You want your kids to learn to share their toys -- not their germs. If one child has an animated teddy bear, chances are multiple children will be playing with it -- which is why it's important to clean this and all similar toys on a daily basis, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The center explains that this helps prevent spreading communicable diseases, like common colds and the flu. Even when only one child is playing with the teddy bear, regular cleaning will help to eliminate dirt and bacteria -- things you don't want on your kiddo's hands or in her mouth.
Soft-Bodied Teddy Bear
Soft-bodied teddy bears likely have a hard compartment containing the batteries that animate the toy. It's sometimes possible to remove this inner compartment and wash the teddy bear in the washing machine. If this is possible (the washing instructions on the bear's tag will often tell you if it is), simply pull out the compartment and wash with your laundry. However, do not put the teddy bear in the dryer. Sometimes the teddy bear's material cannot handle the high heat in the dryer. In this case, tumble-dry on a no-heat setting or allow the toy to air dry -- then reinsert the compartment when all moisture is gone.
If the inner compartment cannot be removed, you can spot-treat the dirt and stains on the teddy bear. Spray or dab on a cleaning solution (see Section 3 for options on what to use), allow the solution to sink in, then scrub gently. To remove the cleaner, dampen the area with water and then blot up the moisture. Dampen and blot three or four times to eliminate as much of the cleaning solution as possible.
Hard-bodied teddy bears are easier to clean in some ways and more difficult in others. The hard toy is easy to wipe clean when you're trying to remove a simple buildup of dirt. However, if there has been a spill or other mess that has gotten in between the toy's joints, or into the battery compartment, it may be more difficult to clean the mess. Soft-bodied toys can get a thorough cleaning in the washing machine because the water penetrates all areas, whereas you are limited just to the areas within reach when cleaning hard-bodied toys.
Wipe up messes as quickly as possible to prevent spills from running into unreachable joints and the battery compartment. Spray or dampen a cloth with your cleaning solution and rub gently to clean the toy. Never let any water or moisture get into the battery compartment, because the moisture can erode and rust the metal -- which renders the toy unsafe for kids.
There are a variety of products available to help get rid of dirt, stains and bacteria. However, always look into the chemical composition and safety guidelines before using any cleaner. The CDC recommends a fresh chlorine bleach solution for adequate disinfection when multiple children use the toy. The solution is made from 1 tbsp. bleach to 4 cups of water and applied to the toy with a cloth. After allowing the solution to work for 3 to 5 minutes, rinse it off with fresh water.
For a natural cleaning solution, consider a mixture of water and vinegar instead, recommends the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health. It's popular for household cleaning because it's effective at killing a significant amount of bacteria and germs. The high acidity level kills germs quickly, while leaving behind no traces of harsh chemicals. When you're just trying to clean off a little dirt or stain, dilute the vinegar in equal parts water. Apply the solution, allow it to sit for a minute or two and then rinse off. If you're cleaning up after a cold or flu, use undiluted vinegar and leave it for at least 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing.
Sometimes young children take a little time to outgrow an interest in putting everything in their mouths. If your youngster is a baby, toddler or preschooler, it's important to do a quick safety check of the toys on a regular basis. When you're cleaning the animated teddy bear, now is a good time to do one of those checks. Give any extruding parts on the teddy bear a firm tug to make sure all these parts are firmly attached. This includes features on the toy like the eyes, nose and tiny, puffy tail. Any loose parts pose potential choking hazards. "Young children are particularly at risk for choking [partly] because of their narrow airways," cautions Debra Holtzman, nationally recognized child safety and health expert, and author of The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety.
If you find any loose parts on a soft-bodied toy, you can secure the part by sewing it on tightly. Hard-bodied toys may be more difficult to repair and may need to be discarded. Since the toy is animated, it runs on batteries; it's important to make sure this area of the toy is safe as well. Make sure the batteries are in good condition and the screw or latch that keeps the batteries covered is firmly secured. Now, Teddy's ready for playtime again.