Watch out, kids — co-eds are hunting for your Squishmallows.

By Kris Dreessen

From Cabbage Patch Kids in the 1980s to Beanie Babies in the ’90s and Webkinz in the 2010s, each generation has seen a craze of collectible toys. Soft, huggable plushies have been a fan favorite for years — not just with the kids they’re targeted toward, but young adults, too. Their newest obsession: Squishmallows.

Squishmallows come in a variety of characters, ranging from fruits and vegetables to unicorns and rainbow cats, each one with a unique personality. And face. Squishmallows don’t have bodies.

The plushies went viral on TikTok in late 2020 as fans began “Squishmallow hunting” to find rare or specific characters. The hashtag #squishmallowhunting has more than 200 million views on TikTok, with hundreds of videos of people traveling to different stores in search of the perfect plush. In one video, TikTok user @witchyem0 shows a cartful of Squishmallows at Five Below, revealing that they spent $100 on Squishmallows alone. 

On the Geneseo campus, students who collect their favorite Squishmallows display them on their beds, use them as pillows, and convince friends to buy their own.

“Every time I see a new one, I have to fight the urge to buy it,” says Megan Jankowiak ’21. “It’s like you’re hugging a cloud.”

Jankowiak bought her first Squishmallow at Five Below and was hooked. She couldn’t believe how soft and comfortable it was; she needed another. A few weeks later, her mom surprised her with a mailed gift — a giant avocado named Austin.

Much like Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch Kids, each Squishmallow has a name and a backstory. Some Squishmallows play basketball or aspire to perform on Broadway. And Austin the Avocado? He dreams of going to space.

“One of my favorites is named Teresa and they use they/them pronouns,” says Tessa Hensler ’22. Hensler also uses they/them pronouns and likes that there are Squishmallows they can relate to. “I love that I have a toy that’s special to me and fights the traditional cisgender binary norms,” says Hensler.

Squishmallows make great stress relievers, too, say Hensler and Jankowiak. They are great to hug when life gets hectic.

“It’s just like having an emotional support animal,” says Hensler.