The Squishmallow Craze Includes A Whole Lot Of Adults Who Are "Kidulting"
Parents are starting to collect the stuffies that started as a trend just for kids.
If you’re a parent of elementary-aged kids — or even teenagers — chances are that they either own or want to own a Squishmallow. Or a dozen Squishmallows. Or even more than that. The very soft and squishy and rotund stuffed animals come in a variety of species and sizes, and it’s harder than you might think to not want to collect them all.
And personally, after realizing how good it feels to lay on one while reading to my daughters, I might have recently bought one just for me.
I’m not alone.
Squishmallows are officially the number one bestselling toy in the United States — and it’s not just because kids are obsessed. Young adults, single adults, and parents are all “kidulting” and collecting a few — or 500 — for themselves. It’s the reason that over 100 million cute pillow-like critters were sold just last year, and sales are growing significantly.
I like the axolotl best, myself.
Celebrity kids, from Jessica Simpson’s daughter Maxi to all of the Kardashian crew, are taking part in the trend, but that’s not all.
"It's been really interesting to see that it's not just kids, it's adults," Laura Zebersky, president of toy company Jazwares, told CNBC last week. "Our demographic is very wide and broad and it's very unusual in our business to have that."
A few things make Squishmallows as collectible as Beanie Babies: They come in a huge variety of species and colors, they have names and personalities, and many of them are part of limited edition runs. They’re also pretty affordable, ranging in price from just $5 for a mini to $40 for the large pillow-like finds.
“It’s similar to the feeling of winning at a slot machine,” an anonymous collector told The Washington Post. “I try to ride that high because if the high goes away too quick … I’m at the store again two hours later looking for another one. It’s an addiction.”
The love for the toys is also totally organic; Jazwares has never run an ad campaign for the toys, also according to the Post. They’re also widely available at anywhere from big box stores and warehouse stores to pharmacies and grocery stores.
Their popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic, when hugging a large, silent soft thing was pretty important. The community is also tightly knit on social media platforms like Instagram, Reddit, and TikTok.
Helping the trend along for adults is another related trend — “kidulting” — in which adults lean into nostalgia, collecting, and playful interests that would more likely interest their own children. It’s not only a way to find comfort in a world that is increasingly uncomfortable for many, it’s also a way to reclaim a time that might not have been so happy the first time around.
What is kidaulting?
The phenomenon, which is popular with Millennials as well as Gen Z, allows adults to act like kids without the ridicule, shame, or embarrassment that older generations might feel if they did the same. It takes many forms, from continuing to buy and build Lego sets, to having a Barbie summer, to collecting vintage Polly Pockets or action figures. It could also mean just playing video games (new or vintage), taking entry-level gymnastics, or buying an adult coloring book. Every Disney Adult and grown-up Magic player is engaging in adulting.
And according to Nicole Booz, who wrote a book on kidulting, it’s good for you, too, and got many adults through the pandemic in a healthy way.
“Overall, I think nostalgia is just comforting,” she told HuffPost. “Adults who reminisce [in] the nostalgia of childhood are looking back to a time in their lives where they felt secure, when there was an entire lifetime of possibilities in front of them.”
And according to studies, feeling nostalgic can help people connect to communities.
Sounds like it could be more than fine if you want to steal a Squishmallow or two from your kid’s room.