We all hear stories about the lengths parents have gone to get back a forgotten comfort blanket or toy; the purchasing of ‘backups’; the cleaning routines, and then the question arises – is allowing our children to indefinitely carry security blankets or teddy bears around with them harming their development?
That then gives way to even more questions: Is it healthy? How long is too long? Will they ever get over it? The good news is that parents with these fears don’t have to worry too much, with science showing that these objects are tools that children naturally gravitate toward.
In fact, research shows that a child’s security blanket or beloved teddy is actually a positive thing, and comes to the fore when a toddler begins to realise that their object of refuge (most often mum) is a separate entity from themselves. Psychoanalysts believe that children start to attach themselves to blankets, teddy bears, and other objects as the first attempt at forming relationships with things besides mum.
Penny Newell, the Nursery Manager at Bumble Bee Nursery (Sharjah) and Honey Bee Nursery (City Walk), explains: “Young children need these items to feel safe, give comfort, and provide emotional security. The blanket/teddy bear gives the child that feeling of warmth, almost like a portable reminder of the comfort and safety of home. These objects often also have a personal aroma and studies have shown that smell is strongly linked to emotional memory.”
“Attachments to specific items are known as ‘transitional objects’”, Monica Valrani, the CEO of Ladybird Nursery, adds. “It is challenging when a child has to separate for the first time, from their mother and engage in the outside world. These objects allow children to have some consistency and predictability in unknown situations.
Monica continues: “They begin to form attachments to such objects around six months to one year of age. Most children give up their attachments by the age of four to five years themselves, when they see their peers without any objects around them. Depending on your child’s personality it can be very beneficial to introduce a comfort object to provide a sense of security and stability to the child. Make sure it is small, replaceable, and easy to wash.”
Leanne Bell, the Nursery Manager at Jigsaw Nursery, chimes in: “The important factor here is to look at the role the object is filling for the child and, where the object may be problematic, replacing it with another source of comfort and continuity. Using the example of a child joining nursery, it is very common for the child to put the object away once they have developed a close bond with a carer or teacher.”
It is important to remember that a comfort object is a coping strategy for a child, and children, like adults, have a variety of coping strategies when dealing with unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. Most importantly, a child must feel loved, safe, and valued, and have secure attachments with their loved ones. If your child does not have a comfort object, they may not need one.