Security Blankets & Comfort Toys: Not only for Babies

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 w doll(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.

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Have your children formed attachments to certain toys? What are your “rules”? Share your stories!

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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24 Responses to Security Blankets & Comfort Toys: Not only for Babies

  1. karen r-w says:

    Our son’s stuffed dog gets to play in the living room and sleep in the bedroom but does not get to do anything that would require being washed such as leaving the house or eating at the table (he likes to “feed” the dog given the chance and yogurt is not fun to get out of fur….). We found it to be a good balance so that he doesn’t become dependent on the dog but get’s a little bit of extra “protection” when it gets dark and scary at night. Really funny that your granddaughter sleeps with a shark!

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  2. Gwen says:

    My 12-year-old still cuddles with her tatty stuffed kitty and thread-bare blankie every night. I love that she still has this attachment to her beloved childhood relics. And I figure, what’s the harm in it?

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  3. Yes. They are so much more than “transitional objects,” In fact, we’re trying to figure out a way to surprise Laura by bringing Duckie (who is quite large and quite worn) to her wedding.

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  4. Each of my kids had transitional objects… some of which I still have, tucked away in a closet. I still have an extra stuffed buffalo, just in case Little Man looses the one he loved. Probably don’t need that anymore! Our kids do things their way, and carve out their own parenting styles or lives. Even if you wouldn’t have had your kids leave their lovie at home, your kids have probably thought hard about what to do with the grandkids. All of our children turned out ok, and it looks like your grandkids will be great too. 🙂

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  5. My son dragged a Wiley Coyote with him after our flood when he was 6 years old and was hard pressed to give it up!

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  6. My son sleeps with his crazy striped pillow every night. He’s 10 now. It has “hair” on one end, eyes, and used to have a button as a nose. When we travel, it comes with us. But most of the time it’s in his bed. Otherwise, he wraps himself up in one of our sofa throw blankets, every day. These blankets get dragged all over the house every single day. I don’t have any rules about these things, just to keep them washed up every once in a while.

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  7. adeena says:

    Said granddaughter’s animal is actually a seal. It comes with a mommy, too, she’s just not big enough to sleep with it yet.

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  8. OmaOrBubby says:

    Great topic! I once wrote an article about security blankets of my children and grandkids….and I concluded that as adults in the 21st century – our security blankets are our cell phones!!!! haha.

    But seriously, I agree with your premise that for healthy development, a “blankie” or “blah blah” or “fayfee” as my kids called their (tattered and torn!) blankets is a part of growing up! Same with the bunny rabbit or other stuffed animal

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    • Agree! And while I guess it’s ok for kids to take these things to college (mine didn’t thankfully).. I don’t like seeing kids older than 2 with pacifiers.

      On Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 6:35 PM, cyclingrandma

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  9. when I was 4 I wanted a pink and white teddy bear for christmas. My mom said she couldn’t afford it but when I opened my presents that year there it was! I named him Freddy the Teddy and I slept with him every night until I was 16. I gave him so some kids down the street who didn’t have much of anything. I told them that Freddy had kept me safe and although it was hard to let him go I thought you could be their friend. Later when I walked by their house I saw Freddy torn in pieces all over their front yard! 😦

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  10. Allegra Hoots says:

    When my18-year-old son was little, his favorite comfort item was a stuffed hippo. He loved that thing. He slept with it, sat it at the table at mealtimes, and played with it. In fact, it was his constant (in house) companion. Recently, as my son and I were sorting through unpacked boxes he came across Hippo. I was surprised to see Hippo and just as surprised that my son remembered the toy. The tone of my son’s voice as he said: “Look, here is Hippo” and the gentle way he held Hippo let me know that he also remembered the special place Hippo once held in his life.

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  11. Randy Jackson says:

    My 30 year old son’s favorite stuffed animal was a 6″ long Randi the reindeer. Small enough to be miss placed. I fondly remember a short trip in town delayed for about 30 minutes looking for Randi the reindeer. Some how it was dad’s fault he was missing in action. We couldn’t leave the house until the reindeer was found. After finding the stuffed animal, I sat my son down and explained the importance of knowing where his reindeer could be found at all times. Some how, his current perch is atop my dresser.

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