Why your kid needs that comfort object

Junior’s teddy bear isn’t just handy for lonely moments, it passes plenty of life skills to him.

Tots---Why-your-kid-needs-that-comfort-object-1

It sure is great to be a kid today. The variety of toys available at your tyke’s disposal is mind-blowing ― not only can he choose playthings in every shape, size and colour, he even pick from non-gender specific ones!

Better yet, many of these toys are also educational in nature. Not only do these entertain junior, he’ll hone his memory, motor and critical-thinking skills while he plays.

Kids learn about themselves and their world through play. But very often, the most beneficial toys are the simplest in nature. From the time he was a baby, you would have noticed your little one gravitates towards plush toys or toy figurines. This is because these playthings look like a version of your tyke, which makes it easier for your little one to relate to them.

“Comfort toys are also called transitional objects ― they provide psychological comfort, reassurance, familiarity and help children feel good,” notes Maguelonne Rousseau, a training consultant and parenting expert at Conscious Parenting, which organises regular parenting workshops and talks.

Noting that kids usually pick a comfort object between their first and second birthdays, which coincides with the development of separation anxiety, she adds, “The attachment to a comfort toy can last for many years, often until the age of 5, or even later. After which the children will get rid of it by themselves.”

“Up to 70 per cent of children develop a strong attachment to transitional objects. Despite what people think, it is not a sign of weakness or insecurity.”

Navigating first friendships

“Up to 70 per cent of children develop a strong attachment to transitional objects,” points out Rousseau. “Despite what people think, it is not a sign of weakness or insecurity.”

On the contrary, having a bosom buddy in the form of a plush toy is a strong sign of good parental attachment, says Rousseau. Kids use the transitional object for reassurance. It helps them remember mummy and daddy and the secure feeling they have when they’re with their parents.

As long as junior also plays with other toys, runs outside and socialises normally, you don’t need to worry if they bring their favourite toy everywhere. By the way, it’s also perfectly fine if your child doesn’t have a connection to a particular item. It’s not a sign of poor attachment or that he isn’t gaining independence.

Even if you think that junior is overly attached to his comfort toy, don’t force him to give it up, especially if you feel he’s not ready to do so. “The harm done might not be worth it,” Rousseau warns.

However, you can set limits on where he can take his toy. This is to ensure that he doesn’t risk losing his favourite “friend” and also spends time away, so as to forge real friendships with his peers.

Use easy-to-understand rules such as, “comfort toy stays at home, cannot go outside”, or “comfort toy stays in the car, cannot go to the restaurant”. Rousseau advsies, “Set the limits according to the child’s age and personality.”

Whenever you see him reaching for his lovey, distract junior by keeping his hands busy with crafts, puzzles or building blocks. Otherwise, your toddler has no reason to be stuck to his comfort object for an extended period. Here are four ways junior benefits from having a non-human “pal”...

Tots---Why-your-kid-needs-that-comfort-object-2

BENEFIT #1 They learn how to be independent and more confident
Now that your kewpie is more mobile, he might be ready to leave your side and explore the world around him. However, since the unknown can be rather daunting, a better way to venture out is with teddy by his side. The plush friend will not only encourage junior to play and sleep independently, he might also be more open to trying new stuff. Once he feeds his Elmo doll broccoli or brushes its teeth, he might be more inclined to try those tasks himself.

BENEFIT #2 They deal better with emotions
When no one is watching, kids often turn to their toys to share their feelings. After a bad day, it’s not uncommon to see your sweetie reach for his stuffed friend to vent his feelings. After all, his cuddly confidant will not ask any questions like mummy or daddy might, or judge. He’s just there as a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. As your little one expresses his innermost secrets and fears, teddy, in return, will give him all the warmth, security and cuddles he needs to feel better. In fact according to experts, just like real animals, cuddling a cute plush can help calm down a person. This benefits both the young and old.

BENEFIT #3 They develop their vocabulary
Your kiddo is in the midst of a major language explosion at this age. So, when she chit-chats with her cuddly chum, she’s practising the words she has picked up that day or week. She’s not shy to speak up either since teddy is such a great listener. She’ll be able to hear herself speak as well as repeat tough words over and over again, which helps her improve her pronunciation.

BENEFIT #4 They deal better with change
Whether it’s a change in routine, a new sibling’s arrival or a move to an unfamiliar environment, having trusty little teddy there will give junior the assurance he needs during such vulnerable times. You might even notice your tyke teaching his toy the new skills he’s trying to master himself, such as telling teddy it needs to be brave enough to sleep alone, or that the new baby needs more time with mummy now and that’s okay. Once he feels like he has taught his toy the new skills, junior will be more likely to practise them himself.

As your little one expresses his innermost secrets and fears, teddy, in return, will give him all the warmth, security and cuddles he needs to feel better

When to wean…

If, at some point, you feel your child might be ready to give up his comfort object, you can take steps to detach him from the toy in a respectful manner. But first, Rousseau wants you to ask yourself why you want to wean junior of his comfort toy, and how you think he or she ― and you ― will benefit from this move. “The answers can help decide if this is the right decision at the right moment,” she explains.

You can use different methods for different age groups in the “weaning” process. For instance, you gradually remove the item, such as you taking the toy away for an hour or two every day, then slowly increasing the amount of time you have possession of it, until eventually, you take it from junior away permanently.

Rousseau offers another tip that can work for kids who are 4 or 5 years old. “Ask them to give their favourite toy to Santa during Christmas, so that it can be given to another child in need of it,” she suggests. She notes, however, that this can only work if your child understands the meaning of Christmas.

Whatever approach you use, always communicate your plan with your child weeks, if not months, in advance, so that they will be adequately prepared. You should also get set for a possibly difficult period as your mini-me might need emotional and physical support after the toy has been removed.

Since it can be an emotional ordeal for the little ones, make sure the timing is appropriate. Don’t do it right before a big event, such as the start of preschool, when moving house, going on a holiday, or the arrival of a sibling. These are times when junior will look for the comfort only his special toy can provide.

Photos: iStock

Like us on Facebook and check SmartParents regularly for the latest reads!

In case you missed these…

How to treat your child’s wounds at home [Infographic]

11 awesome places where junior can ride his scooter in Singapore [Photo Gallery]

MUM SAYS Potty-training dilemmas I didn’t see coming