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Purrble is an excitable toy that wants to help kids manage anxiety, emotions

The interactive toy gets so excited that kids want to help it calm down, and learn how to do the same along the way.

Purrble Sproutel
The Purrble is a toy designed to help kids control their emotions and anxiety.

Growing up, I had a cat named Princess Rainbow, and a sweet Irish setter named Clancy. My brother and I got to take care of them both (or more likely, help my mom take care of them). By doing so, I learned how to take care of myself better, be more empathetic and regulate my ever-changing childhood emotions. That idea of helping kids learn how to cope with their emotions is what's behind the $50 interactive toy Purrble (which roughly converts to £67 and AU$70).

Purrble is made by the health and research company Sproutel. I first learned of the Rhode Island-based company when it teamed up with the insurance company Aflac to create the My Special Aflac Duck which is part toy, part robot and part medical device designed to help children facing cancer. My Special Aflac Duck was adorable, and unlike any other therapy device I had encountered.

Whereas My Special Aflac Duck was specifically aimed at children going through cancer treatment, Purrble is made to help children find calm during moments of stress, and learn to deal with their own emotions. Purrble has a haptic motor that gives the cuddly toy a heartbeat and sensors that react to touch. The way things work is when Purrble's heart races, kids can pet and comfort it until the heart rate returns to normal, and in the process, calm themselves.

Sproutel worked with the Committee for Children, a nonprofit specializing in social-emotional learning to develop Purrble. One inspiration behind the interactive toy was a fidget spinner. Designers at Sproutel wondered if they could make a fidget toy that would help kids calm down and teach them how to manage their own emotions over time.

Purrble Sproutel
Patrick Holland/CNET

Purrble looks kind of like a cross between a koala bear and the gopher from Caddyshack. It's about the size of a softball and is ridiculously soft. I'm pretty sure whatever material its furry coat is made of would make a very comfortable sweater. Purrble makes sounds that remind me of Gizmo from The Gremlins. When it's happy, Purrble will even coo and purr. And while the box says it's for ages 3 to 103 (sorry, all of you 104 year-olds out there), it really seems aimed at kids in kindergarten and elementary school.

Purrble was designed before COVID-19 hit and yet it is one tool many families have adopted during the pandemic to help their children feel less isolated and cope with the stress of having their routines upended. 

A research collaborator of Sproutel found that Purrble helped children ages 8 to 10 years old calm down in 19 out of 20 families who used the toy over a two-week period. Most recently Purrble was included in Time's best inventions of 2021.

Now playing: Watch this: Adorable 'My Special Aflac Duck' helps kids facing cancer

I got to try Purrble out and was immediately drawn to how cute and cuddly it was. I enjoyed how much more calm and focused I was after taking care of Purrble. The sometimes feisty noises it makes are adorable. And while a Purrble isn't an actual cat or dog, the little toy is always in the mood to be engaged and doesn't leave behind any messes. 

To learn more about Purrble, check out its website.