Aaaaw… what a cute giraffe. And guess what? This cute giraffe is the Number 1 bestselling baby product on Amazon! Who would have thought?
I stumbled on that statistic a few months ago and was intrigued – I have three children and I’d never seen or heard of this toy before. Then we went back to Ireland to catch up with a bunch of friends who are deep in the early baby stage. It was pretty surreal – no less than 5 of those babies were munching on this same giraffe!
So in an effort to get to the bottom of the Sophie conundrum, I grilled these same parents on the subject, Googled the hell out of it and trawled through the hundreds of reviews on Amazon. So what’s Sophie’s story?
Well she’s a teether i.e. a toy that teething babies use to chew on, about 7 inches high and made of natural rubber. She was first made in Paris over 50 years ago and is now produced in the French Alps. The story is told here in this short viedo:
A viral toy
Sophie the Giraffe seems to be a genuine example of a simple children’s toy going “viral” long before the term was invented and without the help of advertising or promotion. Parents see another baby chewing on one, fall in love and have to get one for their own baby. I have to admit when I saw those 5 newborns clinging to their Sophies I felt bizarrely guilty, like I had denied my little ones this obvious rite of passage.
Because apparently Sophie is “irresistible” to babies. Literally, that is the word I found parents most often used to describe the attraction this giraffe holds for their babies.
Most of them had gotten a Sophie after seeing other babies with it. One friend who is a total francophile got hers because “everyone in France has them”. Another friend admitted she had found hers at a play group and meant to give it back to the mother, but her baby had loved it so much she let him keep it.
Here’s a quote from a parent on Delicious baby.com that sums up the main feeling out there:
“I bought our first Sophie on a whim on E’s first trip to Paris. We had heard that Sophie is the most popular baby toy in France, and even though it looked simple I thought I would give it a try. It turns out that there is something magical about Sophie for babies of the “put-everything-in-the-mouth” age. E could sit through entire meals happily exploring Sophie, and when he got tired of putting it in his mouth we would squeeze it to make it squeak or have it pop out from behind a chair.”
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I sat down with my friend Miriam to find out what she and her one year old daughter Mia make of Sophie
Grainne: Where did you get Sophie?
Miriam: I got it from my Mum. I knew she had it before Mia was born so I asked her for it as Mia was mad into chewing.
How does Mia feel about it?
While she was going through the “chew on everything” phase from about four months old she loved it! Now she’s a year old and her front teeth are down she doesn’t have too much interest in it. It might come back on the scene as a toy so we’ll wait and see. It’s still lying around the floor…
Are there other toys she feels similarly about?
She has no attachment to any toy or anything in particular, so yes, Sophie gets the same treatment as everything else.
Is the squeak annoying?
It’s not too bad. We discovered that the squeak disappeared when I sterilised it (by mistake, the instructions were quite clear not to), but she also lost her bounce, so it wasn’t worth losing the squeak.
What do you make of Sophie?
I think she’s great! Especially because she’s made of natural rubber, it’s worth paying the extra for this. There are too many plastic toys to bear thinking about, so having a classic, natural toy that is useful is brilliant.
Would you get this as a present for a new baby?
Definitely. Every baby should have a Sophie in their life!
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READ another mom review of Sophie the Giraffe
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But specifically, what is it about this unassuming rubber toy that has parents as well as their babies drooling all over it?
Babies love Sophie because…
She’s soft. She is made from natural rubber and is really pleasantly soft compared to standard plastic toys.
Has a cute squeaker.
Is easy to hold. So babies can grab on to her from a young age and there are lots of nice knobbly bits to bite on – great for teething.
Parents love Sophie because…
She’s eco friendly. Sophie is made of completely natural rubber from the sap of the hevea tree and the paint used is odour and chemical free.
Retro. She’s been around for over 50 years and her look hasn’t changed one iota so she’s got serious design kudos. Plus lots of parents had this same toy themselves so there’s a big nostalgia for their own childhoods thing going on.
Not annoying. Sophie’s squeaker is just one decibel below grating.
Stimulates all the senses.
Gender neutral. You can get this ahead of time for your baby or it makes a great gift for an expectant friend, handy to have in the present drawer.
Five fun facts about Sophie the Giraffe
1. She made her Hollywood debut a long time ago, appearing in the 1987 movie Three Men and a Baby.
2. In France, Sophie la Girafe has reached national icon status with more sold each year (816,000 in 2010) than babies are born (796,000).
3. There’s even a web page set up of celebrity babies who love Sophie the Giraffe.
4. In 2009, Sophie was recognized as Product of the Year by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association.
5. Sophie was named after Saint Madeline Sophie Barat, on whose feast day she was launched on 25th May 1961.