The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.
Do you have a collection of Squishmallows? I’m guilty — my set is small, but growing. I successfully denied myself the Funko Pop trend and I only buy a couple (OK, maybe four) Lego sets a year, but I just can’t resist these adorable plushes, especially when I’m traveling and see them at a gas station, or when I happen to be at Five Below and I have a sweet 17-year-old girl with me who really, really wants one.
I have also been known to fall under their spell at comic book conventions, and to grab the ones in blind bags or mystery boxes off grocery store shelves just because I can’t tell which character/food item/animal is in there. Don’t you want to know which one it is, too? Yes, I’ve fallen for the hype. But they’re so cute!
Check out the San Diego Comic-Con exclusives, which were being sold earlier this month and are seen here on Twitter:
— Squishmallows (@squishmallows) July 11, 2023
It turns out, though, that I’m just one of thousands of fans — and I’m in the good company of many adults just like me.
The Squishmallows Craze, In a Nutshell
First designed by Sunny Cho from Kellytoy and released in 2017, the first Squishmallows were hard to get, but a larger company called Jazwares acquired the company in 2019 and was able to increase production. They blew up during the COVID-19 pandemic and became a viral TikTok sensation, with 73 million toys sold by March 2021 (the last number made public that year had Squashmallow sales at 100 million).
“Even though the craze was coming before the pandemic, it certainly hit a fever pitch in the past year, and this craving for comfort is a big part of it,” Kelly Deen, senior vice president of marketing at Jazwares, the parent company of Kellytoy, told The New York Times that year.
So what’s the appeal, exactly?
“There’s a real comfort in squishing them,” toy expert and consultant Chris Byrne said to The Washington Post, noting that parents told him that the toys calmed their children during an anxious, unprecedented time.
It doesn’t hurt that the toys are reasonably priced. They come in sizes that range from 2 inches to 24 inches, and you can get them for under $5 (the 3.5-inch) or $34.99 for the 24-inch ones (although some older Squishmallows are commanding premium prices on eBay and elsewhere).
Squishmallows has also teamed with franchises like “Star Wars,” Sonic the Hedgehog, Hello Kitty and Pokemon for limited edition toys, as seen below.
— Squishmallows (@squishmallows) March 30, 2023
By Christmas 2022, Squishmallows had become the most popular toy in 41% of U.S. states, according to blogger and toy expert Hassan Alnassir at Premium Joy. It had also won The Toy Foundation’s Toy of the Year Award and its People’s Choice award, along with a number of other accolades.
“On top of the joy a toy can offer, Squishmallows is a powerful example of the emotional benefits children and adults can gain through play,” Pamela Mastrota, executive director of The Toy Foundation, explained about the win. “Whether you are 8 years old or 80 years old, everyone can benefit from a cuddly hug from a Squishmallow these days.”
But the biggest indicator that Squishmallows were becoming a force to be reckoned with was Jazwares’ acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s holding company. In 2022, it bought out Alleghany Corp, the insurance-based parent company of Jazwares.
Adults Are Driving the Squishmallows Market
Although you might think these friendly-looking plushes are perfect for the child in your life — and Forbes reports that Gen Z is driving a lot of the demand — adults also get addicted to Squishmallows.
It turns out I (and many other parents) are also part of a related trend — “kidulting.” A 2021 Toy Association survey of parents found that 58% of parents who’d bought toys had done so for themselves. Meanwhile, The NDP Group reports that people over the age of 12 buying toys helped toy sales grow 37% during the first two years of the pandemic.
“The idea of having something that was nurturing, cozy, cuddly, it was affordable and accessible. Instant gratification,” Jazwares president Laura Zebersky told CNBC. “We really touch on all walks and areas. So it’s been really interesting to see that it’s not just kids, it’s adults. Our demographic is very wide and broad and it’s very unusual in our business to have that.”
Even celebrities got in on the act, with Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga posting images of the plushes (Lady Gaga even called them her “real friends.”) Some notable people were blasted for sharing their Squishmallows on social media, though, since doing so might artificially drive up demand a la the Beanie Baby bubble back in the ’90s.
Nick, a 27-year-old man from Bel-Air, Maryland, who owns 400 Squishmallows and says he’s probably spent $2,000 on them, calls his love of the toys an addiction.
“It’s similar to the feeling of winning at a slot machine,” he told The 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.”
In this Twitter thread, 24-year-old Athena Scalzi claims she moved half her collection into her local church because she was running out of room at her home. She knows all their names, too.
— Athena Scalzi (@AScalzi98) January 3, 2023
Of course, there are Squishmallows communities out there (check for your local Facebook group) with thousands of members, so if you’re one of the “kidults” who are ready to stimulate the economy Squishmallow-style, you may wish to join up. It doesn’t look like the hype around them is ending anytime soon — especially with those McDonald’s Happy Meals featuring 24 Squishmallows to collect on the horizon.
Ready to Get One of Your Own?
Whether you’re an adult or a child, you might appreiate the inexpensive cuddliness of a Squishmallow. Here are a few you might like.
One of the reasons Squishmallows are so appealing is that they don’t just come in animal form — they’re also foods. This one, a 14-inch Janna the Strawberry Jam plush, is $19.99 at Target.
Here’s another 14-inch, Dottie the Pink and Blue Tie-Dye Sea Slug, and she’s available at Amazon for 19.99.
Squishmallows is dropping a Harry Potter line! You can preorder now to get plushes like this 10-inch Hufflepuff Badger when it’s released on Oct. 15.
Of course, the small ones are great too, and you can fit more of them in your workbag. I’ve never done that, I swear. Here’s a Mystery Box of 5-inch Squishmallows from Walmart for $39.95. You don’t know what you’ll get, but that’s all part of the fun.