Squishmallows, the line of soft, cuddly and — as their name suggests — squishy plush toys, have exploded in popularity in recent years, especially during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, Jazwares, the parent company of Kellytoy and creator of Squishmallows, said they sold over 73 million of these cuddly creatures in March, about a year after they hit their 50 million milestone.
These irresistibly cute plush toys proved to be popular among all age groups, with everyone from small children to college students and even parents eager to collect them. But why now? What exactly about these toys made them so sought-after all of a sudden? The answer lies in the circumstances in which Squishmallows rose in demand.
Companionship in a Lonely Time
It’s hard to deny that we all didn’t experience at least a little bit of loneliness since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially through all the calls to quarantine, social distancing regulations and mask mandates. Despite our best efforts to find alternative ways to connect via Zoom, FaceTime, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other forms of social media, many of us can’t help but feel somewhat disconnected during these trying times.
That’s when Squishmallows came into the picture. They’ve become huggable companions for the touch-starved and provide a sense of community in a time when people are more divided, both physically and mentally, than ever before. Their fuzzy, pliable feeling makes them the perfect cuddle buddy and allows them to double as a pillow as well.
Additionally, Squishmallows come in a variety of sizes. Some can fit in the palm of your hand; others are as large as 2 feet tall. The versatility of these fluffy companions grants consumers a plush that provides the perfect amount of squish to cuddle factor.
Thus, Squishmallows serve as the perfect remedy — even only a temporary one — for the stress that the pandemic brought upon the world: loss of loved ones, fear of catching the virus, anxiety in conforming to new rules, issues with finding or maintaining jobs, difficulty focusing on work or school and strained relationships. Through all of this, many have found a sliver of comfort in their Squishmallows’ cute, cuddly faces, perhaps because they are reminiscent of childhood hope and joy.
If you’ve scrolled through TikTok or Instagram recently, chances are you’ve come across a member of the “Squishmallows Squad,” a term for fans and collectors of Squishmallows. These people often own dozens or even hundreds of the plushies. On social media, they showcase piles of the toy, which ranges in size, color and design. Some collectors place their collections on their beds, while others organize them on shelves or hammocks. Hardcore collectors with hundreds of Squishmallows may even dedicate a separate room for their immense collection.
However, you don’t necessarily need to own tons of Squishmallows to join the Squishmallows Squad; anyone can take part in the trend with just one or two plushes. This knowledge, along with the toy’s affordable cost, which ranges from around $5 to $50 — although rare ones may sell for hundreds of dollars — may be part of the reason behind the plush line’s popularity.
Such a strong sense of community is especially valuable during the current pandemic, where people may be struggling emotionally, mentally or financially. The toys are readily accessible on the official Squishmallows website and from resellers. They can also be found in numerous retail stores like Walmart, Target, Claire’s, Walgreens and Five Below. Their availability adds to the inclusivity factor, while their collectability fosters community among Squishmallows fans.
Fans may also trade plushies, hunt for rare ones together or even work to build Squishmallows “squads,” or groups of Squishmallows that share traits with one another. Creating groups like the fruit squad, the fantasy squad and the Halloween squad pushes consumers to want to own a complete set or at least search for all members of a specific squad.
Kellytoy even offers patterns with other well-known brands like Disney and Sanrio to provide plushies of popular and beloved characters like Hello Kitty and Baby Yoda. With over a thousand characters to choose from, consumers can never get bored of collecting them all.
Squishmallows Are More Than Just a Toy
Each Squishmallows comes with a tag that shares the creature’s name and personality, similar to that of a Beanie Baby. This feature makes Squishmallows all the more personable, as people can relate to and empathize with their fuzzy friends.
In a series of TikTok videos that racked up over 2 million views, user @_peepeegirl_ shares that Stacy is a shy, book-loving lavender squid who has social anxiety, as described on her tag. The TikTok user discusses her dilemma of where to place Stacy, as she normally kept all her Squishmallows in a corner of her bedroom. However, fans were relieved to find out that Stacy’s new home is her owner’s bookshelf; there, Stacy the squid can hang out with her new shark Squishmallows friend and enjoy reading lots of books.
@_peepeegirl’s adorable story demonstrates exactly how Squishmallows can become companions that their owners truly care about. The cute plush toy can foster community among collectors, content creators and fans alike.
While some may find Squishmallows’ sudden popularity childish, annoying, obsessive or pointless, the line of soft and cozy toys clearly benefits many. One may argue that although collections of hundreds of plushies may be excessive, the trend is ultimately harmless. In an age when most people stare at their TV or phone screens, it’s refreshing to see people interested in a more tangible and interactive pastime. From consoling companions in need of a hug to helping people meet new friends virtually, these squishy creatures act as a beacon of hope during a time of loss, struggle and despair.