Comfort objects, transitional objects, or security blankets are all items utilized in order to provide psychological comfort, at bedtime or any cases where children are put in unusual or unique situations. A blanket, a stuffed animal, or a favorite plush toy may be the forms of these comfort objects among toddlers and young children. They are even given nicknames by children. It is indeed a known fact these toys give a sense of comfort to children. However, other than that, playing with plush toys and dolls can help young children explore and express their feelings and emotions more easily and better. It also aids them in their psychological, cognitive, and social development because they are able to express emotions and thoughts while playing with plush toys that they might not be able to convey using words. Children can also master people skills and improve their vocabulary.
Psychology Behind Plush Toys
Transitional object is the usual term used in Psychology for blankets, stuffed animals, or plush toys. In human childhood development, transitional objects are frequently physical objects that mirror and reflect the mother-child bonds. The concept of transitional objects and transitional experience were introduced by Donald Woods Winnicott. He stated that these are part of a particular developmental milestones of toddlers and children. He used the word transition because these toys reflect the intermediate developmental phase of children between the psychic and external reality.
Transitional objects usually appear when the young child starts to separate the self from its external environment and he or she starts to evolve from complete dependence to a stage of relative independence. For infants, they see themselves and their mothers as one or as a whole. In this phase of development, mothers introduce the external world to the infant without delay which gives it a moment of illusion for infants. This means that for infants they believe that their own wishes create the object of their desire for example a toy, which it brings along with it is a sense of satisfaction to the infant. This moment of illusion was termed by Winnicott as Subjective omnipotence. Together with this psychological concept of the child is objective reality, which conveys the child’s awareness and knowledge of separateness between itself and the desired objects. These two concepts in psychology work hand-in-hand because while the subjective omnipotence is the one responsible in making the child feel that its desired objects produce satisfaction, the objective reality is the one responsible in making the child seek out the objects of desire independently.
Later through the developmental stage when the child realizes that the mother is a separate entity, the child may feel like they have lost something because the child realizes that they are dependent on others, hence losing their idea of independence. This realizations creates a difficult and confusing time for children which causes them to develop frustrations and anxiety. Because it is inevitable that the mother cannot always be there for the child in order to bring the external world to them, this has a powerful, painful, and constructive psychological impact on the developing child. Through fantasizing about the object of its wishes the child will find comfort. This is where the transitional objects become important and vital for the child. This transitional object is frequently the first real external world possession that really belongs to the child. As stated above, these transitional objects can be a real object such as a blanket, a teddy bear, or any plush toy but other children also have different transitional objects, such as a melody or a word, that can serve its function for the child. This object represents all components of a mother and it means that the child itself is able to create what it needs as well. When the mother slowly separates with the child for increasingly longer periods of time, these transitional objects enable the child to have a fantasized bond with the mother that reduces their separation problems and anxiety. Furthermore, during night time, the transitional object helps in children to fall asleep faster and better. As a whole, these transitional objects help the children fight anxiety and distress with separation from the mother.
In the later stages of the development of the child, the need for transitional objects becomes lower. This is a result of the capacity of the child to make a distinction and separation between the self and the external world. He or she becomes able to keep internal and external apart no matter how related. This development leads to the use of illusion, symbols and objects later on in life.
According to Winnicott, the concept of transitional objects are neither subjective nor objective but takes part in both. He stated that these things impact the psychological development in adult life and hence provided importance to such concepts. Moreover, according to the study of Richard Passman, he concluded that security blankets indeed do give security to those children who are attached to them. He found out that there are a multitude of positive benefits in having security blankets. He has shown that security blankets can aid in children adapting better to new situations and environments. He also proved that it can help in the learning of children and also aid in adjusting to physicians’ and clinical psychologists’ evaluations. Hence, with that, he strongly recommended that parents allow children to have some sense of attachment to a security object. He also highlighted that there is nothing abnormal in children being attached to such inanimate objects.
Benefits and Importance of Plush Toys
As stated above, plush toys can aid children in reducing their separation anxiety and stress. It can also help their cognitive and language development. It can also aid in understanding their complex emotions. Hence, indeed there are a lot of different benefits of having a plush toy. In order to expound more its benefits and importance, here is a list of things that plush toys do to children:
- It helps children become more independent
Plush toys are usually the first objects that children really consider to be their own, it helps them make the first step into independence due to having that sense of ownership and connection with the plush toys. To the young child, the world can be big, scary, and overwhelming without the protection at all times of their parents and loved ones next to them. Having a plush toy gives them a sense of protection and confidence in them that gives them the ability to explore more of the world on their own without having to be anxious, afraid, or vulnerable of their surroundings.
Parents can help through encouraging their toddlers to play alone with his or her plus toys for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day in order to boost their confidence and self-reliance. Parents can also let the toddler practice skills with his or her dolls or stuffed animals in order to foster their independence. Parents can also teach life skills through the plush toys such as brushing teeth and doing it in the child’s toy so that they may relate more and understand more the skill that they are being taught about.
- It helps children understand their emotions
Plush toys can help children understand their complex emotions more. In their stage of development, children usually have difficulty in managing their emotions. Plush toys can aid in helping them to learn how to control it through role-playing with their plush toys. It aids children to communicate their own experience through a way they are most comfortable with. They can communicate in a playful and nonthreatening manner for them. Children can use their plush toys to act their emotions in a way that makes sense to them rather than bottling them up that are hard to understand and express. In this way, parents can also observe and understand the emotions of their children so that they could also handle it better.
Parents can help their children through using a plush toy and acting out a scenario that often upsets their kids. Let the plush toy play the role of the child. In this way, parents can ask questions such as “Why is the plush toy sad or upset?” Children can then have the chance to explain their emotions or their thoughts that are non threatening for them. Parents can also use this plush toy so that they can make scenarios of real life so that children can understand how to handle their emotions and their situations better in real life.
- It helps in the language development of the child
Children usually talk to their stuffed animals or plush toys. With this, they can listen to the sound of their own voice, they can also figure out on their own how best to say what they want to say, they can expand their vocabulary knowledge, and they can practice their pronunciation skills. Hence, plush toys can help kids develop their language and speaking skills. After such time with talking their plush toys, children will get better at communicating.
Parents can help develop the language skills of their toddlers through listening to their children while they talk to their plush toys and expanding the words that their children say. Parents can explain what certain words mean and how to use them. Parents can mimic the conversation with the plush toy while expanding the vocabulary so that the child can understand more the context of words used. Parents can also pretend that the plush toy is asking the questions in order to engage your child in role-playing. With this, parents can input words that are new for the child and hence they can aid in developing the language skills of the child.
- It helps children get along with other better
Social skills and etiquette are one of the most difficult lessons to learn when growing up. Hence, plush toys are important because they can aid children in order to get along better and easier with other people. With plush toys, children can learn how to socialize through taking turns and sharing the toys with friends. Children can also learn how to empathize with others through role-playing with the plush toys. Children can practice navigating different obstacles safely by acting out these scenarios and experimenting with the different possible outcomes in these obstacles. With these, the child learns how to react to certain things which can help him develop his or her social skills better.
Parents can help their child through participating in role-playing activities by the child such as when your child invites you to play with her plush toys for a tea party. It is also an opportunity for parents to show how to properly get along with other people through acting with the plush toys. It is important that parents highlight proper social acts and etiquette and also how to be sensitive and empathize with others. In this way, children can get the lesson and apply it in real life. Giving the child a chance to see things from someone else’s point of view is an effective way to teach children proper social skills.
- It helps children confidence
For children, the world is a big and scary place. It is huge and intimidating for them. It overwhelms them because of the infinite unknown things. However, when children play with a plush toy, it gives kids the sense of taking the role of a parent or caregiver over their plush toys. This is why children usually reflect the actions of their parents to them to their plush toys. With this, children are given a sense of responsibility and confidence. Hence, the world becomes relatively manageable, understandable, and safe for them making them able to fear less the world out there.
Parents can help their children develop their confidence through playing their plush toys with them and giving them encouragement when you think they need it. Parents should also let their children pick out a role for you and their plush toys to play and let them direct all actions for the role-playing. Parents should encourage children to decide on what they should say or do in such role-playing scenarios so that children can have a sense of responsibility and confidence in the play. Moreover, such activities will not only build the confidence of the child but also his or her imagination and creativity. This will also allow parents to understand more the interpersonal needs of their child.
Safety of Plush Toys
Now that the benefits and importance of having a plush toy are already presented, it is important to know if such toys are safe for the children to play with.
A plush toy is usually a stuffed animal or cuddly doll. Generally, stuffed animals are safe. A stuffed animal is a toy sewn from a textile and stuffed with a soft material such as cotton, and is utilized as a comfort object by children of all ages. However, if some parts of a toy are not attached securely, they can pose a potential risk for children. Plush toys like stuffed animals, teddy bears, and cuddly dolls may seem harmless but their eyes, nose, hair, buttons and jewellery and other attachments can pose a choking risk for children if not attached properly. Children under three years old can be put into serious injuries or illness when playing with stuffed toys. These injuries occur when children choke on small parts or filling that they have placed in their mouths or inhaled or when children swallow small parts or filling.
Hence, parents should be responsible in checking the plush toys before buying them. As much as possible, parents should only buy plush toys that have minimal features such as buttons, beads, or other small objects that can potentially fall or be chewed off by the child. Parents are also responsible for checking wires installed in the plush toys. Parents should check the ears, paws, tails, and everywhere else in order to ensure that the toy is wire-free. There is a chance that a wired plush toy could harm a child when the wire pokes through the fur and injures the child. Thus, parents should only buy wire-free plush toys. Parents should also avoid buying plush toys with strings such as hairs, ribbons, or leashes longer than six inches because it can also choke the child. Parents should also only buy plush toys that are super sturdy so that it can keep all the stuffing inside. Another thing that parents should also make sure is that the plush toy is washable so that it can be thoroughly cleaned from time to time. In this way, the build up of microorganisms that can harm your child can be removed. Washable plush toys can also make sure that there are no accumulated dust mites in the toy which can seriously cause allergies or asthma to the child. Lastly, it is important that parents keep the play area of the child clean and safe always.
As a summary, comfort objects, transitional objects, or security blankets are all items utilized in order to provide psychological comfort to the child. These objects include a blanket, a stuffed animal, or any favorite plush toy. It reduces the anxiety and stress of children. More than that, it aids in their psychological, cognitive, and social development. Hence, it is indeed important to have a plush toy for your child so that they can benefit from the different developmental advantages it can provide. As long as parents take note of the safety reminders above on how to choose the proper plush toys, children will surely not only enjoy them by playing the plush toys but also learn many life skills with them.
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