Is your kid smitten by their mommy’s gown trim? A plush toy? A soft and fluffy pillow?
Turns out, there’s a scientific reason as to why this happens, and it’s not at all complicated.
Comfort items are recognizable and distinguishable objects that provide children with a sense of familiarity and security. When a child is between the ages of one and three, they form strong attachments to certain objects and bring them almost everywhere.
If you’ve ever wondered why this is the case, read on to learn some insights on what makes these comfort items so soothing to young kids.
1. They Ease Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a response of negativity and resistance to the absence of someone or something. Contrary to popular belief, having separation anxiety (even with an inanimate object) isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s indicative of a healthy attachment style between the child and their parent.
In this attachment style, the child views their primary caretaker as the center of their universe—and this is only natural. After all, up to this point, the parents have been the ones providing for and supporting the child.
Separation anxiety signs such as crying, clinginess, and inability to sleep without mum or dad are normal during infancy. During toddlerhood, separation may lead to tantrums depending on the temperament and experiences of the child. However, over time and as the child becomes more independent, these moments of outbursts start to wane.
During these bouts of separation, a comfort item provides a sense of security due to its predictable nature. These objects promote the transition as the kid grows and matures by providing reassurance thanks to their familiar and soothing properties.
2. Provides Sense of Security
While comfort things appeal to both infants and toddlers, the items themselves vary. From blankets to plush toys, there’s a whole gamut of items that deliver the same sense of adoration and comfort in the hands of the right child.
Despite this high variance, there are common characteristics and patterns that these items possess—their soft and cozy nature. Many experts believe that soft items are especially ideal since they replicate the physical connection between the child and their mother.
As the child eventually discovers that their mother will not always be by their side, these items reinforce the feeling of protection and curb their anxiety. And on a subconscious level, these babies will seek out objects that have the same properties as their primary caretaker, soft and cozy.
3. Prepares Child For Independence
Comfort items are often called transitional objects and for good reason.
As the child becomes older, they’ll learn to rely less and less on their primary caregiver. Even if the child has the option of choosing between their mother and their comfort object for accompaniment, there will be times when the child selects the comfort item.
Unlike mothers, who fulfill an irreplaceable and irreversible duty, the child has complete control over the comfort item.
The child no longer sees the object as a one-dimensional object whose sole purpose is to keep them safe, but rather as an item over which they have control. A complete role reversal has been achieved, and during this phase, the kids may impose imaginary roles and designations of their comfort items.
Through this role reversal, the child reemerges empowered and independent, marking a turning point in their development.
4. Aid in Sleep and Naps
Infants require 12 to 16 hours of sleep every day, while toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of it. If they have trouble going to sleep without their mother by their bedside, a comfort item provides them (and indirectly, their parents) some much-needed shut-eye.
While we’ve established the psycho-developmental benefits to comfort items, these items also provide positive health benefits by aiding growing children to go to bed.
The reason for this can be traced to the child’s feelings of anxiety the moments before bedtime. It’s not uncommon for unruly children to act out, cry, or express fear when their mum isn’t by their bedside, and leaving them in that state isn’t always the optimal solution.
Instead, comfort items provide that replacement dose of security, giving that soothing and enveloping warmth that helps children sleep.
An individual’s earliest years are often the most important foundation of their growth and personality. As parents, keeping your child secure, healthy, and mentally resilient is one of the best investments you can make for them.
But as any busy parent would know, they can’t be by their children’s side 24/7. Comfort items provide a sense of comfort in their formative years, and can ultimately aid in their growth towards independence later on.