Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Comfort Objects - Toddlers and Security Blankets

Do you remember Linus from the famous Peanuts cartoon by Charles Shultz (the cartoon that introduced us to Snoopy)?  Linus was the kid always dragging around his security blanket and sucking his thumb to soothe himself to the constant disapproval of his older sister and grandmother.

It turns out that about 60% of toddlers use comfort or security objects, so the use of a comfort object is very common and normal.  In fact, many experts believe that a comfort object is a great asset for children and parents. Attachment to a comfort object or “lovie”, usually beginning around 8-12 months, represents a big leap in intellectual and emotional development for a child - they are learning to understand symbols and to "invent" something of their own – the comfort object becomes a symbol of love and comfort that is tangible.  Children who have learned to use comfort objects can find comfort anywhere and can take control of their own comfort. 

Most children choose an item with silky and nubby textures to provide sensory satisfaction.  Toddlers enjoy the tactile stimulation of a soft, fuzzy, or nubby items like stuffed animals, blankets, while many other toddlers enjoy silky textures.  Whatever the choice, it is not uncommon for toddlers to give their comfort objects names and talk to them, carry them around everywhere - much like a true friend. It can help them work through problems or challenges in their everyday life and self-soothe during a situation that they feel is stressful. And as any parent with a child attached to a comfort object will understand, when that object is lost, put in the wash, or left behind, it's like losing one's true friend and many times, it cannot be replaced.

Both of my boys used comfort objects to soothe themselves, in addition to thumb-sucking.  My oldest son liked to hold onto the corner of his terry cloth bib while sucking his thumb.  My youngest son developed a temporary attachment to a particular green stuffed animal, and I promptly ran out and bought extras just to have on hand.  However the stuffed animal phase didn't last long and he eventually settled on a security blanket after encouragement from me (easier to wash!).  In my business, I hear from many parents with children that are attached to security blankets, stuffed animals or even toddler pillows - they carry them everywhere they go. I've also heard stories about special comfort objects getting damaged, lost, or just plain worn out. Sometimes I can help parents replace with the same or similar fabrics.

However, once toddlers are growing up into preschoolers and school aged children, the question becomes what level of attachment is appropriate and how do you handle it? With my older son, my pediatrician and dentist agreed that the terry cloth bib was a trigger for thumb-sucking, and as my son approached age 4-5, we should start weaning him from the security object.  My son and I created a special box and decorated it as a place for the comfort object to “live” in his closet – he could visit if he really needed to but only for short periods.  After a few days it was pretty much “out of sight, out of mind”.  However if the comfort object is not a trigger for a behavior that you are trying to stop such as thumb sucking or pacifier use, rest assured that as your child matures, he/she will develop other ways to self-soothe and deal with stress.  As a parent, you can help teach your growing child alternate techniques for soothing such as listening to music, deep breathing, or exercise.  Also, as children approach school age, most will start to feel the social pressures from their peer group to change these attachments to comfort objects and will adapt to what is “socially acceptable” for their age group.  So don’t stress about attachments to comfort objects – these attachments are normal and helpful in many situations.

I hear from many longtime customers with children who have grown up with BobbleRoos products as comfort objects – from our toddler pillows to our baby or toddler blankets. Many of these kids continue to use our products as they get older - a toddler pillow can easily become a travel pillow, a baby blanket can be turned into a pillowcase, etc.  You can also turn fragments of blankets into pieces for a rag quilt or other keepsake.  Did you have a comfort object as a child?  What about your children today – do they use comfort objects, and if so, is it a blessing or a curse?  Please leave any comments with stories and/or tips for other parents, as well as creative ideas for re purposing comfort objects. Head on over to our Facebook page and leave comments there as well to win a $25 BobbleRoos Gift Certificate!
personalized satin security blanket
Personalized BobbleRoos Security Blanket "Bips"

satin security blanket
Personalized BobbleRoos Security Blanket "Bips"