Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Both my sons have had a cuddly teddy bear that they hold on to for comfort. My 7 year old still uses his, but it has become more of a comforter when he goes to bed these days. Woe betide the day we’re unable to find his little stuffed toy, there are usually repercussions. He would utterly refuse to go to bed and throw tantrums if we're not able to find it. My wife and I once spent hours looking for the thing, until we eventually realised his brother had hidden it away to play a prank on him. He put on a really good performance too, making us believe he had nothing to do with it, until we found him, laying on his bed, sniggering at his little brother's distress as a result of his crime. While I didn’t want to see my youngest in such anguish, I must admit I thought it was endearing. It reminded me of the very pranks I used to play on my sisters and I remember the sheer delight it was for me to see them sob over their fluffy objects of affection when I had done something mildly offensive to their beloved little toy. We’d often reminisce about those times and laugh about the antics we played on each other back then, great memories!
"If you are concerned about your child going to daycare without a toy, there are things that you can do to help. We’ve been through the process, twice and we will get to those"
Children often get attached to a toy, blanket, or object, and it is not easy letting go. As parents, we may not want to force them to give up something that they love, but we know that they cannot carry it with them forever and hold on to it constantly. However, there is no reason for them to always get rid of it completely in my view. If you are concerned about your child going to daycare without a toy, there are things that you can do to help. We’ve been through the process, twice and we will get to those, but first, let’s talk a little about what the toy represents.
Babies and children are learning security. When their environment at school, nursery, or home changes, it can be difficult for them to adapt and they need consistency. When mom or dad may be working, they often need to know that something is still there from home. A favourite toy can represent the constant they need in their life. If the toy is cuddly, it is much easier to sleep with it in the bed. Children will often become attached to stuffed toys and blankets for this reason. If your child is going through a challenging time, it might be best not to force them to get rid of the toy. You will want to help them change their behaviours so that they do not need it as much, and removing the toy completely may feel traumatic for your child.
Coping without the Toy
Children are sometimes thrust into situations where bringing a cuddly toy is not permitted and group activities may make having a toy impossible. For this reason, you will need to help your child to be able to cope without it. We took a very gradual approach to help them let go.
How To Prepare Your Child
If your son or daughter is starting school, waiting until the night before nursery to let them know that they cannot take their bear is not going to go well. They will probably not want to go to school, and they will be resentful of your bombshell, to say the least. Let your child know that they will not be able to take it to school a few weeks early.
"we used to say things like, “you are doing so well, look at how grown-up you are” and that would help to boost his confidence."
Help your child spend less and less time with the cuddly toy. Practice taking short runs to the store, a friend’s house, or another location without the item. If they already do these things, remind them that they are already on track to being able to spend time at school without their cuddly friend. We made a huge fuss of this and we used to say things like, “you are doing so well, look at how grown-up you are” and that would help to boost his confidence.
When children are doing well, reward them. If your child is trying to spend more time without their security object, let them know that you notice. Often, they need a security item to feel confident. Rewarding their initiative and attempt will help them build confidence for themselves. Let them know that they are strong enough to spend the day without their object. Oreos works a treat!
Let your child take the toy in the car with you, but require that the item stays in the car. He or she can even buckle the toy into the car seat when getting out so that it will be safe. Your child does not have to stop having a comfort toy just because they are growing up. We often have comfort items as adults. Do you have a favourite cup, pen, or pair of shoes? It is often hard to get rid of these things, especially those we may have had for years. Children are feeling the same way. Let them keep the thing they love, but help them develop a healthy relationship with it.
Let Them Decide
If giving up the object is especially hard, let peer pressure take over, but don't force them. Many children will realise that other kids do not have blankets, cuddly toys, or other security items. They will sometimes make the decision to stop using a security item if they feel like a “baby” for having one. You can help them to cope with the change and talk about better coping strategies now that they are older.
Change Where It Lives
Let your child find a “home” for the item. It can still be in your home, but they will decide the thing lives in that spot and does not travel. This way, they can keep the toy and give it cuddle when they need to, but they will not be carrying it with them. By letting your child give the toy a home, he or she will feel more in control of the item and always know where it is.
Children will almost always outgrow cuddly toys on their own. They sometimes want to keep the thing for sentimental reasons.
Your child will not carry around their security item forever. Most of us have sentimental items and we form healthy attachments, so helping your child learn practical coping skills is essential. It's important to help your child to be independent, but taking away a security item is not always necessary. One exception to this would be bottles or pacifiers, as those have health and dental concerns attached. Let them snuggle a little with their toy. It’s okay.
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