interpretations vary according to cultures, professional affiliations (the crèche is not the nursery school, the teacher is not the ATSEM), the status of the adult (the professional is not the parent), or even his or her gender (the wolf plush is more invested in the mother), and also the age of the children (who are formidable prescribers between themselves).

The heterogeneity of socializing actions is part of the common experience of the young child (Lahire, 1998); it can be observed between the school, the family, and possibly the peer group, but also within the family (there may be different conceptions between the father and the mother or other people in the family), as well as between school professionals, who are far from always sharing the same beliefs about wolf plush, and even within a single person faced with several choices. Séverine Gojard (2010) shows how conformity to childcare norms is not always easy for parents to adopt, due to the diversity and even antagonism of the statements made by prescribers and textbooks. The school world is not free of contradictory norms, between, for example, the need for the child's emotional security, which encourages the child to welcome his wolf plush, and the legitimate mistrust of the lack of hygiene of this object, which may spread diseases. Behind this seemingly harmless object, conceptions of socialization are at play, about which it would be interesting for kindergarten professionals and parents to discuss in order to avoid children suffering from a misalignment.

The wolf plush officially disappears from school at the end of kindergarten. But many primary school teachers testify to a reappearance, in other forms: children often bring objects from their private world, either openly or by hiding them in their pockets and school bags, sometimes with the complicity of adults who turn a blind eye to such practices. Martine Iserby (2002) describes these objects as "transitional", with a broader meaning than the affective attachment to the wolf plush: they play a supporting role, provide reassurance in the group and in the classroom, and allow for a transition between an affective universe and a universe more focused on learning, but some students also like to show objects from home to the teacher or to other students, whether they belong to them or to their parents.

Like the wolf plush for the young child, these objects can be considered to play a role as markers of identity, symbolic of a porosity from the school world to the private world, where the one who is supposed to enter into the clothes of a learner nevertheless continues to be "himself". In a way, these practices are found in adulthood, whether we think of the fetish objects placed by sportsmen in their belongings for competitions (for example, fencers in their weapon cases), whether we think also of the personal objects kept by women in their handbags (Kaufmann, 2011), with an attachment that Stéphane Beaud and Florence Weber summarize well: "Only certain borderline experiences show what a person loses when stripped of his things, his places and deprived of "his": both his identity and his dignity.

From the "wolf plush" of children, which allows them to change places without losing their identity, that is to say their link with a personal, familiar universe, to the furniture, clothes, jewels, papers, "personal" objects..." (2003, p. 336). Among these objects, it is commonplace now to refer to the cell phone as the adults' "wolf plush", as humorously recounted in the children's story "Daddy's wolf plush" (Loew, 2010), in which a little boy describes his father's relationship with his cell phone as similar to, if not stronger than, his own relationship with his wolf plush (having it with you all the time, being dependent on it, getting angry when it's lost, not being able to replace it).