How a comfort toy can help your child with their development

Previous studies have revealed that up to 70 percent of young children develop strong attachments to objects such as toys or blankets but they go beyond just providing comfort.

In fact, experts say a toy can actually help your baby with their development and can help them form healthy attachments as well as self-confidence.

How a comfort toy can help your child with their development

6 benefits of your child having a comfort toy

1. Comfort toys help kids adjust into independent adults

According to psychologist Dr. D.W. Winnicot in 1951: “Any material to which an infant attributes a special value and by means of which the child is able to make the necessary shift from the earliest oral relationship with mother to genuine object-relationships.”

He believed that comforters help children navigate feelings of separation, helping them to adjust from being with their mum to becoming an independent person.

How a comfort toy can help your child with their development

2. Comforters help your child build confidence

A recent study found that toys often help children with their confidence building. Researchers found that little ones that had an attachment item were “less shy and more focused than children without them”.

3. Toys help your child build good relationships with people

Children who have a deep bond with their toy often have deep friendships and relationships, experts say.

“Human development is not possible without self-referential contexts and meanings,” says Colleen Goddard in an article for Psychology Today.

“Meanings are founded on the distinctions each person makes of the stimuli he or she engages with — mainly the object(s) they receive, choose, or discover which have an internal life of their own.”

How a comfort toy can help your child with their development

4. Comforters help children sleep better through the night

Many studies have shown that kids who use a baby comforter are more likely to sleep through the night than those who do not have a comforter. 

5. Comforters help kids explore their surroundings

Security blankets or toys help children explore in a safe way. Soft toys will always also watch and listen as your child tries out new things without any judgement.

How a comfort toy can help your child with their development

6. Comfort toys help kids deal with their emotions

If a child loses their favourite toy they may go through a grieving process. To them it’s like actual loss and grief.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, AM, Director of The Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, and a Co-Research Group Leader at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, says children’s love for comfort objects is a side-effect of broader developmental needs.

“From when kids first become mobile and crawl, they rely absolutely on their parents setting boundaries for them…they need that predictability,” he tells the First Five Years.

“This predictability extends beyond people and spaces to their favourite toys, dolls and objects.

“They get used to the one thing. In the first instance it becomes a transitional object when they are separating from their parents, for example, when they are going to bed. But it very often becomes a companion: somebody to talk to, to go to sleep with, to eat with and so on.”

However, he says that if parents are worried that an older child is still attached to their favourite toy then they should find out if there is another kind of insecurity.

“You never see a man or woman taking a transitional object on their honeymoon do you? At some stage they are going to grow out of it,” he says.

“The age they stop using these objects varies according to the child, the family situation, the child’s temperament, experience. I’d hate to start setting ages and saying, ‘Beyond this it is abnormal’.

“For some kids the thought of separation from something at any time is so traumatic that by all means let them take it.”

Ultimately, the majority of kids will grow out of clinging onto their special object, although many may keep their sentimental object nearby in a memory box for decades.

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