Any parent from the dawn of humankind could probably tell stories about how their children formed attachments to certain objects— blankets and stuffed animals particularly. Called comfort toys and security blankets, these beloved items help child feel better after a fall, alleviate fear at a doctor’s office, and aid in falling asleep.
Psychologists have dubbed these dolls, animals and tattered blankets “transitional objects,” and have studied their impact on child development.
Really? Ask any parent and caregiver the importance of these special toys in their homes. How many of us have conducted quest-like searches to relocate a cherished item somehow misplaced? How many have brought along a couple of these to doctors’ appointments so the brave doll or animal could receive the shot before the child? Or on hospital stays, to remind the child of home?
Reading Perri Klass, MD’s recent article in the New York Times, about these studies, reminded me of the comfort objects my kids used and grandchildren now clutch close to their chests. Children who establish a relationship with a special toy or blanket—that they’ve selected—are better equipped to separate from home (and for some reason – the mother) and are able to form strong attachments. Sort of a push-me /pull-you effect regarding partings and reunions. And there’s no stigma if the child goes to college with a well-worn teddy bear. It’s part of development.
I can’t imagine telling a child to “leave the transitional object” in the bedroom. My eldest son became stuck on a soft doll given to him by one of my aunt’s. We weren’t that strict. This doll went on hikes and trips to the park, sat at the table and in the car seat. (Jacob and doll, circa 1988)
My grandchildren each have a couple of comfort toys that my children insist stay in the bedroom. My eldest grandson sleeps with a mommy and baby kangaroo and a little cow. When they travel, the mommy stays home to watch the house. My granddaughter has a soft doll and stuffed seal and my other grandson loves a Newfoundland dog, that does get to come out and play now and then.
Have your children formed attachments to certain toys? What are your “rules”? Share your stories!