Their faces haunt me. Their little glittery eyes. Their sewn-on mouths. Their expressions: innocent enough, until you swipe your thumb across the plush... and reveal the face of pure, bottomless evil.

The stuffies.

As a parent, you are forced into an uncomfortable familiarity with your child's stuffed animals . You are forced to get to know their personalities, their preferences and where they like to "sleep" at night. I had to learn, for example, the critical difference between the mostly-identical-to-the-naked-eye light gray kitty and striped gray kitty , and I was taught in no uncertain terms that Little Dog and Dog Dog were not just wholly separate entities but also specialized in completely different fields of stuffed dogness.

But more than just being able to tell the difference between your child's stuffed animals, there's also the exquisite torture of being forced to play with them .

True life: I have literally fallen asleep while playing stuffed animals with my daughter, it is so soul-piercingly boring.

Parents (and "fun uncles") will recognize the truth of this statement: One of the worst things you can do is to come up with a game your kid loves, or a joke that makes them happy, or a facial expression that makes them laugh. Because guess what? Now you're telling that joke, making that face or playing that game for the rest of time, until you die.

When my daughter was 3, I made the mistake of coming up with a (if I say so myself) pretty awesome way to play with stuffies: I adopted my best, most sonorous David Attenborough voice and narrated the wild coming-of-age trials and tribulations of my kid's stuffies. Kittens were hunted by wild raccoons until they, improbably, learned to make friends and banded together against their common enemy, a giant owl. Baby deer attempted to climb waterfalls with guidance from some fish. A bear adopted a piglet. Planet Earth had nothing on what was happening at our house.

Guess what. We played Planet Earth: Stuffies until it actually, literally put me to sleep mid-narration. David Attenborough would never.

But I didn't learn my lesson—I did it again when my daughter was 5, and every day when she came home from preschool we sat on her bed playing Harry Potter Stuffies, re-enacting Quidditch games with a kitten, a puppy and a stuffed baby dragon as Hermione, Ron and Harry. (Okay, actually, Harry Potter Stuffies was kind of fun. Until the thousandth time we played it, anyway.)

Research tells us that getting down on the floor with our kids and playing with them is one of the best ways to boost their cognitive and emotional development . While children benefit from independent, unstructured playtime , children also learn valuable social-emotional skills—like patience, empathy and sharing—from playing with their parents . Playing with your child promotes bonding and creativity . There are real health benefits for parents in playing with our kids, too.

So, file under "boring-but-necessary part of parenthood:" Playing stuffies is sweet, and it brings you closer to your child—until the repetition and the exquisite boredom put you to sleep. (I wish I had known some of these social-skills-boosting games to play with kids to mix up the David Attenborough routine a bit.)

And I admit, I do really like one of my daughter's stuffies. He is an unassuming, dorky-looking knitted bunny doll with a blue striped coat and absurdly long arms, legs and ears—really, he bears no resemblance to any actual bunny, anywhere. I just like the look of him.

Floppy Bunny doesn't always get picked for a Quidditch team when we play Harry Potter Stuffies . He doesn't always make it to the treetop with the other stuffies during Planet Earth: Stuffies . But sometimes I'll sneak Floppy Bunny into the mix, just to make sure he feels included. Because I guess I'm learning something from playing with stuffies, too.

More than just another teddy bear: Offbeat and adorable stuffies for imaginative play.

Otto narwhal knitted plush toy

narwhal plush toy

Made of organic knit cotton and beautiful attention to detail, this adorable and magical narwhal will provide hours of imaginative play for all.

Moo Moo the cow

cow plush

Mooove over, a new stuffie is in town! This little cow serves as nighttime companion and new favorite plaything for every farm animal loving kid.

Painted Pony soft toy

painted pony toy

This adorable pony stuffie comes with Mary Meyer's signature tags, which little ones absolutely love touching and playing with.

Putty sloft plush

sloth plush

Sloths are all the rage right now, and with this soft little buddy, you child will be sure to fall in love with them, too.

Lily Llama Plush

llama plush

Soft, snuggly and oh-so-fun, this llama plushie is as fun to play with as it is pretty to look at.

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