Loveys: Blankies, bears, and other comfort objects for kids

Loveys: Blankies, bears, and other comfort objects for kids

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What is a lovey?

Many children become attached to a blanket, a teddy bear, or some other "lovey" that they use for comfort at bedtime and in other situations when they need soothing.

The psychological term for this is "transitional object." Why? Because as babies begin to make the journey from wholly dependent newborn to independent human being, a lovey can help with the transition.

About half of kids develop an attachment to some sort of lovey (also called a "comfort object"). Those who do usually gravitate to a lovey around age 8 to 12 months. Some start wanting one as early as 6 months.

Why children love loveys

A lovey feels, smells, and looks familiar. It's a portable reminder of the comfort and security of home and parents that enables many children to feel more confident as they venture into the world outside their parents' arms.

A lovey is also usually soft and cuddly, whether it's a well-worn stuffed dog, a classic "security" blanket, or a silky pillow. Holding it just feels good.

Why parents love loveys

A lovey can also be useful for you.

That beloved stuffed bear or blankie can help your little one calm herself down. And at times of stress or transition – like starting preschool, moving from a crib to a big kid bed, or traveling to a new place – a lovey is something your child can take along for support.

To reduce the risk of SIDS, don’t let your baby sleep with stuffed animals or blankets before age 12 months.

Strange loveys

Kids can develop a deep attachment to objects that aren't typically thought of as loveys. Here are just a few of the many unexpected loveys noted by our site parents:

  • The remote control
  • An Elmo bath sponge
  • A building block
  • Mom's silky nightgown
  • A rubber ducky
  • Soft satin tags on clothing
  • A vacuum cleaner attachment
  • A combination lock
  • A ratty braided rug
  • A toy pickup truck
  • The dog's ear
  • A hairbrush

In general, any comfort object that your little one picks is fine. Just make sure it doesn't have small, detachable parts that pose a choking hazard.

When do children give up their lovey?

If your child has a lovey, his attachment to it is likely to peak at around 18 to 24 months of age and then gradually become less intense. This is partly due to social pressure.

Once children become more socially aware – when they start preschool or kindergarten, for example – they learn that most kids don't carry a blanket or soft toy with them all the time, and at some point they'll decide to give it up. This is fine if it happens, but there's no need to make your toddler or preschooler give up his lovey before he's ready.

Still, you might want to teach your child to leave his lovey at home in certain situations. If you're heading for an environment that isn't new and scary, and if you'll be there with him and be able to provide the necessary comfort, you can suggest leaving the lovey at home. Your child may throw a bit of a fit or show some hesitation, but most kids eventually rise to the occasion if they know that Mommy or Daddy is there.

Can a child be too attached to a lovey?

For the most part, there's no such thing as a young child being too fond of a lovey. And there's nothing wrong with your child still having a lovey around as she grows up, as long as she isn't dependent on it.

Many children, and even adults, keep their lovey as a memory of when they were little. If your kid brings her lovey to college, she won't be the first or the last person to do so. But the intense attachment to it and use of it as a comfort object should have faded away by the time she starts grade school.

There are some exceptions, though. If an older child or adolescent still clings to a lovey in stressful circumstances and isn't able to calm down without one, it could be a sign of a personality disorder. This has nothing to do with being introduced to a lovey as a baby – it's the way the child's brain is wired.

By the same token, if your child takes an object like a car or a toy train everywhere and is obsessed with doing one particular thing with it over and over, it could be an early sign of autism. A general rule is that if your kid has a lovey up against her face and a thumb in her mouth but is still interacting with you, there's nothing to worry about. A lovey should encourage, not take away from interactions with other people.

If you have any concerns about your child's attachment to a lovey, talk to her doctor.

Is it okay not to have a lovey?

It's definitely normal for children not to get attached to a lovey. (There are no hard numbers on this, but Los Angeles pediatrician Matthew Fradkin estimates that about half of kids do have a lovey and half don't.)

Children who don't have a physical lovey may find other ways to self-soothe, such as sucking their thumb, twirling their hair, or staring at a special spot on the wall.

Lovey hacks, tips, and tricks

If a lovey plays a big role in your little one's life, it's a good idea to prepare for times when the lovey might be unavailable, such as when it needs washing or (horrors!) gets lost.

Most children seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to their lovey and can detect a fake or replacement immediately. With this in mind, experienced parents recommend putting several identical loveys into rotation from the start. You could cut a security blanket into several pieces, for example, or buy more than one of the same lovey.

It's also smart, if you can, to introduce your child's to a washable lovey: You'll be glad you did. Don't wash the lovey too often, though. Lovey-care is a delicate balance between hygiene and preserving the special smell and texture your child finds so appealing.

How to teach your child to have a lovey

Generally, kids who want or need a lovey gravitate naturally to one on their own.

You can encourage a developing attachment by taking a potential lovey with you to new scary places, such as the doctor or a visit with someone your little one hasn't met before. In theory, at least, your child will start associating the lovey with you because you are there, and then use the lovey for comfort when you're not there.

If your child doesn't seem interested in a lovey, don't force it. Some children are very good at comforting themselves in other ways.

Kids who alternate between various loveys may associate different loveys with different situations: one to bring to the park and another for bedtime, for instance. The number of loveys usually dwindles to one or two, eventually.

It's also likely that your child will find different ways to self-soothe in different phases of life. A child turning to a comfort object isn't so different from what we do as adults when we take out our cell phones if we're bored or feel socially awkward.

Watch the video: baby comfort blanket awwwww cute (November 2022).

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